New distillery offers improved visitor experience, say owners
With its steaming copper contraptions and bubbling tanks of sugary liquid, Cayman Spirits Company’s new home resembles something from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
But the $2 million distillery is serious business. It will enable the company to increase production of its famous Seven Fathoms Rum by six times, in order to meet demand from the export market.
The company’s owners will have to wait to see a profit though – the rum is “aged” for two years, in sunken barrels kept seven fathoms, 42 feet, under the sea to achieve its distinctive flavour.
The new facility, which opened last month, is running tours for visitors to Grand Cayman to discover how local rum is made. It also features a tasting bar, with the opportunity for tourists to sample some of the rums on offer.
Co-owner Nelson Dilbert said the move had been a natural progression for a project that started with a few experimental glasses of home-produced rum, made in a 5-gallon still.
The centrepiece of the new facility is a 1,200-gallon still. The distillery has the capacity to produce 500,000 litres of rum per year. There is also a towering 30-feet tall vodka column, which will enable the company to expand into other markets.
Walker Romanica, co-owner of the company, said the main motivation for the move was to meet growing demand from the export market.
“We wanted to increase capacity to meet export demand from the US and the UK. We have more distributors and retailers that want to sign up but we can’t expand any further until we have enough rum.”
The process of making the rum involves mixing boiling water and sugarcane with yeast and fermenting the brew in huge steel barrels for approximately 12 days. The concoction is then siphoned into a large copper still, where it is heated to boiling point. The vapour is extracted and condensed to create what is called a “low wine”. It goes through the distillation process a second time, at which point it is classified as overproof rum.
Some of that is infused with coconut or other flavouring and bottled for sale. The rum that ultimately becomes Seven Fathoms is poured into huge, sealed wooden barrels and sunk in the ocean for several years. It is believed the natural “agitation” of the tides helps with the ageing process and assists in achieving a distinctive flavour.
Tour guides at the distillery walk visitors through the process from the fermenting of the sugarcane solution to the bottling of the rum.
Mr. Romanica added: “Another reason we wanted the new facility was to improve the visitor experience. At our previous site, we could only really accommodate 10-15 people at a time. It was not well suited to tourists.
“This site was designed with visitors in mind. There is a tasting bar, a retail area and a seating area where we show a video which gives them an introduction to who we are and the history of rum.”
He said the company is doing tours almost every day, some as part of a local tasting tour that also includes the CayBrew brewery and Tortuga rum cake facility.