The best cocktails of the Caribbean start here, as Cayman’s rums take centre stage.
By Shurna DeCou
Best known for scuba diving, Seven Mile Beach and as a haven for talented chefs, a rum renaissance is on the horizon in the Cayman Islands. A surge of handcrafted variations have emerged through the years here — and these aren’t your average rums. The Islands have moved beyond the frozen and are poised to transform into a global hub for rum aficionados. With deep roots in Caribbean history, including rum, sugar cane production and pirates, it should come as no surprise that Cayman is creating signature rums that are gaining international acclaim.
Labour of Love
Edward Teach rum started out as a labour of love for handcrafted, premium rum. A personal challenge emerged: What kind of rum could they create if it was distilled in small batches from sugar cane and then placed in oak barrels to age? The result was Edward Teach — a handcrafted, premium rum that has become like liquid gold across the island.
Edward Teach, originally the birth name of the infamous pirate Blackbeard, is not available anywhere outside of Cayman, says Alex McClenaghan, group marketing manager of Cayman Distributors Group (CDG).
“We wanted to try to create our own product that fills a niche that a rum discerning drinker is looking for in the Cayman Islands,” says McClenaghan. “Quality and authenticity: We have blind tasted Edward Teach with world-class labels and it stands up very well. That is due to its small batch nature and its good oak contact.”
McClenaghan says the location of the distillery that produced the high-quality rum outside of Cayman is a secret. The rum is aged in a classic rum barrel, primarily former bourbon barrels, which provide a high percentage of oak to liquid contact. The ageing process is seven years and CDG is currently in its fourth bottling.
“Edward Teach is a very smooth, very drinkable rum with the caramel and butter notes of an aged rum. It also includes light coconut and a hint of banana, which comes solely from the ageing in oak barrels that have been resting for years. No flavours have been added,” says McClenaghan. The rum is made from sugar cane rather than sugar cane juice or molasses.
Another handcrafted feature of Edward Teach is that each bottle is hand numbered, specifying the bottle and batch. CDG seals the vintage and the wax on the rum bottle, resulting in a slightly different label for each batch, which is specific to a particular barrel. Each batch produces somewhere between 500 and 530 bottles.
"We are finding that we could easily sell 10 times as much as what we are producing, but we want to offer something of higher quality and something to our local consumer that we can be proud of,” says McClenaghan.
Edward Teach is available at bars and restaurants that carry high-end rums. Imagine sitting in the luxury of the lobby bar at The Ritz-Carton, Grand Cayman with close friends, sipping a glass of Edward Teach. Its smooth caramel liquid enhances the elegant atmosphere with a nice Montecristo cigar. If you are feeling a little adventurous, ask The Ritz-Carlton's bartender for a Rum Espresso — a cocktail created using Edward Teach, orange liqueur and espresso, served on the rocks.
Discerning rum drinkers can also indulge in Edward Teach at The Lighthouse Restaurant located on a small cliff overlooking the ocean. The rum brand is also widely available in retail locations on island as well as duty-free at the airport, so visitors can take a bottle home to enjoy as a memory of their trip.
Rocking the Rum World
Seven Fathoms is one of the most superb tasting rums to emerge in the Caribbean in recent years, and it has a one-of-kind ageing technique. After the rum is distilled, it’s stored in oak bourbon casks and then taken to a secret location off the coast of the Cayman Islands and submerged at seven fathoms — or exactly 42 feet. It is left to age for three years before it is brought back to the surface and bottled.
Produced by Cayman Spirits Company, it is the first and only distillery in the Cayman Islands. The co-founders are childhood friends, Nelson Dilbert and Walker Romanica, who produced their first batch of rum 11 years ago and took eight hours to make one bottle. The distillers moved four years ago into a 5,000-square-foot custom-built space complete with a tasting room and production floor. As the rum has evolved, so has its profile, which you can experience in person with fresh batch distillery tastings.
