By the end of a two-hour tour of the West Indies Rum Distilleries yesterday, Parish Ambassadors for St. Lucy, St. Peter and St. Philip might have well been termed “Rum Ambassadors”.
So thorough was the information divulged on the highly technical process of moving from yeast and molasses to the finished product of rum, that by the end they could have answered some of the questions asked themselves.
Conducted by Operations Manager, Don Benn the tour took in the fermentation control area; the labs that test the yeast and then the finished products, the distillation and the bottling areas, as well as storage.
Benn fielded a number of questions from the ambassadors related to the kind of yeast and molasses used, the types of rum produced; the popularity of the brand; computerisation and modernisation versus older techniques and aging.
He noted that despite a storage capacity of 20,000 casks, the company, which opened in 1893, now stores around 3,000 barrels. He also explained that one of the challenges with aging rum was the loss of product due to evaporation over time, which was one of the reasons several companies usually stored aged rum in controlled temperatures.
The ambassadors also learned that molasses was considered the one of the two key ingredients for rum and was nicknamed “black gold” by those in the industry. Manufacturers would use the molasses to extract what sugar was left from the process and convert that to alcohol in a very closely monitored scientific process.
The company, he said, over the years had undergone much modernisation to better monitor the difference processes that were once done by hand; but he added, that it was also significant that many of the workers who would have been part of the company before modernisation had learnt the new techniques as well.
The majority of the rum made by the distillery, which amounted to about 90 or 95 per cent, he told them, was still exported – making the rum industry still one of the chief earners of foreign exchange for the company.
The tour was intended to show the process of producing rum as the company is one of the sponsors of the Independence Celebrations. (LB)