Spirit sippers and cocktail drinkers have shown an increasing interest in luxury rum in recent years as brands have focused on premium sip options that counteract the stereotype of sugary spring-break drinks. According to the United States Distilled Spirits Council, the super-premium category of rum grew nearly 13% year over year.
Rum varies in styles that often differ depending on where it is made. Unlike lighter rums made in Puerto Rico and Cuba, Jamaican rums tend to be funkier. It’s a great place to learn how the spirit is made, with a variety of distilleries to visit and activities to experience rum culture. Rum has become such a draw on the island that June hosted the fourth Jamaican Rum Festival, which was a day of tastings, interactive educational seminars and musical performances.
And while there’s likely to be a fifth Rum Festival next year (it was held in both Kingston and Montego Bay), in the meantime, there’s plenty to see on a visit to the island.
Hampden Rum ExperienceTrelawny
Peacocks will greet you at this distillery which produces some of the heaviest pot still rums in Jamaica and is a great place to understand techniques that set this style of rum apart from others. Visitors can see Dunder Pits, which is the liquid left in a cauldron after a batch of rum is made, which is saved and saved to add more flavor, similar to a sour mash used in bourbon.
The still house where the rum is fermented is almost unchanged since the 19th century, with 150- to 200-year-old cedar fermentation tanks and wild yeast in the air, which is key to the final product; Changes to the environment could affect how the spirit ultimately tastes.
Hampden makes both Rum Fire, the popular overproof rum, and a range of aged rums. Tours are offered weekdays at 10am and 11am and include lunch from the on-site jerk kitchen.
Appleton estateSt Elizabeth
Joy Spence, Master Blender at Appleton, Jamaica’s most famous rum, is a legend in the industry. She joined Appleton in 1981 as chief chemist and became the industry’s first female master blender in 1997. The tour of Appleton is named in her honor. Visitors will learn how the Nassau Valley terroir, with its daily rain showers, limestone hills and caves, and underground water springs, influences the flavor of the aged rum selection.
Pure ChocolateOcho Rios
Pure chocolate is sold at various locations around the island, but if you want to learn how it’s made and why it pairs so well with rum, visit their chocolate studio at Island Village in Ocho Rios. Your 90-minute Discover Chocolate Workshop is an in-depth look at making bars and treats using Jamaican cocoa, and you’ll have the chance to make fudge and a chocolate bar. They also have a new class of rum and chocolate pairings that often highlight Worthy Park, a centuries-old family-owned distillery that makes traditional pot still rum. To book send an email to [email protected]
Montego Bay Cultural CenterMontego bay
This two-story museum features rotating art installations as well as exhibits on Jamaica’s history, including rum and how its production transformed the island. Manufacturing first began under British colonization and benefited from slave labor. Industry declined after emancipation, but the remaining lands rebounded after the 1959 Cuban Revolution and increasing global demand for rum. The museum explains how rum is made, as well as slave rebellions in Jamaica’s history and the island’s development as a tourist destination and the development of the island’s most popular spirit.
Adventures in the Caribbean in Chukkafalmouth
Enjoying Jamaica’s natural beauty is a must, but at Chukka Caribbean Adventures you can do so by combining a tour with a quick rum class. There are locations across the island, but Falmouth’s focuses on the great outdoors, where visitors can zipline, go down the Martha Brae River, or take a traditional bamboo rafting trip. The 30-foot rafts were historically used to transport sugar and other crops from sugar plantations to port cities.
Pier 1Montego bay
Pier 1 has an epic location on a peninsula overlooking Montego Bay, and because of that location, it ranges from “pretty busy” to “insanely popular” on certain nights when a street party turns from a dinner restaurant to a packed club transformed. If it’s during mealtime, try a cocktail made with local rum, but if you’re ready to party, but a small bottle and follower and get ready to dance.