Let me know how you like Arundel Rum and tell me if you got a hangover!
Arundel Rum, have you ever heard of it? Drank some? Suffered a hangover from it? If you have then you’ve been to Cane Garden Bay, Tortola in the BVI. You’ve bought a bottle of their Rhum Agricole, made from sugar cane sourced only from Tortola, and you’d be the first to be hungover. The Callwood Family, proprietors of the distillery for 200 years, claim this rum is incapable of producing dire side effects, based on its purity. If you haven’t heard about Arundel or the Callwood Distillery, read on and make plans on your next trip to visit.
The history of sugar is the history of rum. I’ve also been told that you don’t know rum if you don’t know sugar. Sugar plantations driven by slave labor were the heart of the economy of the Caribbean in the 17th century. When slavery was abolished in the BVI in the late 19th century, coupled with a severe hurricane the sugar industry faltered here. When the sugar went away, so did the rum. There used to be 27 rum distilleries on Tortola. Today only the Callwood Distillery remains.
Callwood is located in Cane Garden Bay on Tortola’s north central coast, down a side road, over a small bridge and marked by a small hand painted sign. The distillery looks more like a series of ruins or an unrestored museum to rum more than a working distillery. They are open during the week from 7:30 to 5:00. You can walk around for free but the $1 tour is worthwhile. You can’t take pictures unless you pay $2 or buy a bottle of rum for around $7 per liter. You didn’t come all this way not to taste, so buy a bottle. Callwood does not distribute, you can only find it here.
Rum is only made here from March through August. This is the best time to visit. Production is predicated on the growing season for the local sugar cane. When the cane is cut certain parts of the plant can be saved and replanted. These new plantings take one year to mature. Some of the cane is grown on the property but the vast majority is sourced elsewhere on the island.
Callwood was the only distillery to have a windmill back in the heyday. This helped the rollers crush the stalks. They used horses on days when there was no wind. Today they have modernized with a diesel engine. By the looks of the crushers they haven’t been modernized in over 200 years.
Once the juice is collected it is heated to thicken the sugar but not allowed to thicken into molasses, which is the modern source of sugar for rum. This is the distinction between Rhum Agricole (cane) and Rum Industrial (molasses). Most molasses in the Caribbean today comes from Brazil. It takes around ten stalks of sugar cane to make a bottle of rum.
Callwood sells the rum at the distillery store. They have silver and a 4 year old gold. If you ask nicely, they might even have some 10 year old hidden away that they will sell you. If you do visit, send some pictures my way and I’ll post them.
Callwood suggests mixing their silver with cranberry and lime. I’m a Cuba Libre kind of guy, I like a nice fat slice of lime with my drink. Take the dinghy ashore, walk over to the distillery and grab a bottle or three. Take them back on board, pull out the guitar and put on the bikinis. You have an instant party. Enjoy the beauty of Cane Garden Bay around you. Let me know how you like Arundel and tell us if you got a hangover!
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