The Rum Nut’s Quick-Ref Guide to Visiting Jamaica

Posting this because the same four questions keep coming up on Facebook and elsewhere regarding rum-centric visits to Jamaica:

  • What distilleries should I go to? (There are only 6 on the island)
  • What bottles should I bring back?
  • Where should I buy Jamaican rum?
  • Where should I drink?

Before getting to the answers to the above, if learning about Jamaican rums is your thing, start here with the Jamaican Rum Distillery Cheat Sheet.

Rick Steves, I am not. This is wallet-reference card level stuff, below.

Distilleries anyone can visit

Be aware that Jamaica is a big island. Don’t harbor expectations that you can hit all the distilleries in a day. The distilleries are clustered together in a few spots. Use that to your advantage.

Distilleries you need an “industry” connection to visit

There are no public tours at these distilleries. Use your industry connections if you’ve got’em. That’s all I will say on the subject.

  • Long Pond – Part of National Rums of Jamaica
  • Clarendon – Part of National Rums of Jamaica

Distilleries you aren’t getting into

If you manage to get in to New Yarmouth, owned by Campari/Wray & Nephew, we need to talk.

What should I bring back?

If you’re any sort of rum hound from a country like the U.S., the UK, France, etc… you probably already have decent access to the main product lines, e.g. Appleton.

Contrary to popular belief, you won’t find a whole lot of rare bottles in Jamaica. Nor will you find abundance of aged Hampden or Long Pond in the local rum shop. Most of the really good stuff is exported. The locals aren’t drinking Duncan Taylor Long Pond 17 year.

It is what it is.

The  Edwin Charley Proprietor’s Collection is a nice thing to grab. Limited number of bottles made. Four very different rums, in unique bottles.

In the U.S., Monymusk is slowing filtering in. Compare/contrast their lineup with the Appleton lineup. May be worth picking up.

Sure, you may find more white Overproof rums that you’ve never seen before. Pick’em up if you want. But know they’re from one of the big four distillery groups. If ultra-funk is your thing, and you don’t have Rum Fire or Charley’s J.B. in your home market, grab them.

Where should I buy Jamaican rum?

Jamaica has no shortage of rum bars, something like 20,000, but most are simple, roadside enterprises.

On our trip, we didn’t find any amazing liquor stores holding a bounty of rare, exotic bottles to make a rum wonk’s heart go pitter patter.

The distilleries with gift shops (Hampden and Appleton) had their regular product lineup. Little or nothing more than that. Don’t expect tons of distillery-only bottlings.

The best place we found to stock up on rums in Jamaica was actually a warehouse store: Mega Mart, in Kingston. Good selection, and Edwin Charley to boot.  My Jamaican-residing rum brother adds:

Mega Mart also has a location in Montego Bay, but other chain supermarkets with decent selection are Hi-Lo, Loshusan, General Foods (in Kingston) or Progressive Supermarkets. These are pretty much across the island.

You’ll also find a decent selection in duty free at the airport, as you depart. But that may or may not be a viable option, depending on if your flight home has layovers, or other circumstances. 

Martin Cate buying Jamaican Rum at Mega Mart
Martin buying all the Edwin Charley at Mega Mart
Jamaican Rum, and not-so Jamaican Rum at Mega Mart
Mega Mart in Kingston

Where should I drink?

Well, there are the aforementioned rum bars. But if you’re looking for craft cocktails or amazing Tiki, you’ll have a tough swim upstream. Sure, hotels and restaurants have bars, but Jamaica (as well as other Caribbean islands)  is not known as a hotbed of advanced mixology. Set your expectations accordingly and you’ll have a good experience.

Ting & Wray (Ting soda and Wray & Nephew Overproof) is a common drink on the island. At our hotel, our WIRSPA group upgraded to Ting and Appleton 12 — certainly was delightful given the surroundings.

3 thoughts on “The Rum Nut’s Quick-Ref Guide to Visiting Jamaica

  1. Visiting Jamaica in October of this year, I’m out of NY and you would be surprised at how barren the rum market is here except for Manhattan which i really don’t frequent. Every liquor store has Bacardi’s, Captains, a few Cruzan, Mount Gay and few others. Couldn’t even find Denizen and i even called the rep! Plantation. Real McCoy, Flor de cana are very scarce. Lemon Hart and Hamilton not seen. I had to drive to new Hampshire to get Smith & Cross. To my question. Does Jamaica have different Barbados, Antigua, panama rums? English Harbor, Can Brava and such in inventory? I have Hamilton and wray & nephew over proof and am not really interested in those. Trying to increase my inventory with some standards i cannot seem to acquire. Thanks

    1. In general, not really. Most of the islands feature whatever’s locally made, so Akamai can rum in Jamaica, Barbados rum in Barbados, and so forth.

      Not that it’s impossible to find non-native rums, but it’s unlikely to be a selection that beats the good stores in the US.

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