At Rumfest UK last month — an exceptional two-day affair in London with lots of tastings and talks — I came to the sad realization that we Americans must content ourselves with a rather narrow range of West Indian rums. Represented at the Fest were two “classic rum” outfits which scout out aging casks of rums in the Caribbean and sell them in special bottlings in England (and sometimes Canada). I was especially taken with the Plantation Extra Old from Barbados, a new bottling (about $100 a pop) with big banana notes and a lush butterscotch finish. Also nice was the Rockley Still Barbados rum, a pot still rum finished in Madiera casks that reminded me of some of the heavier Demerara rums, although with a much drier finish.
A couple of other Barbados rums caught my attention: Mt. Gilboa, a pot stlll rum produced in St. Lucy, on the island’s northern tip, by the same folks who make rum for Mount Gay. The rum labeled as Mount Gay label includes a bit of pot still rum to add flavor to the column still product; Mount Gilboa is wholly from the pot still, and was a big, full, delicious rum that filled the mouth.
Also new: St. Nicholas Abbey Rum, made on the grounds of one of the most architecturally spectacular sugar estates anywhere — the main house dates to about 1658, and sits amid 400 acres of sugar cane (I’ve written about it — pre-distillery — in the New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly.) The rum they were offering up for sample in London wasn’t actually from the estate — St. Nicholas has been producing sugar cane rum from pot stills for about a year, but their output is still aging in barrels, and until it's ready they’re selling a robust, flavorful rum from the sprawling Foursquare Distillery. I'm looking forward to sampling their own rum when it's ready.
Among the many conclusions I arrived at during my too-brief time at Rumfest UK: I must return to Barbados, and soon. And: I must resturn to London for Rumfest next year.