Rum’s Modern Era Begins…

An Italian-born explorer who sailed under the royal flag of Queen Isabella of Spain was responsible for introducing sugarcane to the New World and, thereby, changing history forever. When Columbus landed on the tropical island of Hispaniola in December 1493, his crew planted sugarcane after clearing a field near their encampment. Columbus was astonished at how easily sugarcane took to the volcanic soil and grew in the humid, warm climate.

Columbus’s Spanish successors, including the Conquistadors, soon followed his exploits in the early 1500s by bringing sugarcane to more Caribbean islands, in particular, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. The initial shipment of milled sugar left the crude docks of Hispaniola reportedly around 1516. By the late 1520s, Portuguese explorers had introduced the grass to Brazil, creating a vibrant industry that flourishes under Brazilian control to this day.

…In the New World

In the 1600s, British explorers and colonials inhabited Barbados, planting huge swathes of fertile land with sugarcane. Around the same time as the British take over of Barbados, Dutch explorers landed in northern South America, establishing sugarcane plantations in the Guyanas. French sea captains and Jesuit priests brought sugarcane to Martinique, Trinidad and Haiti in the same century and later in the 1700s to Louisiana.

And the rush for profit and domination was on. The entire emphasis at this point was on sugar refining, not Rum production. Rum, made mostly from molasses, was an afterthought, but one with huge potential for profits.