ON THE RIGHT: Mixing rum with heritage
PEOPLE ARE genuinely interested in seeing our heritage because you have a broad section, from the very bad slavery aspect of our history through to the preservation of these historic homes which are very pretty and very unique to the island.
When you look around at Trinidad and Tobago, and St Vincent and, less so, Grenada and St Lucia, they have nothing in comparison to what we have in terms of a heritage infrastructure.
So people are interested, they are interested in the sun and the sea and they are interested in driving around Barbados, and we are just one of the stops that they come to.
When Colonel Cave opened this property, heritage tourism didn’t exist. It maybe existed in North America and Europe, but not here in the West Indies.
It’s a nice model. In a sense what we are doing at St Nicholas Abbey is taking the whole idea of making sugar and rum and exposing it to the visitors as they come and visit the heritage attraction.
So in many respects we have tried to involve them and that’s why we run the mill for them to see and we don’t run it after hours or when they are not able to come.
So it’s a process that in many ways integrates our main money earner, which is tourism. But I also think it’s important to understand, in my view, that sugar cane is really more than just making sugar, it has actually made Barbados a beautiful place and it has transformed it into a pretty island.
So we should look at sugar cane not just as making sugar but we should look at it as part of our natural landscape and heritage.
To sustain St Nicholas Abbey it requires more than just visitors coming to look at an old house, so we have set up a complete manufacturing operation, with jams and jellies and preserves and chutneys and sugar, too, but of course the main emphasis is on rum because that’s where the biggest profit margin is.
But having said that, we are also trying to do a completely authentic rum. In today’s world with so many commodities travelling around and so on, in general the international rum industry is not an authentic industry.
You would get molasses from Guyana or from Belize and some from Barbados, but in our case here we are actually growing the sugar cane, we are crushing it, we are using the juice to make syrup and then we are actually making the rum from the syrup and it is a process that is all done here on the plantation.
So its authenticity and its origin is all Barbadian. This is not a marketing gimmick, we as a family, and as an operation want to build this brand for the future, for the long term. Our slogan is integrating tourism with manufacturing, which I think is great for Barbados.
If we could get more of that it would mean we would be firing on all cylinders in Barbados because you are producing at both ends.
You are producing the tourism aspect of it and you are producing the manufacturing and at the same time the visitor is getting the experience of both.
*Larry Warren is the owner and operator of St Nicholas Abbey.