After remaining undisturbed for well over two centuries in a British cellar, three bottles from a cache of the world’s oldest rum are being returned to their rightful birthplace in Barbados.
Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd., officially the world’s oldest rum distiller, successfully purchased the bottles of historic Barbados rum which date back to 1780, when a total of 12 bottles were auctioned last December by Christies in London.
Now officially recognized as the oldest and most famous rum in the world, the bottles will be returned to their native land sometime this month, and will be unveiled for all to see and subsequently placed in an exhibit for both Barbadians and visitors to appreciate.
Managing Director of Mount Gay Distilleries, Raphael Grisoni said as soon as they became aware of the discovery, the company felt it was incumbent upon Mount Gay – as Barbados’ and the world’s oldest distillery of record – to make absolutely certain that at least some of the rum, an original product of Barbados, was brought back to its ancestral home. He said it had cost the company several thousands of dollars to buy back Barbados’ inheritance, and great care would be taken to see the prized rum safely home.
“Mount Gay believes that this rum rightfully belongs to Barbados, and therefore we have spared no effort to ensure that our mission to have Barbados share in this historic treasure will be successfully accomplished. From a historical perspective, we see this as important to affirming our pride of place in the storied history of rum, its origins and critical role in the development of this country and region.
“From a more contemporary viewpoint, it is also very important to Mount Gay’s vision for the growth, development and marketing of our rum as a premium spirit in the international market place, to establish eighteenth century Barbados as that time and that place where the oldest rum in the world was distilled.”
Two and a half centuries on, and the treasure trove of light and dark spirits would be discovered in 2011, in the cellar of Harewood House, the stately home of the Earl of Harewood. The countryside mansion was previously owned by the Earl’s 18th century ancestor Henry Lascelles, who had lived in Barbados and owned several sugar plantations including the now world famous rum producing Mount Gay Estate.
Appraised since then for its exceptional provenance and quality, the historic collection has attracted the attention of international connoisseurs and enthusiasts from around the world, a fascination and charm which Grisoni believes bodes well for Barbados’ tourism industry.
“Mount Gay Rum is synonymous with Barbados, and we therefore feel a deep sense of pride and responsibility in returning this treasured rum to Barbadians as an inheritance and a birthright. We also recognise how important tourism is to Barbados’ development, and we believe that having this rum on display in Barbados will certainly be of great benefit to the island’s reputation as a tourism destination.”
Stumbled upon completely by chance when established wine trade professionals Mark Lascelles and Andy Langshaw, were conducting an inventory of the Harewood cellar, historical account has since verified that the bottles of rum must have come from Barbados.
Their story began in 1711, when Henry Lascelles, then just 21 years old, travelled from Yorkshire to the West Indies to trade in sugar, cotton, tobacco – and rum. By 1780, the bulk of the Lascelles’ West Indian property was in Barbados, including the estates that still today belong to Barbados’ oldest and best-known rum producer, Mount Gay.
At the recent Christie’s auction the bottles were presented to prospective purchasers as having been: “Distilled in Barbados; Shipped in barrel; Bottled at Harewood;” sealing Barbados’ claim as the country of origin of the oldest rum in the world.