For Shore

Tor­tola’s past is en­twined with the his­tory of some of the most fa­mous rums in the Caribbean — so when ex­plor­ing, pack your thirst!

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - What’s Inside - BY KEVIN REVOLIN­SKI

IF YOU’RE GO­ING ASHORE in Tor­tola, why not go rum hunt­ing? The Caribbean has the per­fect cli­mate to grow sugar cane, and dur­ing the colo­nial pe­riod plan­ta­tions sprouted among the is­lands. It wasn’t long be­fore some­one no­ticed that the byprod­ucts of the re­fin­ing process – mo­lasses – fer­mented in the sun. From there, dis­tillers be­gan to work their magic. Pusser’s Rum

In the 17th cen­tury, a daily rum ra­tion be­came stan­dard for the crews of Bri­tain’s Royal Navy. The ship’s purser, the sup­ply clerk, pro­vided each sailor his “tot” – a pint per day, served neat, of the “purser’s rum.” The ‘r’ was swal­lowed up over time (along with a lot of rum) and so it be­came known as “pusser’s rum.”

In 1740, Ad­mi­ral Ed­ward Ver­non (nick­named “Old Grog” for his gro­gram cloak), or­dered that the rum ra­tion be di­luted with wa­ter and mixed with lime and sugar out of con­cern for drunk­en­ness aboard. Sailors took to call­ing it “grog” dis­parag­ingly. The tra­di­tion held un­til “Black Tot Day,” July 31, 1970, when the last daily tot – by then only an eighth of a pint – was is­sued and the fi­nal toast was raised.

The Royal Navy’s blended rum recipe had never been for pub­lic con­sump­tion un­til en­tre­pre­neur Charles To­bias ob­tained the rights from the Ad­mi­ralty in 1979, and be­gan bot­tling Pusser’s Rum on Tor­tola. If your shore time is short, you must at least pop in for drink or to nab a bot­tle at Pusser’s Road Town Pub, one of two out­posts on Tor­tola.

The Is­land’s Only Dis­tillery

Along Cane Gar­den Bay on the is­land’s north­west side, look­ing out to­ward Jost Van Dyke, lies Call­wood Rum Dis­tillery. Dat­ing back to the 1600s, Call­wood is the long­est con­tin­u­ously op­er­at­ing pot dis­tillery in the Vir­gin Is­lands and one of the old­est in the en­tire Caribbean. The prop­erty was orig­i­nally a cane plan­ta­tion and they still use the orig­i­nal boiler. Hur­ri­cane Irma hit the is­land hard in 2017, but within a year Call­wood had fired up the stills again un­der a new roof, while the weath­er­worn stonewalls still stand. Call­wood’s la­bel is Arun­del Cane Rum, which comes as a white rum, two aged va­ri­eties, and a rum sweet­ened with cane juice. Batches are small and the tech­niques date

back to the early days. Don’t ex­pect a big fac­tory pro­duc­tion. The tour is per­sonal and a sam­ple flight of the rums might set you back only $1.

Se­bas­tian’s Rum

If the sun is not yet over the yardarm, take a 20-minute taxi ride from the port and start your day at Se­bas­tian’s on the Beach with a cup of cof­fee. As in rum cof­fee. Maybe with Se­bas­tian’s Rum French toast for break­fast. While Call­wood’s tip­ple trav­els and Pusser’s may even be avail­able back home, this rum can only be found right here. With a la­bel that looks as if it was pro­duced on the of­fice printer, Se­bas­tian’s Rum is a spiced va­ri­ety and very pop­u­lar with lo­cals and trav­el­ers alike.

The Largest Rum Col­lec­tion in the Caribbean

Not all rums are cre­ated equal. As with wine grapes grown in spe­cific re­gions, sin­gle-ori­gin rums may have ter­roir – fla­vor pro­files af­fected by soil, mi­cro­cli­mates, and sun­light – and the art of blend­ing rums of vary­ing ages, bar­rel­ing con­di­tions, and dis­till­ing tech­niques also cre­ates dis­tinc­tion. And nowhere are you go­ing to be able to test that the­ory bet­ter than at the rum bar at Cooper Is­land Beach Club. The small is­land is reach­able by ferry 6 miles south from Road Town, and the re­sort’s rum bar has be­come leg­endary, fea­tur­ing a col­lec­tion of over 250 dif­fer­ent rums, in­clud­ing rare and aged va­ri­eties and house in­fu­sions. The most rare of the bunch is a bot­tle of Black Tot, the ac­tual daily ra­tion of the Royal Bri­tish Navy, dis­con­tin­ued in 1970. That’ll set you back $100 for a pour. Flights of rums come with his­tory and ex­pert knowl­edge from your bar­tender.

Must-Try Cock­tails

Rum mixes well and as the sta­ple liquor in the Vir­gin Is­lands, it’s not sur­pris­ing that it forms the back­bone of most cock­tails. Lo­cal rum is cheap, of­ten cheaper than the mixer. So if the drinks seem a bit strong, there’s an eco­nom­i­cal rea­son. The Vir­gin Is­lands lay claim to a cou­ple of orig­i­nal recipes that you should try. Two places claim cre­ation of the painkiller, but in ei­ther place you can’t go wrong: Pusser’s or the Soggy Dol­lar, a fa­mous beach bar on nearby is­land Jost Van Dyke. ( Named for the money com­ing from pock­ets of pa­trons hop­ping off their boats at the beach.)

This cock­tail fea­tures 2 ounces of Pusser’s Rum (or 4 if you’ve got a gen­er­ous bar­tender or a lot of pain), 4 ounces of pineap­ple juice, 1 ounce of orange juice, and 1 ounce of cream of co­conut (Coco Lopez), all shaken with ice, and served with a dash or two of freshly grated nut­meg.

An­other Vir­gin Is­lands orig­i­nal, the bushwacker, sees a lot of lit­tle vari­a­tions, but for the most part ex­pect white, dark and/or co­conut rum, Kahlua, and co­conut cream in a blender with ice. Some may add Bai­ley’s Ir­ish Cream, a splash of vodka, amaretto, or crème de ca­cao as well, fin­ished with a squirt of choco­late syrup in a hur­ri­cane glass and topped with nut­meg. Myett’s, near Call­wood Dis­tillery in Cane Gar­den Bay, is fa­mous for theirs.

Shop­ping For Rum

Pack­ing rum for the trip home? Call­wood sells on site and Se­bas­tian’s is the only place to buy their rum. But not far from the pier, check out TICO Wine & Spirit Mer­chants’ two lo­ca­tions in Road Town, or stop in at Caribbean Cel­lars for a wide se­lec­tion as well. Pusser’s has their own store in­side both Tor­tola lo­ca­tions.

The Willy T Float­ing Bar

This party barge, reach­able only by boat, is pop­u­lar both with trav­el­ers and lo­cals. Hur­ri­cane Irma de­stroyed the orig­i­nal barge, but a year later the new Wil­liam Thorn­ton moored in Grand Har­bour at Peter Is­land. For the ad­ven­turer and three other friends, try the group shot: four shot glasses mounted in a row along an old wa­ter ski so that ev­ery­one tilts it back at once.

If your shore time is short, you must at least pop in for drink or to nab a bot­tle at Pusser’s Road Town Pub.

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