Arts & Life
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/12/2014 (2132 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I’m a beer columnist and generally don’t drink any other sort of alcoholic beverages such as wine, ciders or other spirits. However, when you visit another part of the world, sometimes beer isn’t the most popular alcoholic beverage like it is here in Canada. A lot of it has to do with resources available in a region. Seeing that Manitoba is plentiful in barley and wheat, a lot of which is used in beer and whisky, we tend to see a million different varieties of beers and whiskies here. In Jamaica, they have to import barley from Canada and the European Union, so they rely on sugar cane, which is one of their largest resources. Sugar cane can’t be malted to make a traditional beer, so it ends up going into making rums and liqueurs. I’m not a rum fan, but seeing I was in the neighbourhood, I just had to make a visit to the Appleton Estates rum factory in rural Jamaica.
At US$25 per person for a tour, it’s quite a bit more expensive than going on a beer tour, as the most I’ve ever paid for a beer tour was $0.00. However, seeing that Appleton Estates is one of the largest rum manufacturers on the planet, I was willing to cough up the money just so I could say I’d been there. When you arrive, there’s a rum sampling station, a large bar and dining room and a store where you can buy Appleton’s products. Since I opted for a tour, I was told to wait in the dining room where I was immediately greeted and served some of Appleton’s homemade rum punch, a delicious blend of tropical Jamaican fruits and a good amount of rum to give it a bit of a kick. Our tour guide Peter was passionate about the distillery, teaching us about its history. Before electricity was introduced to the island, the distillery would rely on donkeys pulling on a grinding station to turn freshly harvested sugar cane into a liquid that would eventually be fermented and turned into molasses.
As recently as three decades ago, prior to the country’s roads being upgraded, trains shuttled between the sugar-cane fields and the distillery to transport the cane.
Another interesting tidbit: Rum doesn’t just all of a sudden turn into 40 per cent booze — it takes a lot of boiling and steam release for the product to go from seven per cent to 40. After it’s boiled and fermented, the rum is barrelled and dated in their warehouse, where it is aged for no less than three years. Some of the barrels I saw in the warehouse were between seven and 10 years old, but they make rums that are aged to up to 21 years. Unfortunately for us, the blending of the rum takes place in Kingston. Once the Kingston factory needs three-year-old rum, or rum of a certain age, they will bring some barrels up from the warehouse we toured. Then they will blend it with various barrels of their rum and make sure it has the distinct Appleton Estates flavours. From there, it’s bottled and sent all over the world. Appleton’s rum is in such demand around the world, they are running out of capacity, so they are currently in the works to expand their distillery to allow for easier production for North American and Asian markets. At the end of the tour, we were given samples of their rums and coffee rum liqueurs. And while I still wasn’t a rum fan, their Sangster’s Coffee Rum Liqueur was very delicious and comparable to, if not better than, Bailey’s. Alas, Sangster’s is currently not available in Manitoba but it’s available elsewhere in Canada.
Here in Manitoba, we have a comparable operation in our own backyard with Diageo’s Crown Royal distillery in Gimli — the only place in the world where Crown Royal Whisky is distilled. Unfortunately, unlike Appleton Estates, they don’t give public tours anymore. If you’re in Jamaica, you should check out the Appleton Estates rum factory. The history buff in me really enjoyed learning about how the distillery came to be, while the lover of all things booze-related enjoyed being around hundreds of oak rum barrels.
Aside from Appleton’s Sangsters Rum Liqueur, you can find most of Appleton’s rums at almost any Liquor Mart or small town off-sales liquor store. If you were hoping for a beer review, I recommend checking out Jamaica’s Dragon Stout. What surprises me about Dragon Stout is that for a beer made in a tropical country, it is a very thick, molasses-sweet and strong — perfect for a dessert after a quarter jerk chicken meal.
Cody Lobreau is a Canadian beer blogger who reviews every beer he can get his hands on as he believes that he should try every beer twice to get an understanding if it’s truly good or bad.
» Twitter: @cdnbeer
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