The story of sugar in Antigua goes back to 1674, when Sir Christopher Codrington, a planter with holdings in Barbados and St. Kitts and the governor of the Leeward Islands, founded the Betty’s Hope plantation with two cane crushing windmills. In order to prove that the island was suitable for the cultivation of the booming crop, he introduced new cultivation methods which he also passed on to other planters. Turning away from tobacco cultivation, Antigua soon became a sugar island with about half of the arable land being devoted to sugar by the middle of the 18th century. And as we know all too well, where there was sugar, there (eventually) was rum.
However, the only remaining distillery today is Antigua Distillery Ltd (ADL), which came to life when a group of seven local rum shop owners plus a friend got together in 1929 to buy molasses and control the production of their rums. Three years later, they managed to raise £2,500 and found ADL. Another year later, the distillery has been build on Rat Island in St. John’s harbour, with a 4-column copper Savalle Still (my guess is that it was probably very similar to that from Uitvlugt Distillery) at its heart. Buying molasses from the governmental as well as an independent sugar factory, each of the rum shop owners blended and bottled the rum under his own label to sell in his shop. The only such rum that has survived to this day is Bolanda, which is still sold at Bushy’s Rum Shop in Bolans. In 1947, a joint rum has been released, which is still available today – the Cavalier Antigua Rum. In 1991, their Savalle still has been replaced by a new, 3-column 100% copper John Dore still. With the John Dore still in place, ADL expanded their portfolio with the English Harbour Rum three years later.
Tasted rums by Antigua Distillery Ltd:
All photos on this page have been kindly provided by Jessica Blaine Smith/Bartender Atlas.