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The Place: Barbados
The Poison: The stuff of pirate legends, and the liquid fuel for many a Caribbean vacation, this spicy spirit is distilled from molasses and aged in oak barrels. But don't waste the better batches—those that are double-distilled and aged up to 20 years—on Coke or piña colada mix. Serve on the rocks and appreciate their dark complexity.
The Buzz: Just when you think that all good liquors are distilled in nasty-weather climes (cue bagpipes), Barbados rears its cheery tropical head. No shock that rum tastes like a beach party, since it was born in the land of the gracious and fun-loving Bajans. The island itself—from the peaceful Caribbean to the rollicking Atlantic—has everything from first-class golf to cricket matches to divine beaches. Be sure to stop at one of the genuine, color-soaked rum shacks that dot the island, so you can rub shoulders and clink glasses with the locals.
Down the Hatch: The island's Mount Gay Distillery has produced the heady stuff since 1703. It's one of the last rum producers to use traditional pot stills, boiling the rum in big copper vessels after the first distillation, then redistilling and aging in Kentucky oak. The distillery is in St. Lucie, but the visitor's center and museum are in St. James (much closer to the beaches and towns). Visitors learn about rum's history and distilling process and then sit down at the bar for a free sample. Mount Gay Eclipse mixes well with ginger ale, though locals often drink it with Sprite and lime. Mount Gay Extra Old, aged up to 17 years, should be taken with a hint of water or soda—or just ice.
Sleep It Off: Most of the major resorts are clustered on the western (Caribbean) side of the island, but our favorite is The Crane, which sits on a bluff overlooking its own pink-sand beach on the southeastern coast. Rooms have locally crafted mahogany furniture, full kitchens, and private hot tubs or plunge pools.
Drink at Home: Mount Gay Eclipse will bring back memories of swaying palms and Caribbean breezes, but the Extra Old will actually lift you up and take you back to the islands ($34).
Tel: 246 423 6220
$550 for a standard junior suite
Mount Gay Rum
Barbados Visitors Center
Tel: 246 425 8757