The world’s oldest rum brand, Mount Gay — available in India — provides a tasty base for some easy-to-make cocktails

Sometimes, certain things people say stay put in your mind. However, inane they may be. Or maybe that’s why they stay. One such thing that got stuck in my head — and makes me laugh many a time — is what a former colleague of mine playfully told another colleague once. In fact, this young and utterly naughty colleague claimed to his senior co-worker who used to cover the cinema beat, that he was sharing his life’s wish with him — which of course I overheard and laughed out the loudest. He said, “Sir, if you know some film director, please get me the role of raiz baap ka ayyash beta. However short their roles may be, they always seem to enjoy the most in our films.”

Years later, I am thinking of Barbados, and also thinking of this not-any-longer-young (and hopefully less naughty) colleague and how he, as the ayyash beta, would have liked to recreate the West Indies as a fun island Bollywood style. Sea, songs, coconuts, shirtless men and shapely girls in two piece swimsuits jiving to the peppy beats of drums, guitars and the maracas surely. Well, let me complete this Hindi film-friendly milieu by bringing on to the scene some colourful drinks too, for the story to move ahead. But here, I give in to reality. Let’s bring to the table Mount Gay rum, the world’s oldest rum, produced in Barbados and popular worldwide.

Mount Gay rum can produce some colourful drinks too, but more on that later. First, let me tell you why I want Mount Gay on that table, why so many would like it so. Apart from the fact that it is today the oldest rum brand in the world (produced since 1703) and available in over 110 countries, Mount Gay has a flavour quite distinct from other rums produced in the West Indies. This medium and light tasting rum combines the delicate notes of ripe banana, sweet almond, vanilla and moka. “Expertly fashioned from rich sugarcane, the most aromatic molasses and with the pristine, coral-filtered water native to the island, Mount Gay Rum is the sumptuous, inimitable expression of Barbadian art of living,” says the company. To add a bit of cinematic gloss to it, Daniel Craig, as the new-age James Bond in Casino Royale, orders a Mount Gay rum with soda, brushing aside Bond’s trademark preference, a vodka Martini.

Though quite far from the Bollywood dream sequence my former colleague would have made of Barbados, some centuries ago, the island was indeed seen as a fun spot by sailors. Due to the trade winds from Europe to the Caribbean, ships would often anchor in Barbados as it would be the first landfall for them. The sailors, looking for a local brew, found and liked very much the rum produced there (read Mount Gay). It is because of this initial patronage by sailors that Mount Gay rum today sponsors a large number of sailing competitions worldwide.

How the rum got its name is also an interesting story. There were two friends, Sir John Gay Alleyne, the first Baronet of Four Hill, and John Sober, who inherited the Mount Gilboa Plantation/Distilleries from his father in 1747. Gay, on his friend’s request, became the manager of the company. He took the business to such heights that his friend, the owner, renamed the brand after him when he passed away in 1801. According to historians, Sir John Gay Alleyne was a popular leader among the planter elite and was a formidable voice against slavery — but that is another story. In the 20th Century, the ownership went to one Ward family, whose agricultural holdings are said to have the best quality sugarcane on the island (According to Wiki).

Wanting to know more about Mount Gay, I contact the brand’s mixologist Chesterfield Browne. More interested in the drink as a base for cocktails, I ask him what extra the rum can add to a blended drink. “Mount Gay rum brings taste as well as character to cocktails. As the world’s oldest rum that has survived three centuries, it brings into a drink a lot of character by itself. It also brings more depth to cocktails, since we use a combination of two types of handcrafted distillates (single and double distillate),” says Browne in an email response.

Is the character of a brand enough to make it so popular? “Clients around the world look for authenticity and quality, no matter the industry — be it clothes, food or drink. Because of its experience in handcrafted rum making, Mount Gay has been able to provide an authentic character and taste,” he says. Though the United States is its largest consumer base, it has now entered India, also an important rum market. We also have our own rum. States Browne, “India is known for appreciating handcrafted work, so we are confident that our rum can strike a chord with Indian consumers despite a strong homegrown competition.”

Browne also shares some popular cocktails that can be rolled out with Mount Gay. One such brew is Black Vanilla. Add two-and-a-half ounces of Mount Gay Extra Old, 1/4 oz of vanilla syrup, a dash of aromatic bitters into a shaker. Shake them well with few dollops of ice before straining the brew into a Martini glass. The garnish is half of a nutmeg dropped into the drink to rest at the bottom.

Yet another Mount Gay-based cocktail is Barbados Yacht Club. In a cocktail shaker, pour 2 oz. of Mount Gay Extra Old variety, 3/4 oz of fresh lime juice, 1/4 oz of Cointreau and 1/4 oz of Velvet Falernum (a ginger-and-clove-based alcoholic sweet syrup used in Caribbean drinks). Shake all the ingredients well with crushed ice and strain the liquid into an old fashioned glass half filled with ice cubes. Garnish it by half dipping two thinly sliced rounds of a lime.

And what else…play “Pon de Replay” by Barbadian hottie Rihanna and enjoy!

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