Arundel Rum: Liquified Brown Sugar
The author with the ancient cane press.
200 year-old pot stills
if it’s not broken, don’t replace it
Owing to my well-known abstemious nature, I have invited a guest blogger to write about this most excellent rum from Tortola. I don’t know if you can obtain this Caribbean treat without bushwhacking, but the effort is well worth it- or so they tell me.
Fortunately for me, the guest blogger and I have the same name. However, I frequently just call him ‘Dad.’
Halfway through Cane Garden Bay on Tortola, BVI, a bright yellow sign marks the entrance to the Callwood Distillery. The turn onto the rutted dirt road bounces a car abruptly into the 19th Century.
Framed by a grove of banana and sour sop trees, and tall sugar cane, the 200 year-old distillery looks its age. Heaps of scrap wood are piled near ancient, crudely soldered copper pot stills nested in open top furnaces. The dilapidated buildings are painted only by a chiaroscuro of Caribbean sun and banana leaf shadow.
Inside, a small showroom displays demijohns of clear rum and several shelves of aged caramel-colored rum. Various antique tools and barrels line the room and the sweet smell of the rum is infused into every surface.
A young woman, who matches the color of the rum, tends the wooden counter. She answers questions precisely with her island lilt and a beautiful shy smile. She walks us around to the side of the building pointing out the cane grove and the juice extractor that I took to be junk.
Back inside, I sample the rum that has been aged in oak casks for four years. Liquid brown sugar that is not sweet. Callwood’s Arundel Cane Rum is sold only on Tortola.
I inquire about the family history; 200 years of uninterrupted production has left the family business the sole producers of pure cane juice pot still rum. I ask about the current head of the family. The young woman who earlier told me her name was Melanie replies,
“Mr. Michael Callwood.”
“So, Melanie, what’s your last name?”
“And Mr. Michael Callwood is…?”
I buy an extra bottle of aged rum and reluctantly return to the 21ST century.