Bastian’s trip to Antigua
Antigua is a small Caribbean island in the West Indies also known under the Indian name of “Wadadli” (there even is a beer with the same name). The island is about 280 square kilometres of size and has more than 80,000 inhabitants. The main source of income for Antigua is – as for so many of the Caribbean islands – tourism. But lo and behold rum production not only plays a significant role in Caribbean history but is also often a mainstay in source of income.
Arriving in Antigua on my trip to learn more about the islands’ history of rum I was welcomed by Calbert Francis, the export manager for the Antigua distillery, the only remaining distillery on the island. Calbert hosted me during my stay (and a great host he was!) and although he is a naturally gifted sales man of rum and other alcoholic beverages he himself does not drink a drop! After a quick stop at the hotel we took off to visit a wide range of Antiguan bars from top hotel bar to local rum shack. After an authentic Caribbean dinner Calbert took me to one of the carnival shops where locals put together their carnival costumes and practice soca. Carnival is huge on Antigua and lasts for a whole week at the end of July.
On the next day we visited the distillery. The Antigua distillery produces Cavalier rum for the local market as well as the more famous English Harbour brand that is both export brand and local favourite. The distillery tour was lead by general manager Anthony Bento and he took all the time to take me to the entire production process that defines English Harbour rum.
The distillery is built on an ex-island which served as leper colony before it was connected with the main island. The base for English Harbour rum is imported molasses from the Dominican Republic & Guyana. After diluting the molasses with water they use a yeast starter that is gradually mixed with the molasses-water-mix. Fermentation takes place in open steel tanks under temperature control for a duration of 24h – 36 hours depending on season & climate. The distillery features one copper column still with 4 separate columns.
The fermented molasses is distilled in one single run and they produce 2 separate marks. The distillates are taken off the still with 95-95,4% ABV and diluted to about 80% ABV before being filled into casks. Currently ADL is gradually reducing its ABV in casks to reduce the enormous amount of “angel’s share“. Ageing takes place in Ex-bourbon casks (no re-charring). The casks are then blended in oak vats where the blended rums are aerated and gradually diluted to bottling strength. Before bottling caramel is added to guarantee the same colour in each batch. The white rum (Cavalier) they produce is completely unpaged.
After a tasting of the different qualities of English Harbour (check out the 10 year old, it’s my all time favourite!) it was already time to say goodbye to that lovely little place named Antigua. But I certainly will be back even if it’s only for a little glass of rum!
‘The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc’.