Kilchoman Is Building a Rum Distillery in Barbados
May 22, 2023 –––––– David Fleming
Kilchoman Distillery, the Islay scotch whisky maker, is venturing south to the Caribbean islands to make rum. Authorities on the island of Barbados have granted approval for Kilchoman to start constructing a distillery on nine acres of land at Bentley Mansion, a derelict house the company bought in August 2021. The plan calls for a new distillery, mill, and cask warehouse to be built on the acquired land. Work will begin later this year, and Kilchoman hopes to be making its first rum by the end of 2024.
The project is being led by Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills and Frank Ward, a renowned figure in the Barbados rum world. Ward is a former managing director of Barbados rum maker Mount Gay, whose family owned that distillery for much of the 20th century until it was eventually sold to Remy Cointreau. Today Ward makes pot still Barbados rum brand Mount Gilboa, the original name of Mount Gay before the British rechristened it.
Kilchoman's new distillery, which has yet to be given a name, will have two copper pot stills. All maturation and bottling will be done on-site. The pot-still rum will be made from sugar cane juice and cane syrup, with the cane purchased from growers whose fields surround Bentley Mansion. The crushing will be done on-site as well.
While many Caribbean islands make rum, Barbados is among the most prominent, with distilleries including Mount Gay, Foursquare, and The West Indies Rum Distillery. Mount Gay is the most widely known for its eponymous brand, while Foursquare makes its highly acclaimed aged rums under the Foursquare name as well The Real McCoy and local rums. The West Indies Rum Distillery makes Cockspur, Plantation, and numerous other rum brands.
Whisky and rum have long-standing ties, mainly because rum casks are used for finishing a variety of whiskies. The most recent whisky entrant into the rum world prior to this was Mark Reynier, owner of Irish whiskey maker Waterford Distillery. In early 2022, Reynier launched Renegade Rum Distillery on the Caribbean island of Grenada, using a terroir-driven approach similar to the one he employs at Waterford.