Belfast Estate Limited

Dominica

In Dominica, I usually anchor Tafia in Prince Rupert Bay, off the northern town of Portsmouth. From the town dock, it is an hour or so minibus ride to Belfast Estate, just north of the Canefield Airport in the Coconut Complex. On the west side of the road, you will see part of an old water wheel that powered a sugar cane press many years ago. Just down the hill, on the same side of the road, inside the white building, was the barrel-making operation and old distilling area of the estate. If you happen to be walking by this building and the window is open, it is certainly worth looking inside.

You can see where the coopers assembled barrels for aging rum when the distillery was in operation. Typically, barrels are broken down for shipment and then reassembled at the distillery. While researching this book, I did not encounter any distillery that still makes its own barrels. The laws in the United States allow whiskey barrels to be used only once, after which they are often sold to rum distilleries in the Eastern Caribbean if they are in good shape. Barrels also come from Canada and Europe, where they are not reused.

In the late 1980s, the still pot and copper distillation column were shut down at Belfast, but R.A.J. Astaphan, the manager, has plans to use them again in the future. Currently, Belfast blends rum from Guyana, Trinidad, and Barbados and bottles it under the Belfast label. All of the products from Belfast are widely available in Dominica, but none of the rum from Belfast Estate Limited is currently available outside this island. White Soca Rum is the strongest tasting rum because it is not aged in the same way as the rest of the bottled rums. Soca is being replaced with a new label called Red Cap - its local name. As you might imagine, this bottle has a red cap.

If you prefer a smoother rum, try Belfast D Special, a dark blend of rums, colored with caramel. Some of the rums in this blend are aged more than three years. D Special Rum is a little smoother than Red Cap, although they both contain the same 43% alcohol. In spite of the fact that the labels state that these rums are distilled and bottled by Belfast Estate Limited, in Dominica it is no secret that these are imported but that may change in the future.

In addition to the bottled rums, Belfast also sells cask rum. This strong, white rum is about 100 proof and sold to the local retail outlets. Saturday morning in Portsmouth several of the local rum shops were busy tapping the 40-gallon barrels. It isn't uncommon to spill a little rum while pouring the contents of the heavy barrel out of the bung hole into a smaller container. No one seems to mind and, after a round of rum, all is forgotten.

A number of shops in Roseau and Portsmouth sell cask rum. Most mornings people line up with all sorts of containers and large bottles to be filled from the rum barrels stacked against the wall. From here, the cask rum is taken to their own smaller shops and spiced with a variety of local spices. It is always interesting to taste one of these spiced rums and then try to determine what has been used in the spice. A clue is sometimes present in the bottle. Cinnamon sticks, for, example, are easily identified, but other spices are much harder to see. Spicing the cask rum also helps take the edge off this strong liquor.
There are 5 products in our database distilled by Belfast Estate Limited.
Belfast Soca
Belfast Soca Gold
Belfast D Special
Belfast Red Cap
West Coast Rum

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Last updated October 11, 2008