Trinidad, natively inhabited by the indigenous Arawak and Carib people, was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1498, the first European sighting of the island. The first Spanish attempts to establish a settlement on the island started in 1532 under the command of Antonio Sedeño, who was looking to discover El Dorado and to control the regional slave trade. None of these attempts were successful in forming a permanent settlement until Antonio de Berrio established the first lasting colony in 1592. Between 1687 and 1700 several missions were founded in Trinidad, with only four of them surviving throughout the 18th century. Due to shortages of missionaries, these often went without Christian instructions. Trinidad still was very sparsely populated at that time, which only changed with the upheavals of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, when French planters and their slaves started to settle on the island. It was them who first established an agricultural economy based on sugar cane and cocoa. The British rule started in 1797, when Sir Ralph Abercromby invaded Trinidad. The Spanish capitulated without fighting and Trinidad became a typical British sugar colony, albeit with a French-speaking population and a Spanish legislature. Of course where there is sugar, there is rum. Yet only two distilleries survived until the turn of the millennium as petroleum increased in economic significance and the prices for sugar plummeted. In 2003, the state decided to close the national sugar estate of Caroni, one of the two remaining distilleries. This now leaves Trinidad Distillers Ltd (Angostura) as the only remaining producer of rum but there have been news lately that they even use imported rum from abroad for their bottlings.

While Angostura produces a lightly bodied and delicate Spanish style rum, Caroni’s rums are more distinct and can unmistakably be attributed to the British style of rums. Thus, rum, like culture and almost everything else has clearly been characterized by the presence of the great colonial powers. This leaves me wondering whether the French Rhum style once existed on the island as well…

Remains of the Caroni Distillery. Photo by Javier Herrera.

A common theme running through their rums are aromas of tar, burnt rubber and inner tube as well as roadworks. Bar the rubber, these characteristics can almost exclusively be found in a Caroni. While it is unclear how these special aromas find their way into the rum, there are a few theories. The image to the left shows a photo by Javier Herrera of the remains of the Caroni distillery in 2015. The car tyres definitely look suspicious. The pitch lake, the world’s largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world, in the southwest of Trinidad might also play a part. But more on that in a separate article.

Both distilleries used to bottle their own rum and marketed them under their own brand. Angostura’s bottlings are not exactly to my taste as they are rather sweet, smooth and dull. Some of their makes that have been sold to independent bottlers are not too bad though. If you are into this kind of rum, Plantation has a few good releases for you as all of their Trinidad rums should be from that distillery. Unfortunately, many connoisseurs never got to try an official Caroni bottling as they only attracted attention on a grand scale when Velier started issuing them.
The following is an incomplete list of the Trinidad rums I have tried, sorted by distillery:


Official Bottlings

  • Caroni Navy Rum (Tate & Lyle) (1960s), 51,4%
  • Felicite Gold (Caroni) 4YO, 43%
  • Stallion Puncheon Rum (Caroni), 75%

Trinidad Distillers Limited (Angostura)

Ten Cane (Angostura)