Rum distilleries
Old Sugarcane Factory Brechin Castle Caroni 1975 Ltd - Couva, Trinidad. Photo courtesy Trini Cooking with Natasha.

The history of rum distilleries in Trinidad and Tobago

The history of rum distilleries in Trinidad and Tobago is closely linked to the history of sugar production on the islands. Sugarcane was first introduced to Trinidad in the early 1600s, and by the late 1700s, it had become the island’s most important crop.

As sugar production grew, so did the need for rum, which was originally produced as a way to use up molasses, a byproduct of sugar refining.

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, numerous small rum distilleries sprang up throughout Trinidad and Tobago. However, it was not until the 20th century that the industry began to consolidate and take on its modern form.

Here are some key milestones in the history of rum distilleries in Trinidad and Tobago:

Milestones in the history of rum distilleries in Trinidad and Tobago

1787: The first sugar mill is installed in Trinidad, marking the beginning of large-scale sugar production on the island.

1797: Trinidad is captured by the British, who further develop the sugar industry and encourage rum production.

1824Angostura Bitters, a popular aromatic bitters used in cocktails, is invented in Trinidad by Dr Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert.

1832: Widespread slave activism led to the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, including Trinidad. This has a significant impact on the rum industry, as many distilleries are forced to close due to labour shortages.

1914: The Caroni Rum Distillery is established, and quickly becomes one of the most important rum producers in Trinidad.

1940s: Jo Fernandes builds a rum distillery, which eventually becomes the biggest rum brand on Trinidad.

1970s: The rum industry in Trinidad and Tobago faces increasing competition from other Caribbean countries, and several distilleries close down.

1990s: There is a renewed interest in Trinidadian rum, and several new distilleries are opened.

2002: Angostura Holdings Limited acquires the Caroni Rum Distillery, and continues to produce rum under the Caroni brand.

Today, there are a small number of rum distilleries operating in Trinidad and Tobago. The most well-known brands include Angostura, Fernandes, and Plantation Trinidad. These distilleries produce a variety of rum styles, including light rums, dark rums, and aged rums.

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Commercial Rum Distilleries in Trinidad and Tobago:

Past:

Angostura Ltd (formerly Trinidad Distillers): Founded in 1947, still operational.

Fernandes Distillers Ltd (founded 1946).

Caroni Limited (1917-2002): Closed, but some brands still produced by Angostura.

Mulata Rum Distillery (1987-1999): Closed, some stocks later bottled by independent bottlers.

Distillerie des Moisans (1931-1968): Closed, merged with Angostura.

Clarendon (1930s-1960s): Closed, merged with Caroni.

Kraken Rum (1940s-1970s): Brand still exists but not produced in Trinidad anymore.

Westerhall Estate (1780s-1970s): Distilleries not active anymore, but rums still produced under contract.

Trinidad Import and Export Co Ltd (1930s-1950s): Rum production discontinued.

Central Liquor Store (1900s): Producer of “Ponche Crema” liqueur, still operational.

Numerous small, independent distilleries (18th-20th centuries): Many closed or merged with larger companies.

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Plantation Trinidad 2009

 (70cl, 51.8%)

Plantation Trinidad 2009 Bottling Note

A 2009 vintage rum from Trinidad, released as part of the Plantation range. This expression spent 11 years maturing in Trinidad, before making its way over to France for a final year of maturation in Maison Ferrand barrels. Intensely flavoursome, perfect for sipping neat and slowly enjoying.

Present:

Angostura Ltd.

Fernandes Distillers Ltd.

TDL Ten Cane (formerly owned by Trinidad Distillers, now independent).

Trinidad Distillers Ltd (rum production discontinued, currently focusses on other spirits)

Trinidadian rum is known for its unique flavour profile, which is often described as being rich, complex, and full-bodied. This is due to several factors, including the use of locally grown sugarcane, the traditional pot still distillation process, and the ageing of rum in oak barrels.

The rum industry in Trinidad and Tobago is a small but important part of the country’s economy. It is also a source of national pride, and Trinidadian rum is enjoyed by people all over the world.

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