Explore the Oldest Rum Distillery in the World: Mount Gay Rum

Discover the birthplace of rum, learn about Bajan culture, and meet the first female master blender in Barbados’ and Mount Gay’s history

Apr. 2021Written by Megan SaunsenPhotos provided by Mount Gay Rum

Coastal view of Barbados’ green hilly fields during a sunset
Wooden rum barrels in a distillery
Copper pots and stills on a wood floor in a distillery
A woman sampling rum with a dropper in a barrel warehouse
Close up of sugarcane plants in a field in front of a bright blue sky
Close up of coral growing on rock
Barrels with numbers written them with white chalk are stacked on pallets.
A Mount Gay product bottle lineup: Eclipse, Black Barrel, XO, 1703 Master Select

Mount Gay sits on the northern tip of Barbados, a Caribbean island made up of coral limestone soil. This characteristic is essential in purifying the water that goes into the blends—in fact, it makes for some of the purest water in the world.

Mount Gay rum has been made in the same spot since 1703. Their focus on quality and using the best ingredients, most being native to Barbados, is how Mount Gay has developed the iconic blends that consumers have come to enjoy for centuries.

The distillery uses a combination of smaller Spanish and Scottish pot stills, a Coffey column still, and an Irish column still. Using that unique mix is a differentiator for Mount Gay and has proven successful for over 300 years.

On becoming master blender, Branker told Business Insider, “It was daunting to be asked, but also a great honor, and I felt that I was ready to take the role and make my mark on an iconic brand. I'm proud that Mount Gay saw my potential, and I can only hope this means that more women will study chemistry and take on roles working at distilleries in the future.”

Her days start early, with a 7a.m. distillery arrival time and sampling cane juice before she even takes one sip of her morning coffee. Next, she moves into the barrel warehouse with her team to evaluate the aged rums then, with coffee in hand, she heads back to her office to review her notes. Branker’s afternoon is spent reviewing flavor profiles and future innovations from the brand. To wrap up the day, she walks the Mount Gay estate with her blenders to discuss the following day’s agenda.

Her appreciation for the heritage and the distillers who came before her, plus her innovative passion and desire to produce the best expression make her perfect for this role.

Sugarcane is essential to the rum-making process at Mount Gay. It’s harvested and transformed into a syrup, otherwise known as molasses.

In the 18th century, once it was discovered that molasses could be fermented and distilled into rum, the product from Barbados earned the nickname “Black Gold.” That nickname put the island on the map in the global economy and it eventually surpassed sugar production profitability.

Branker has committed to only use molasses from Barbados and the Caribbean. The higher sugar content in the native molasses is better for the fermentation process, while Caribbean molasses adds an extra layer of complexity with different minerals not found in Barbadian sugarcane.

Water is not only essential to the distillation process: it is the heart of the brand. Mount Gay uses the exact same well dug in 1703, an artesian well that pulls the naturally filtered Barbadian water from coral caverns hundreds of feet below.

Mount Gay’s fermentation process is yet another unique differentiator. They open the doors and welcome the fresh air in, letting the breeze carry the native yeasts, that have been cultivated over centuries, into the mix.

The core collection of Mount Gay: Eclipse, Black Barrel, XO, and 1703 Master Select.

The word “honor” comes to mind when thinking about Trudiann Branker, Mount Gay’s—and Barbados’—first female master blender. She told Chilled Magazine she was honored to move into this position in 2019, after starting in quality assurance in 2014 and working closely alongside Allen Smith, Mount Gay’s former master blender. And she has continuously been honoring Mount Gay’s rich heritage when innovating new rum expressions or elevating traditional blends.

That heritage began in 1703 when Mount Gay was founded in Barbados. It’s the oldest rum distillery and one of the oldest distilleries in the world. This is the birthplace of rum.

Since then, locals, sailors, and rum-lovers from all over the world have come to know, admire, and enjoy the expressions Mount Gay produces. Rum runs so deep here that bars are called rum shops and they are key to the social culture in Barbados. It’s where business is conducted, dance parties happen, provisions are sold, and friends—or strangers who turn into friends—catch up and chat for hours.

Go behind the scenes to get to know this historic rum brand.

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