Fernandes Distillers (1973) Ltd., Laventille
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Fernandes Distillers (1973) Ltd., Laventille|
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Angostura Bitters (Dr. J.G.B. Siegert & Sons) Ltd.|
Angostura International Ltd
Trinidad Distillers Ltd.
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The 19th century saw Europe entwined with revolutions both political and commercial. The Fernandes family, like many natives of the Portuguese island of Madeira were affected by the Mildew Epidemic of 1852 that devastated 90 percent of all the grapes on the island. In 1873 fate dealt another blow when a vine pest, Phylloxera Vastatrix completely destroyed the remaining plants. By 1880 Manuel Fernandes left the island in search of a better life and the New World, the Americas, held the promise and hopes that such immigrants longed for. Many stopped in the West Indies, enticed by the warm climate and bright skies looked no further and made their homes. Manuel Fernandes arrived in Port of Spain with his wife and two sons aged five and eight years old. Trinidad, already a melting pot of settlers from Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East and China all calling this land their home. A unique culture was developing in this British Colony.
It was a time of uncertainty and trial and hard work was the order of the day. Manuel settled at 25 Henry Street and soon established an import business of wines and spirits. By 1895 Manuel and his family became neutralised British and his first son Joseph Gregorio was eventually to transform the business into the international organisation that we know today.
It was not long before Manuel F. Distinguished himself with the award of a gold medal for Fernandes Old Rum at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1905. For twenty five years the Fernandes brands developed in stature gaining more and more ground in the marketplace, under the diligent direction of son Joseph Gregorio and his brother in law Joao Ferreira, a master blender. It was during this period that Joao Ferreira earned himself his reputation, winning medals for blending white rums and Wormwood Bitters at an International Exhibition in New Zealand in 19...
Just two years after the loss of his father Joseph Bento and Joao Ferreira seized an opportunity that presented itself after the fire of 1932, a fire that destroyed the Government Rum Bond. Fernandes & Co., acquired the fire sale stocks of rum for blending at a good price and on discovering that the spirit had been distilled thirteen years earlier called it "1919" AGED RUM, it was the forerunner of the most successful of the Fernandes brands for thirty years with the named changed to Vat 19 when the original stocks ran out.
Joseph Bento was weary of being tied to the sugar estates for his supply of raw material. In 1933 he acquired from Henderson Forres Park sugar estate at Claxton Bay. It took J.B. eight years of tremendous sacrifice and toil, mortgaging every possession and with the added burden of an onerous loan from Gordon Grant & Co., to rebuild the derelict Forres Park into an efficient and productive factory, eventually achieving 8.2 tons of cane to 1 ton of sugar. Scores not attainable today. Meanwhile Joseph Bento tinkered with the wooden still he knew was in the Forres Park compound and practised his hand at distilling and making rums that would be the foundation of his next venture.
The Second World War saw J.B. busy between Henry Street and Forres Park but not so busy that he forgot his countrymen at war in Europe. He decided to send all Trinidad Air Servicemen a monthly ration of a bottle of Fernandes Vat 19 rum. A small gesture he felt but one that unexpectedly, and in his eyes undeservedly, earned him admiration.
In the late 1940's Joseph Bento had planned to build a new and modern distillery, to this end he acquired land at Morvant junction from Mendes and spent as much draining and filling as he had on purchasing this swampy tract.
José Gregorio Fernandes, born in Sao Gonçalo, 13 February 1876
Arrived 8 November 1914
Son of Manuel Fernandes and Sabina Fernandes, and father of Joseph Bento and others
Retail spirit merchant, construction, motor agency
Fernandes & Co., Cor. (27) Henry & Queen Sts., P.O.S., est. 1920-1930 (now *Fernandes Distillers)
Company is owned by Angostura Holdings Ltd.