Barbados GI: Heritage matters

“Together, we [St Nicholas Abbey, Foursquare Distillery and Mount Gay] hold 90% of Barbados’ aged rum reserves and we feel it is imperative to have a GI to protect the quality and reputation of Barbados rum. As the oldest-running rum distillery in the world, we at Mount Gay have the responsibility to preserve the integrity of Barbados rum for years to come.


Meanwhile the fourth producer in the debate, WIRD, has some reservations about what the purpose of the GI should be as well as the individual regulations. Nevertheless, managing director Andrew Hassell insists that a GI is important for the category.

“We believe there should be a GI for Barbados, but it should be inclusive and support the reputation of Barbados rum so that it can create sustainable jobs for the island and grow its economy,” says Hassell. “We’re not out to disadvantage the smaller distilleries. We’re all part of a family of Barbados rum it’s just that right now we have a difference in opinion as to what is tradition.

“WIRD has been fermenting, distilling, ageing and supplying Barbados rum to all of the major Barbados rum brands since 1893. A good Barbados rum GI should differentiate and characterise Barbados rums with the identification of the place of origin, of their quality, their process specifications and reputation.

“We strongly believe that a GI should allow all Barbados rum stakeholders to honour their heritage and continue to do what they do best, and continue to do what has made Barbados rum a world-renowned spirit. By no means should the GI become a competitive tool to be used by one interested party over another. The right Barbados rum GI should allow ‘Barbados rum’ to grow in the best interest of Barbados.

“We have spent years researching the heritage of Barbadian rum-making techniques and created a non-profit foundation to fund research and protect historical methods. Our goals are to learn from and to shine a light on the rich and diverse heritage of Barbados rum techniques.”


Of the proposals put forward by the three distilleries in 2019, some of the key regulations opposed by WIRD were that Barbados rum should be aged solely on the island, use fresh local water in production and use no added sugar.

Plantation Rum, one of the flagship brands under WIRD’s parent company Maison Ferrand, uses a process called ‘double ageing’, which sees its rum initially aged in Barbados before heading overseas for a period of secondary maturation.

Hassell adds: “The rum double-ageing process is not owned and has not been created by Plantation Rum. Double ageing is a centuries-old practice that is part of Barbados rum heritage. WIRD has signed customs documents in the distillery vault showing that the distillery used to send our rum to Liverpool, England, for a second maturation.

“We think that this double ageing tradition should be recognised, respected, protected, and enjoyed. This is why we are working towards a Barbados rum GI that allows ageing in Barbados, but also preserves the tradition of further ageing in countries that officially and legally respect the Barbados rum GI, and are managed by a robust customs traceability system.