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Cayman Islands Rum Trip
The Rumelier visited Grand Cayman in October of 2009. Although he has lived in the Caribbean Islands for twenty years The Rumelier had never visited the Cayman Islands before, so he took this trip with much anticipation. While in Grand Cayman he managed to meet all the major people who distill, bottle, blend and import the island's rums.
In the Cayman Islands there is not the real rum culture found in many of the other large Caribbean countries. There are no international rum giants, no large distilleries, and no huge sugar estates to visit. However, if you look closely you may find a still or two and a couple of companies that import and blend rum from all over the Caribbean. Below is the story of these companies.
One exception to this lack of rum culture and that The Rumelier had not seen around the Caribbean before, was that many households used old rum barrels for their garbage bins. It can be presumed that these old rum barrels had been purchased from the Tortuga Rum Company, who import their rum for their rum cakes in oak barrels to help maitain a strong flavour to the rum. These barrels are seen for sale outside their headquarters in the industrial park, often sawn into many different shapes and sizes.

 

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Tortuga Rum Company 
The short visit to Grand Cayman started with a meeting with the owner of the Tortuga Rum Company, Mr. Robert Hamaty, at his company headquarters in the Airport Industrial Park. The company headquarters are where all the world famous rum cakes are produced and packaged.(shown below)
The Rumelier was hosted in the comapny's boardroom by Mr. Hamaty, where the discussion lead to all things rum, including new product lines and ideas. Of course several of the company's fine rums were sampled during this long rum discussion. Much interesting news and plans for Tortuga Rums were revealed to The Rumelier.
One of the most interesting facts about Tortuga Rums are that they are bottled in several different Caribbean countries and not in Grand Cayman itself. The reason for this being that it is thought the quality of the rum would be compromised if it were to be shipped in bulk and bottled locally. Countries where Tortuga Rums are produced include Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and Costa Rica, so giving the portfolio of rums many contrasting and interesting styles and making it a true "Caribbean" rum company.
The premium rums the company sells are produced and bottled in Guyana, with the 12 Year Old Rum being the company's flagship offering. This is a fine example of a Demerara Rum, lots of heavy flavours and body, a real treat for any serious rum lover.

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Tortuga Rum Headquarters, Grand Cayman.

Tortuga Rum Company History

The Tortuga Rum Company was established in 1984 when a Jamaican pilot Robert Hamaty and his Caymanian wife Carlene realised that the biggest selling rum being purchased by departing tourists from the Cayman Islands was bottled in Bermuda and not the Cayman islands. At the time Robert was a pilot for Cayman Airways and wife Carlene was an in-flight supervisor. With their insight in to the tourist industry they decided to introduce their own rum called Tortuga and opened their first duty free liquor store in 1987 and later that year began to introduce their now world famous rum cakes.

Carlene Hamaty had been baking rum cakes for special occasions, using a four-generation old family recipe. These cakes became so popular that her friends in the food business encouraged her to start selling her cakes in the company's liquor stores. The cakes were an instant success, so much so that a bakery had to be established in 1990 to meet demand, making it the first commercially produced rum cake in the Caribbean. Today there are eight different varieties of rum cake.

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Robert Hamaty of Tortuga Rums.

In 1997 Tortuga Imports/Tortuga Rum Cake Company opened its doors in Miami, Florida to handle worldwide distribution, mail order and online sales. This branch of the company was headed by Robert Hamaty's daughter, Monique and her husband, Marcus Simmonds.

Today the family owned and operated business is the largest retail and duty free liquor business in the Cayman Islands, with 18 retail operations and three bakeries.

At the corner of Rum Cake Lane and Tortuga Rum Avenue in Grand Cayman's Airport Industrial Park is the company's headquarters and state of the art bakery capable of producing 10,000 cakes a day. The headquarters is both a business center and a tourist attraction. A large glass viewing area allows visitors to watch Tortuga Rum Cakes being baked while enjoying complementary samples of the cakes. The complex also has a large gift shop, snack bar and of course a liquor store or two.

Tortuga Rum Company now spans the Caribbean, with franchise bakeries in Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas. Cakes are sold in gift shops onboard over 100 cruise ships, widely distributed throughout North America and the Caribbean and shipped to 70 different countries worlwide.

This company is truely a Caribbean success story and it keeps going from strength to strength.

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One of Tortuga's many liquor stores in Grand Cayman.
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The large range of Tortuga Rums and Liqueurs.

Seven Fathoms Rum Company

Seven Fathoms from the Cayman Islands.
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The View from Hammerheads Brewpub.
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Sugar Cane meets Cruise Ship in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

Seven Fathoms Rum is a rum that is hand crafted in small batches at the company's George Town Harbor distillery. Located in Grand Cayman, the Seven Fathoms Distillery is the first of its kind in the Cayman Islands.
Seven Fathoms is truly a unique spirit. It is the first spirit to be made entirely in the Cayman Islands, despite a West Indian history deeply embedded in the rum industries and culture. All Seven Fathoms rum is made using an innovative maturation technique that involves aging the rum underwater at about forty two feet or seven fathoms, giving the rum its unique name.
The rum is distilled using a brand new beautiful Christian Carl copper pot still,(pictured below) located upstairs at the Hammerheads Brewpub right on George Town Harbour, overlooking the many cruise ships that visit the island on a daily basis.
The company uses locally grown organic sugar cane, which is grown on a farm at the East End of the island. The sugar cane is harvested and the cane juice is extracted by crushing right at the farm and delivered quickly to the distillery. Once at the distillery in George Town the fresh juice is pumped into one of the many fermenters located on the ground floor of the distillery. After fermenting the wash is pumped upstairs to the copper pot still.

