I love Barbados.
Of course this site is about rum, but I want to share another reason why I love Barbados, and it’s more important than rum: the people.
First time I visited the island was about 7 years ago. I went with my best buddy from Holland. We chose Barbados because it looked good and because it had a very good rum reputation. I knew nothing else and wasn’t connected to any rum people that time. I went in with no expectations.
What stood out to me from the start were the very pleasant locals and how welcome they made us feel. From the people at the airport, to the taxi driver, the hotel staff, the bus drivers, the shop keepers, the restaurant and bar staff…….and even more impressively….random people on the street. How is that even possible?!
The thing is, I’m a tall, white Dutch guy. I stand out like a light tower. When we visit my girfriend’s family in Colombia, I either feel like a movie star or an alien. I get stared at everywhere I go. And these people keep staring, even when I’m looking at them! Nothing like that in Barbados. There I feel like I’m blending in like a local, even though that’s clearly not the case. Good example is when we walked into a random bar in Bridgetown to watch a Champions League football match. Bar was packed and we were the only white guys in there, clearly standing out from the crowd. I could tell a few people didn’t know what to make of us because we were speaking Dutch, but we felt comfortable the entire time. That’s how it should be, as we are all humans. Unfortunately in many places it isn’t like that. One of the reasons why I love living in Toronto is that it’s a melting pot of so many cultures and it actually works most of the time. Toronto is like a modern day Noah’s Ark. But that’s a completely different story.
When it comes to rum in Barbados, I visited Foursquare, St Nicholas Abbey and the Mount Gay visitors centre (yawn) that first time. My friend and I walked through them, bought some rum and that was that. I’ve since been back several times, with my gf Mariangela, after making connections with quite a few rum people. Which led to unforgettable gatherings at Tapas restaurant, multiple amazing visits to Foursquare and their best tasting room on the planet, multiple visits to Mt Gay Distillery and St Nicholas Abbey. I have lots of great memories there with locals and different rum friends from all over the world.
I love exploring new places, it’s definitely a passion of mine. But Barbados keeps pulling and I keep going back. It’s a true tiny paradise, thanks to its people….not just the gorgeous beaches.
This love affair story isn’t complete without looking at some Barbados rum. For this occasion we are having a battle of the XO’s. Doorly’s XO vs Mount Gay XO. Foursquare Distillery vs the oldest commercially operating distillery in existence.
Both have been around for a very long time and are great products to start your Barbados rum journey with, as they represent the style well. They are also very affordable, especially Doorly’s XO in the US. Mount Gay is currently (early 2020) working on an upgrade to their XO. Different packaging and blend. This goes hand in hand with a price increase unfortunately. I’ve heard some scary stories of how much it might cost in our Ontario liquor stores, I hope it will be a soft landing instead.
When looking at what’s in the bottle there are similarities and quite a few differences. They are both blends of pot and column still rums and ex-bourbon casks are the main vessel for ageing. However, the Doorly’s is part aged in ex-sherry casks for a minimum of one year and a minimum of 5 years in ex-bourbon. Mount Gay XO is all ex-bourbon barrel and contains a blend of rums that have been aged between 8 and 15 years. It also has a higher abv than the Doorly’s, 43% vs 40%. That combined with a more premium looking package makes the higher price for the Mount Gay understandable.
Starts with coconut, oak, milk chocolate and vanilla. A little bit of nail polish remover, light raisins, tea, fruit and sherry. Nice easy going nose.
Mount Gay XO
A bit more power than Doorly’s. It’s like a caramel & toffee dessert mixed with candle wax, vanilla, oak, herbs, raisins and some baking spices. I like the wood spiciness of it.
Vanilla, wood and raisins all come back. Pencil wood and apple are added. It’s a bit winey and fruity. Easy sipper.
Mount Gay XO
It’s chocolatey with coconut,vanilla, raisins and heavy oak. It mildly coats your entire mouth in rummy goodness. I like that feeling and it contributes to a strong finish.
What I really like about both distilleries is that they are transparent about what they do and that they make rums with a good base level quality, which guarantees you'll never get a bad rum from them.
It’s tough to choose between these two XO's. They are both such versatile rums. Easy sippers that also work very well in a daiquiri for example. If budget is a key factor, the Doorly’s is the one to buy, especially in the US. If the price difference isn’t important to you, I’d pick Mount Gay XO. It adds some complexity and punch that I personally prefer. A Doorly’s XO at 43% might bridge that small gap. Luckily, this will be in stores soon. To be continued....