Photo courtesy of Casa Bacardi
Cheers to the Caribbean
Nothing beats discovering rum on its home turf. Crafting unrivaled sips and shots, distilleries in the Caribbean run the gamut from small batch to ultra-modern that churn out thousands of bottles each year.
For a liquid history lesson worth its sea salt, check out the Best Caribbean Rum Distilleries as voted in the 2019 USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice Awards.
Photo courtesy of Topper's Rhum
1. Topper's Rhum | Sint Maarten
With legions of loyal fans, it’s no surprise Topper’s Rhum (French spelling for rum) in Sint Maarten was voted Best Caribbean Rum Distillery in 2019. Producing yummy flavors in pretty reusable glass bottles, rummy riffs on old-school favorites fly off the shelves like Banana Vanilla Cinnamon, White Chocolate Raspberry , tongue-tingling Strawberry Jalapeno and the whimsical love child of peanut butter, bananas and rum aptly named Elvis.
A family affair for Topper and Melanie Daboul who also own the popular Topper’s Restaurant, the distillery is open for sampling and shopping 7 days a week with tours every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that include an opportunity to create your own unique flavor.
Photo courtesy of @BrugalUSA
2. Brugal Rum | Dominican Republic
In Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, Brugal Rum has been distilling since 1888. The robust rum is aged in warehouses that are positioned north to south making the most of the Dominican sun.
Tours are offered Monday to Saturday and include tastings of the extra-smooth signature rums.
Photo courtesy of Casa Bacardi
3. Casa Bacardi | Puerto Rico
Billed as the "largest family-owned spirits company in the world," Puerto Rico’s Casa Bacardi is the rock star of Caribbean rum. The full-bodied blend has come a long way since its humble beginnings in Cuba in 1862.
In San Juan, Casa Bacardi offers tours of the distillery and classes that teach the fine art of muddling a minty mojito.
Photo courtesy of Januari Jai Media
4. Cruzan Rum Distillery | St. Croix
Cruzan Rum is the only still functioning historic distillery in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A family affair in St. Croix for 8 generations, a unique five-column distillation process that uses cane molasses and rainwater keeps aficionados in high spirits.
Popular bottles include Estate Diamond Dark Rum named after the original sugar mill estate, Cruzan 9 referring to the 9 districts in St. Croix and a cornucopia of cocktail pick-me-uppers. Distillery tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, Monday through Friday, and the gift shop is well-stocked with souvenirs and bottles.
Photo courtesy of The Cadushy Distillery
5. The Cadushy Distillery | Bonaire
The only distillery in Bonaire, Cadushy Distillery is also the only one in the world making liqueur from cactus plants. Founded in 2009, cactus is the star attraction in their green citrus-tinged Cadushy of Bonaire, while Captain Don's Whisky is made with tobacco leaves imported from Cuba. Free tours include samples in the shady courtyard.
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Andrews
6. Clarke's Court Rum | Grenada
Clarke’s Court Rum is the largest distillery in Grenada, situated on the southern side of the island. Spirits snobs go for the Pure White distilled from molasses and sipped slowly with a dash of bitters. Clarke’s Court Lemon is a lighter rum poured neat or on the rocks. If you're considering a visit, they're busiest from January to September, and free tours are offered.
Photo courtesy of John Watling's Distillery, Ltd
7. John Watling's Distillery | Nassau, Bahamas
Named for a 17th century swashbuckler who sailed the Bahamian seas, John Watling's Distillery produces small batches of his namesake rum. Aged in white oak barrels, Buena Vista is popular for its whiffs of nutty vanilla.
Close to the cruise ship port in Nassau, tours of the Buena Vista Estate are offered daily. Linger awhile in the Red Turtle Tavern for a shot of Rum Dum, invented 42 years ago, and a tasty bowl of local conch chowder.
Photo courtesy of Grenada Tourism Authority
8. River Antoine Rum Distillery | Grenada
Not much has changed at the River Antoine Rum Distillery since 1785 when the Caribbean’s oldest functioning water-powered distillery first produced their potent hooch. So potent, the 150-proof rum cannot be transported home on an airplane.
Tours include a look-see at the process from cane harvesting to bottling and includes samples of the wickedly strong firewater.
Photo courtesy of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.
9. St. Nicholas Abbey | Barbados
The only distillery in Barbados producing rum from sugar cane, rather than from molasses, St. Nicholas Abbey sits pretty next to Cherry Tree Hill in the parish of St. Peter. On a plantation that dates to 1658, rum is aged in oak casks and distilled in custom-made pots (think: no modern machines).
Signature sips include see-through white rum with a sweet marshmallow taste and an 18-year old amber with notes of peaches, currants and orange. Barrel-to-bottle tours include plenty of samples.
Photo courtesy of Mount Gay Rum
10. Mount Gay Rum | Barbados
Also in Barbados, Mount Gay’s storied past starts in the centuries-old distillery where overproof rum was once called 'Kill-Devil.' Tours explore the original well, molasses house and distillation process.
In Bridgetown, Mount Gay's Visitor Center invites serious sippers to a lunchtime tour that includes a bottomless rum punch station. Peruse the gift shop where 1703 Master Select, named for the year the distillery opened, is a guaranteed fan favorite aged in charred whiskey casks.