on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

Mt. Gay Rum Tour

In Barbados on August 27, 2010 at 6:38 am

Barbados is the home of the oldest Rum company, Mt. Gay Rum. The tiny island receives much acclaim for its production of this sweet and intoxicating liquor.  This being said, it seemed only proper that we take a Mt. Gay rum tour. Tours of the Mt. Gay Rum plant, last about thirty minutes and are broken down into three parts.

The first part of the tour began in an exhibition room and was a formal historical look at Rum production in Barbados. Having just finished “Bury the Chains”, I was haunted by the knowledge of the brutal treatment of slaves on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean Islands. I was particularly disturbed, yet not surprised, when our tour guide skipped entirely over the slave trade, how she failed to mention that slaves in the sugar mills in Barbados fared the worst out of many other groups of slaves, how the life expectancy of a slave working in the sugar cane fields was around thirty and that oftentimes the women were worked so hard that they couldn’t even bear children. Not to be a Debby Downer, but this is truly the bulk of the history of sugar cane production, rum production. But of course, our lovely tour guide skimmed over the hard facts for our mostly British tour group and talked about the prettier glory days of rum. Despite the direct historical omissions, the tour was informative.

For the second part of the tour, we worked our way into the active factory and observed workers on an assembly line, bottling and preparing bottles of rum. I grew bored of this in about two minutes, however many people gaped in awe, so in this respect, take my word with a grain of salt.

The tour culminated with our group being received in a colonial style bar for my favorite part of the adventure, the rum tasting. We sampled two different types of rums that were so strong and aged; they tasted to me like brandy. In fact, that isn’t too surprising since apparently all of the barrels for Mt. Gay rum, are imported from a Brandy company in Tennessee, where they are smoked then used to store rum.

After the tasting, we drank and relaxed in the gardens. I tried to get the authentic recipe for rum punch from the bartender, but he spoke so fast and with such a heavy accent, all I understood was bitters and nutmeg. So it is…

*****

The Mermaid of Black Rock is back. We met a man yesterday at Weiser’s restaurant who rents kayaks (everyone here has a side hustle). For twenty American dollars we are going to be allowed to use Steve’s kayak for the entire day (forget the fact that neither Mark or I have an understanding of how to kayak).

We walked back to Brandon’s Beach from the rum factory (a quick 15 minutes) just in time to catch Steve the kayak man.

“You can swim right? You two are sure you can swim?”

“Yes, don’t worry, we can swim.”

“But you can swim I mean…like really swim?”

“Yes…I’m pretty sure.”

His concern was beginning to worry me.

“But you can swim in the ocean?”

“We have been going for swims in the ocean every day. And look, we are still here. Why?”

“No reason, am just wondering. I am just making sure. We don’t need any dead Americans.”

Dead Americans? Immediately my shark radar went off.

“Steve, are there sharks or anything in the water we should know about?”

“Not in the water, on land.” He belted. And with that, we were whisked off into the ocean.

“When you make it back, you pay!”

I would be a liar if I left out the fact that I took a good moment to send up my most earnest prayer.

The kayak was surprisingly svelte. After a few awkward strokes, I found a rhythm. Two strokes to the right and two to the left – balance. It was all about finding balance.  The water was gentle, the zephyrs were light, the sun was setting. We took turns rowing and made sure to glide along horizontal to the shore to avoid going out too far. It was lovely. Eyes to the clouds and setting sun, being lulled by the waves, I was so very much at peace.

Two hours at sea, being bounced about by the waves, equals twenty dollars well spent.

*****

After kayaking, we returned to the water to swim. The tide was beginning to come in. What was in the morning placid and clear became foggy and rambunctious. Nevertheless, we splashed and floated amongst the salty waves. The water was so warm and welcoming, having spent the day, soaking in warmth from the sun.

Crowded later in the day, the water was full of teenagers, couples off from work, fathers teaching their sons to swim, mothers and grandmothers simply catching up. It was a beautiful scene.


“Imagine having Brandon’s Beach as your Coney Island.” I said in a brief moment of jealousy.

“Imagine.” Mark replied, gazing towards the glow of the setting sun.

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