A Newly Installed Christian Carl Copper Still.
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Copper Stills at Seven Fathoms Distillery, Grand Cayman.

A "master distiller" uses both a copper pot still and a small column still to distill the wash. The still room also doubles as the bottling and labeling plant.

Once distilled, the rum is apparently pumped into used Jack Daniels barrels and taken out to a very secret location offshore off Grand Cayman. Here the rum is offloaded from a dive boat with a winch and secured 42 feet or seven fathoms down under the water. This underwater aging is supposed to accelerate the process of aging. The gentle motion of the waves and the alternating pressure of the water during the rising and ebbing tides helps push the rum deep into the pores of the oak barrels and extracting all of the oak and bourbon flavours from the wood.

In total, the rum is apparently aged for about six months and somewhere in the aging system a solera method of aging is employed.

Originally the company used three very small stills to produce their rum, before investing in the new Christian Carl pot still. These three small stills are on display in the still room. As a result, the profile of the rum has changed greatly from the first commercially produced batch, to todays latest batch. A big improvement in flavour and more consistency has been achieved by using a larger still, with each batch produced stting a new standard.

Hammerheads Brewpub, Grand Cayman.
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Blackbeard's Rum Company
While searching for a bottle of old rum for Count Silvio from Refined Vices, The Rumelier stumbled across a liquor store on Cayman's famous Seven Mile Beach. The store was named after one of the rum company's that import their own brand of rum and have named it after the famous pirate, Blackbeard.
In the rear of the retail store they have a small rum cake production line and bottling plant. The rum is imported at overproof strengths and then watered down to bottling strength, then blended, bottled and labeled. They produce a range of  seven rums, Gold, Dark, White, 151 Overproof, Coconut, Banana and Vanilla, all in one litre sizes. Along with the rums they also produced the Cayman Islands biggest export, rum cakes, with seven varieties being produced.

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Blackbeard's Rum Company History

Blackbeard's Rum Company began as a family owned retail store in 1986, owned and operated by the late Mr. and Mrs. Keith Baldwin and their children Lynn and Bill. The company and their single retail location quickly grew on the island of Grand Cayman to become a multiple store retail business, an importer and wholesaler and exclusive producer of authentic Cayman Islands Rums and Spirits and award winning Rum Cakes.

By 2005, Blackbeard's Rum Company had not only survived the devastating Hurricane Ivan of 2004 but had flourished as an importer, distributor, producer and leading retailer with seven prime locations. The company was acquired in April of 2007 and subsequently re-structured and re-named Balckbeard's Trading Company Limited. It was merged with the Active Capital Holding, Cayman Distributors Limited in April 2008 to form the Cayman Islands leading wholesale and retail beverage company and is now positioned and resourced for continued and exponential growth.

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Blackbeard's Gold Rum.
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Rum Point, Grand Cayman.

UNDERWATER RUM!
This story was originally posted in 2008 
In news coming out of the Cayman Islands recently, there is now available the first commercially produced rum being distilled in the Cayman Islands. However this isn't the most interesting part of the story. The rum in question, Seven Fathoms Premium Rum is being aged in oak barrels 42 feet down on the ocean floor.
Due to the underwater ageing the barrels are always being gently rocked by the moving waters and the pressure will alter in the barrel continually as the tide ebbs and flows. Hopefully no hurricanes will hit the Cayman Islands again in the near future.
The rum is supposed age more quickly using this unique method, as the pressure of the water forces the rum in and out of the oak staves.
The idea was inspired by the old navy ships who carried barrels of rum around the world for their daily rations of "grog". The sailors found out that after months of storing the rum below in the holds while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, that the rum had mellowed and changed colour, making it much more palatable than when it had come straight from the still.
So this is just another version of this, but surely much more ingenious. Good luck to the company, Cayman Distillers who are producing this rum. The Rumelier is looking forward to acquiring a bottle of Seven Fathoms Premium Rum and tasting it for himself.
Update
The Rumelier had a relative bring him back a bottle of Seven Fathoms Premium Rum from the Cayman Islands. The bottle was a small 500ml bottle that retailed for about $US50. The rum bottle had a synthetic cork, unfortunately the cork when opened and re-corked kept trying to escape from the bottle, almost inviting you to sample more. The Rumelier had to find an old cork to keep the bottle closed, a small price to pay for such a great addition to The Rumelier's collection. Apparently this problem has since been solved, as this actual bottle was from the first batch ever produced. The colour is golden brown with an interesting aroma. The flavour was very unique for a rum, with lots of oak. Every rum lover should try and find a bottle of this very original rum.
The Rumelier has managed to secure a second bottle of Seven Fathoms (pictured above, left). This is a larger 750ml size bottle and the cork has been changed to one like they use in Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, a wooden top with natural cork. This actual bottle is from Batch Number 4.