Friday, 29 July 2016

Like Rum? Love Barbados!

‘There’s a time and a place’ is the slogan of the oldest rum in the World – Mount Gay Rum from Barbados. The birthplace of the Caribbean’s favourite liquor is definitely the ‘place’ to try it for the first time or enjoy it for the 100th time. Whether you’re visiting for a few days or a lucky few weeks; there is plenty of time to get in the spirit!

How did it start?

Rum is a huge part of the Bajan history and culture with many cultural heritage sites to discover the story of sugar and rum. Due to the islands mainly flat landscape and good soil, Barbados has successfully grown sugar from mid-17th century. Rum was actually first created, in very early form, by plantation slaves as they discovered that molasses (a byproduct of the sugar refining process) could be fermented into a crude liquor called ‘rumbillon’ In 1703, an English businessman set up the world’s first properly commercial rum distillery in Barbados which refined the liquor into delicious rum…That man was Sir John Gay, with the now world renowned Mount Gay Rum.


Not surprisingly, rum is a big part of any celebration or festival in the Caribbean. ‘The annual Food, Wine and Rum Festival’ a 4 day foodie and booze fuelled event celebrating the best culinary and alcoholic delights – from pairing food and wines to cooking demonstrations, pop up food stalls and of course beach parties!

The most popular festival, completely dedicated to sugar and rum is Crop Over Festival. These attracts thousands of visitors all over the globe for 3 weeks of events and parties, originally created to celebrate the end of a good sugar crop season. If you can only visit for a short period during this festival then make sure its for the big finale, The Grand Kadooment. This when you will see the famous colourful headdresses, feather crowns and huge crowds dancing in the streets to the early hours! 

Other smaller festivals to mark in the diary are the Holetown Festival, which commemorates the first settlement in Barbados in February and Oistin’s Fish Festival which celebrates the islands brilliant fishing industry.

Distilleries and tours

The most popular choice of distilleries to visit is the Mount Gay Rum Visitors Centre which is located in Bridgetown’s Port. Here you will have a tour guide explaining the distillery’s history, watch a short film and rum tasting throughout. We recommend spending a little extra for the Cocktail tour that finishes with a cocktail making masterclass with the mixology masters of rum! Top tip – Buy your rum to take home here, it’s cheaper than at the airport!

In the hills of St Peter you will find St Nicholas Abbey you will find the oldest plantation house in Barbados. This stunning building has a rich history of rum production and the current owners still produce their own rum. You get to explore the Jacobean style house (built in 1660) filled with antiques and a small cinema showing you how island life was in the 1930s….and more rum tasting of course!

Finally, in eight beautiful acres of former plantation land you will find the Foresquare Rum Distillery which occupies the former St Philip sugar factory dating back to 1636. This is a fantastic entertainment venue with the landscaped parks and perfectly restored plantation buildings. There are several attractions on the grounds including he sugar machine museum, folk museum and bottling plant. Self guided tours are free, allowing you to wander at your leisure on the signposted walking tour.

Rum Shacks

You will find Bajan rum served all over the island, usually accompanied by calypso music and a big smile…at any time of day! There are more than 1500 rum shacks across the island, which equates to more than one in every village! These rum shops are simply made and brightly painted with a drink brand and are as much as a part of the Bajan culture as pubs are to the Brits! 

Pick up a shot or small bottle of rum as you enjoy some home cooked island food and get to know the lovely, friendly locals and even get challenged to a game of dominos! Why not see the best rum shacks on offer and experience a fun afternoon on a Rum Shop Tour.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Crop Over Festival Guide

As the weather heats up, its time for Crop over Festival, one of the biggest and brightest celebrations in Barbados! This colourful festival spans over the month of July, ending in early August with the incredible 'Grand Kadooment' parade which is filled with elaborately dressed dancers, bright carnival costumes and lively calypso bands. This is definitely one of the most exciting times of year to visit the island with thousands of visitors from around the World coming to join in the famous Bajan celebrations! 

Brief history of Crop Over Festival

Crop Over Festival dates back to the 1780's,when Barbados was the World's largest producer of sugar. At the end over every sugar crop season, the hard working harvesters would have a big celebration to mark another successful sugar cane harvest. 

As the sugar industry declined on the island, so did the celebrations and in the 1940's the festival was completely stopped for nearly 30 years. In 1974, Crop Over Festival was brought back to life by the Barbados Tourism Authority to become a celebration of Bajan culture and its rich history. 

What on during the festival?

The Crop Over Festival runs for 24 days every summer, starting on the second Saturday in July with a colourful parade through Bridgetown. Giant colourful floats, carnival bands and decorated carts ride through the town to the National Stadium where the opening gala is held. Here a sugarcane king and queen are crowned, who used to be chose as the most productive sugar crop workers of the season.

Throughout the 3 weeks, there are various parties, concerts, food festivals and other fun events to be enjoyed. Music is always a central point of the festival with the sound of calypso, soca and steel drums filling the air. 

The last week of the festival is when the more popular events take place. Bridgetown Market Street Fair is a food and music festival with plenty of food stalls, an arts fair (great for souvenirs!), Barbadian cooking contests and calypso music. 

The Big Finale

The finale weekend is the biggest party weekend of the year in Barbados! It starts with the wild Pic-o-de-crop calypso competition finals with extraordinary costumes, body paint and livebands which finishes with a spontaneous street party!  The next morning the Foreday Morning Jam takes place with 3.5km of dancing through the streets. On Sunday you can enjoy the Cohobblopot calypso show from the winners of the Party monarch. 

The Grand Kadooment, which is Bajan for “Big Deal” or “Big Fuss,”where various groups and individuals compete with themed costumes and song for titles including the Calypso Monarch, Road March Monarch, and Sweet Soca Monarch. Here is where you will see the famous pictures of people in headdresses, feather crowns and carnival outfits for the epic parade of live music, fireworks and partying through the night. There's no standing and watching here, so be prepared to dance til dawn!