Many people believe that rum was being produced on the Mount Gay Rum Estate from as early as 1663. However, the first surviving written evidence of this is a legal deed dated 20th February 1703. This document lists the property and the equipment found on it, equipment essential for the manufacture of rum.
"Two stone windmills... one boiling house with seven coppers, one curing house and one still house."
This confirms that rum production was well underway by 1703, making Mount Gay Rum the oldest rum in Barbados, and more importantly, the world.
The Early Years
The Mount Gay Rum Estate lies on a ridge in the northernmost parish of Barbados (St. Lucy). In the 1600's this spot was known as Mount Gilboa and was divided into several small, separately owned sugar plantations. They were named after their respective owners: Tyrell, Jemmott, Jones, Pickering and Grey.
Then, in the early 18th century, William Sandiford bought most of the land, consolidating it into a 280 acre plantation he renamed Mount Gilboa. It was passed on to his son, who sold it in 1747 to John Sober.
Sober and his son Cumberbatch were both absentee landlords, spending most of their time in England. By 1787, Cumberbatch needed someone to manage the affairs of the flourishing Mount Gilboa estate. He chose his good friend, Sir John Gay Alleyne.
In 1801, after Sir John's death, Cumberbatch honored his friend by renaming the plantation Mount Gay Rum (a Mount Alleyne already existed at the time). The Sober family continued to run the property until 1860.
The Dawn of the Modern Era
The next major influence on the Mount Gay Rum Plantation was Aubrey Ward, a prominent businessman who bought the estate outright in the early 1900's. He introduced new methods to meet the increasing demand for Mount Gay Rum, while strictly maintaining its traditional character.
Along with his business partner and marketing specialist John Hutson, he introduced Mount Gay Rum to the international market. These efforts were continued by his son Mr. Darnley DaCosta Ward until his death in 1989.
Toward the Future
The Ward family continues to be involved with Mount Gay Rum distilleries, majority interest of which was acquired by the Remy Cointreau Group in 1989. This has led the company in a new direction and allowed it to benefit from the French multinational's extensive distribution and international marketing acumen. Mount Gay Rum now stands poised for an exciting future, well on the way to being discovered by connoisseurs of fine sprits around the world.
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