With land and geography ideally suited to grow sugarcane, the islands of the Caribbean are the perfect source for rum. Production of the spirit in the Caribbean can be traced as far back as the 17th century. Today, most Caribbean countries produce some brand of rum, which is intrinsically tied to the culture. Here are 10 rum distilleries to visit, where you can sip on the best rum anywhere.
Bacardí, Puerto Rico
Perhaps the best-known name in rum, Bacardí has parlayed its rich history into a fascinating experience at Casa Bacardí (across the bay from Old San Juan) which allows travelers to enjoy a historical tour, a rum-tasting tour or a mixology class. Of course there is a Bacardí product for almost every cocktail, beginning with Carta Blanca, a white rum ideal for the traditional mojito.
Carretera 165 KM 6.2, Cataño, bacardi.com/casa-bacardi
River Antoine, Grenada
The tiny River Antoine distillery in Grenada’s northeast is a boutique operation where everything is done by hand. Rum has been made here since 1785, using the same water mill, the oldest in the Caribbean, to crush sugarcane. River Antoine is not aged—its entire production of two kinds of rum sells out—but this is as close as one can get to tasting what pirates drank centuries ago.
Mount Gay, Barbados
Rum is part of the cultural fabric of Barbados. It’s home to Mount Gay, the world’s oldest rum distillery, founded in 1703. A signature component is the water, which comes from an ancient 300-foot well on the property. Mount Gay offers a tour of the working estate, lands and original well at St. Lucy to smaller tasting experiences at its visitor center in Bridgetown.
Appleton Estate, Jamaica
Crafting rum for discerning palates for more than 265 years, Appleton Estate is Jamaica’s oldest distillery in continuous production. It turns out one of the few rums in the world to claim a terroir, a set of unique weather, soil and geographic demarcations. We recommend the Appleton Estate 21-year-old, drunk neat. Try it at The Joy Spence Appleton Estate Experience, named after the world’s first female master blender.
Rhum Clément, Martinique
Rhum Clément is named after Homère Clément, who in 1887 purchased a run-down sugar plantation and transformed it into a distillery. While rum is usually made from molasses, Clément’s is produced directly from fresh sugarcane juice, a method inspired by Armagnac distillers in France. Try an assortment of cocktails and rums—many aged in old French barrels—at the gorgeous botanical gardens in the historic Habitation Clément plantation. You can also tour the old home, visit art galleries in refurbished cellars, and stop by the museum.
Topper's, Sint Maarten
Not all rums have centuries of history behind them. Family-owned and handmade, bottled and packaged in Sint Maarten—in reusable, colorful swing-top bottles—Topper’s is the only spirit distilled on the island. Although Topper’s produces a light white rum, it’s known for flavored varieties like banana vanilla cinnamon and white-chocolate raspberry. A distillery tour includes unlimited tastings of Topper’s six flavors as well as their signature rum cake. Yum!
Brugal, Dominican Republic
Brugal, the largest producer of traditionally made rum in the Dominican Republic, ages its product on-site at its distillery in Puerto Plata on the northern side of the island. Founded by Don Andrés Brugal in 1888, it continues to be family-operated, and only family members can become a maestro ronero, or rum master, using a strictly guarded recipe handed down through the generations. Tours of the distillery are short but chock-full of information and tastings.
Cruzan, St. Croix
The people of St. Croix are known as Cruzans, cementing this brand’s strong island ties. Owned by the Nelthropp family since the early 1800s, the distillery is located at the site of a 1760 sugar mill. It’s unassuming on the outside, but the tour is wonderful, affording visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how rum is made inside the only functioning historic distillery in the Virgin Islands.
John Watling's, Bahamas
The Bahamas doesn’t have a sugar industry, so John Watling’s searches for distillates throughout the Caribbean. These are brought to the brand’s distillery, housed at Nassau’s gorgeous 1789 Buena Vista Estate. Named after an English buccaneer, John Watling’s employs traditional English rum-making techniques to produce its small-batch spirit. Free tours of the estate, beautifully redone in 2013, include the barrel-aging and production facility, as well as signature Bahamian cocktails at its Red Turtle Tavern.
Cayman Spirits Company, Cayman Islands
This is Grand Cayman’s only distillery, and the only source of handcrafted spirits in the Cayman Islands. Local sugarcane is harvested and its juice transformed into rum using traditional West Indian techniques. But the secret lies in aging it on the ocean floor inside American white bourbon casks that are lowered to 42 feet—exactly seven fathoms. The resulting Seven Fathoms rum, launched in 2008, is the company's premium, award-winning spirit.