Art July 27, 2012 00:00


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Phuket yachtsmen savour 'the rum that invented rum'


Rihanna isn’t Barbados’ only tantalising export. The Caribbean isle also prides itself in Mount Gay Rum, which is believed to be the world’s oldest brand.
“It was established in 1703 and is known throughout the world as ‘the rum that invented rum’,” says regional marketing manager Laurant Soulat.
He was at the recent Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Race Week, of which Mount Gay was one of the sponsors.
“You often hear of Barbados as the birthplace of rum on account of Mount Gay’s history,” Soulat says.
The story began with the registration in 1703 of the sugarcane plantation that became the Mount Gay Distillery. An English family named Sober (ironically enough) subsequently bought the distillery along with eminent Barbadian Sir John Gay Alleyne. That’s where the Gay in Mount Gay came from. 
Sir John was a leader among the planter elite, spoke out against slavery and was also a philanthropist. Two years ago Barbados formally named him one of its national heroes. 
Barbados was never prominent on the maritime trade maps, but Mount Gay rum drew the sailors nonetheless, and more than a few barrels were carted onto ships as souvenirs. Its rich taste and sweet aroma weathered long journeys well. 
The rum is made from molasses and coral-filtered spring water from the distillery’s own well. It goes from copper stills imported from Scotland to charred-oak barrels made in Kentucky. The ageing process can run from two to 15 years. 
Most popular and affordable is Mount Gay Rum Extra Old, in which the “extra” amounts to between eight and 15 years. It has a distinct oak character with notes of banana, vanilla and spices. 
Mount Gay is best enjoyed with nothing more than a couple of ice cubes, but it makes terrific cocktails too. Skippers and sailors at the Race Week opening party plotted courses over Mount Gay Mojitos, which boast a dash of Cointreau, and Barbados Yacht Clubs, which have lime juice and Velvet Falernum liqueur. 
The original factory, whose rum is sold in 66 countries, is something of a tourist attraction on Barbados, and sailors continue to comprise most of the tourists making the pilgrimage. The firm sponsors more than 120 boating regattas each year, culminating in the famed Mount Gay Red Cup.