“We are able to maintain more consistency from batch to batch today, but each batch still has its own unique flavour,” says Walker Romanica, co-founder of Cayman Spirits Company. The sales of the award-winning Seven Fathoms is growing so quickly, Cayman Spirits is now exporting to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Germany.
There is something that just feels right when sipping a glass of ocean-aged Seven Fathoms whilst lounging on Seven Mile Beach at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. The more casual vibe of beach bar Calico Jack's is another great venue to savour this premium smooth rum.
Another creation of Cayman Spirits Company, the Governor’s Reserve line of rums has also created quite a buzz. The Governor’s Reserve line features rums infused with a range of flavours such as Caribbean spice, banana, coconut, dark and gold, as well as small specialty batches using seasonal ingredients.
“These craft-distilled rums are flavourful, with a crisp, clean style of rum that you will not find in Cuba [nor] Jamaica. It is the expression of Cayman-style rum,” says Romanica.
Located at Lighthouse Point in the northwest part of the island, Vivo offers a stunning view of the ocean to enjoy its signature cocktail, a twist of the piña colada, made with Governor's Reserve coconut rum, local coconut milk and homemade berry syrup.
“We have created the majority of our signature cocktails around Cayman Spirits products, because they are so popular,” says Vivo owner Michele Zama. “Cayman Spirits is an amazing distillery, and we are lucky to have them around the corner.”
With a panoramic view of the George Town harbour, the iconic Rackam’s Waterfront Bar & Grill also offers a delectable array of rum and fruit cocktails.
Tortuga Rum Company introduced the first premium rum on the island, which was developed specifically for residents and tourists to this island some 30 years ago. The husband and wife co-founders also used their premium rum to create their famous and wildly popular Tortuga Rum Cake.
The 12-year aged rum — with its deep mellow flavour and fine medium body, served straight or on the rocks — is a perfect ending to a romantic dinner. Both its 12- and 5-year premium rums have won many international awards, including Rum Masters Tasting, Superior Taste and International Cane Spirits Festival.
Tortuga’s unusual and delicious blended rums are lovely on their own or used as mixers for creating tropical-inspired cocktails. Tortuga rum flavours such as mango, coconut, banana and pineapple are infused during the blending process, which then allow them to mellow and become smooth as the rums age. Tortuga’s spice, vanilla, dark, gold and light brands each provide special flavours to Caribbean cocktails.
“Our rum is especially made for us by Caribbean rum manufacturers in Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana,” says Monique Hamaty-Simmonds, brand development director at Tortuga, adding that whilst there is not a distillery tour available, visitors can visit the Tortuga Rum Factory to see how their rum is used to bake their famous rum cakes. The bartenders at Grand Old House have made an art form of creating cocktails with Tortuga’s flavour-infused rums. What could be better than indulging in a fresh fruit daiquiri infused with Tortuga coconut rum whilst watching for the famous green flash on the horizon to appear at sunset?
Guy Harvey’s is another lovely venue to enjoy a Tortuga Rum drink. Adorned with Guy Harvey’s paintings and murals of blue marlins and marine life, visitors can catch a glimpse at Ernest Hemingway’s passion for Caribbean rum and deep-sea fishing.
Tortuga’s rums can also be found at liquor stores and gift shops across the Islands, as well as duty-free at the airport.
Explore the Islands’ Rums
A tour of Cayman Spirits Distillery is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. The curtain is pulled back to reveal the nuts and bolts of the modern production operation, from the fermentation of the sugar cane to bottling.
Each tour guide is a working distiller, so they are very knowledgeable about each step in the process. Part of the tour includes its impressive 1,200-gallon copper pot still, which has the capacity to produce 500,000 litres of rum each year, as well as its commercial still, which is used to perfect its Seven Fathoms rum.
The tour culminates in the tasting room, where guests have a chance to sample the Seven Fathoms rum, Governor’s Reserve brands of rum and any of the specialty rums the distillery is experimenting with at the time.
Whether it is the island exclusive Edward Teach, ocean-aged Seven Fathoms, charming Governor’s Reserve or the classic Tortuga brand, Cayman’s rums are part of the island experience that is uniquely its own.