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BVI Welcome On-Line: Sun Sea and Rum|
Dating back four hundred years, the Arundel Estate is the oldest, continuously operated distillery in the Eastern Caribbean. For the last two hundred years, the Callwood family has handed down the rum-making tradition in Cane Garden Bay from father to son. Michael Callwood, the present distiller, is not sure his son will want to carry on the tradition, but Mikey is still young.
The distillery, a few hundred yards west of the post office, is a working museum. As the last distillery operating in Tortola, it plays an important part in preserving the island heritage.
Perhaps the best example of the old meeting the new is the Callwood Rum Distillery at the back of the bay. The distillery which has been in the Callwood family
for 150 years has been producing Arundel rum continuously since the plantation era, and is a regular pit stop for yachtsmen in search of true Virgin Islands rum.
A patch of sugar cane grown by the Callwoods behind the distillery represents a small portion of the fields that once covered the bay's hillsides.
The Callwood Distillery has been in the Callwood family for generations a traditional livelihood that has been passed on from father to son for generations. According to Michael Callwood, the current owner, the present Callwood estate was formally part of the Arundel estate. It was purchased by his great grandfather, Richard Callwood, Sr., a known buccaneer planter who owned Thatch Island in the 1800s. Family legend has it that the old Callwood bought the estate for his son, Richard, Jr. whom he sired by his Black slave mistress. It was from this inter-racial alliance that the present estate owners are descended and the rum making business has been in the family since then. The exact age of the building which houses the boiler room and storage casks is not known, but is believed to be at least 200 years old. The roof has been replaced on several occasions after hurricanes, but little else has been done to the building.
Michael Callwood, who took over the business from his father, is reflective as he patiently explains how the rum is made: The cane is first cut and put through the pressing mill. The juice flows through the receiver and into the coppers (large iron cauldrons) and then put to boil on a fire made with the dry cane husks or bagasse. Water is added and then the mixture is put into wooden casks to ferment for eight to ten days. The fermented mixture is boiled again until it hits a certain temperature then the alcohol is produced and begins to run through a coiled cooling system. The rum is then ready for storage to be aged for the desired effect: four years in oak casks for dark rum and in demijohns for white rum.