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since 1932

St John's, Antigua and Barbuda

The average elevation in Antigua is a few hundred feet. Only a few peaks rise above 1000 feet, contributing to a rainfall of only forty-five inches per year. Although this dry climate is conducive to a good vacation, it caused considerable hardship on the planters who settled here in 1623. When the rain did cooperate, the sugar cane that grew here was sweeter than that on the neighbor islands. Muscovado sugar from Antigua was considered exceptional in the confectionery shops of England and the planters prospered.

Rum has been made in Antigua since sugar was introduced to the island from St. Kitts. At that time, rum was made in simple pot stills on the sugar estates. In 1932, a group of Portuguese traders founded the Antigua Distillery Limited using old distillation equipment that had been developed in the middle of the last century. Without much consideration from the ruling council, they were allowed to operate a distillery on a small piece of land known as Rat Island, just outside of St. John's. Today, the distillery stands next to the new, deep-water dock. What was an undesirable island is now part of the expansion of St. John's, the capital city of the sister island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

As their enterprise grew the businessmen acquired a sugar mill and several associated estates. This insured the supply of muscovado molasses, essential to the original Caballero Rum, which became known as Cavalier Muscovado Rum. The sugar business fell on hard times during World War II and, with the collapse of the Caribbean island sugar economy in the years that followed, the sugar mill was closed. Today, the 1800-acre Montpelier Estate produces a variety of other agricultural products.

At Antigua Distillery Limited, the distillation of rum does not claim to be based on some historical recipe. The owners realize that the connoisseur's taste for rum varies with geography and time. Rum produced in Guadeloupe, only 40 miles south of Antigua, does not have a large following here and, what was considered good rum here a hundred years ago, would not be salable in today's market. Due to the economics of sugar production, sugar cane has not been grown commercially in Antigua since 1970. Molasses must be bought on the world market and imported for what is considered a fast fermentation process. After fermentation, the bulk of the rum is collected from the third column of the continuous still. Smaller quantities of lighter rum are also condensed from the fourth column.

Depending from which column the rum was condensed, the raw output from the still is diluted to between 70% and 80% alcohol for aging. A few years ago, the distillery was faced with the necessity of replacing its aging, copper distillation column. John Dore and Co. in England was contracted to provide the new, copper four-column still. Copper, it was agreed, had the advantage of producing a rum with a much-improved flavor over the stainless steel alternative. This equipment would also produce rum that would be closer to the previous product of this distillery.

Antigua's drier climate helped produce the high-quality sugar grown here in the past. Today, the drier climate is credited with improving the aging process of the rum that sleeps on this island. With the greater evaporation losses, due to the more arid climate, comes a smoother, aged rum. Committed to producing the best, aged rum possible, Antigua Distillery Limited uses 200-liter, charred oak barrels for aging its rums. Storing the barrels on their sides maximizes the contact between the barrel and the rum and the benefits of aging. Some things have stood the test of time and remain unchanged.

Antigua Distillery Limited bottles rum under the Cavalier Antigua Rum and English Harbour Antigua Rum labels. Cavalier Antigua Rum is bottled as light and dark rum. The light rum is decolored and the dark rum has a slight caramel color added. These rums are 43% alcohol, but are also sold as 151 proof (75.5% alcohol), light and dark strong rums. All of these rums have been aged two years. Cavalier Five-Year-Old Rum has a similar label with the addition of the words Aged 5 Years. This dark, five-year-old rum is blended and bottled at 43% alcohol and is available everywhere in Antigua and in some of the other islands. In the early 90s, English Harbour Antigua Rum was introduced. Today there are a number of English Harbour Rums which have received numerous awards including best value in the aged rum category. Though you'll have to look for it, English Harbour 5 year old is something to savor.
There are 9 products in our database distilled by Antigua Distillery Limited.
Cavalier 151 Proof Rum
Cavalier Antigua Rum (Dark)
Cavalier Antigua Rum (Light)
English Harbour 1981
English Harbour Antigua Dark Rum
English Harbour Antigua White Rum
English Harbour Extra Old Rum
English Harbour Five Year Old Antigua Rum
English Harbour Reserve 10 year old

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Last updated October 11, 2008