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Callwood Rum Distillery: A Toast to Tradition in the Heart of the British Virgin Islands

Updated: 3 hours ago



Visiting the British Virgin Islands, one can easily be enchanted by the cerulean waves, swaying palms, and the gentle caress of the Caribbean sun. With its pristine surroundings and a rich history dating back centuries, Callwood Rum Distillery offers an unparalleled experience for rum enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.


On our recent visit, we found the history and setting fascinating. Callwood Distillery operates in a picturesque paradise, where they craft rum as colorful as the culture from which they spring. In every bottle of Callwood Rum, there is a story of tradition, a melody of flavors, and a snapshot of the vibrant culture found within the British Virgin Islands.


Callwood Rum Distillery is the only continuously operating distillery in the British Virgin Islands. The journey from field to bottle is steeped in tradition, each step reflecting the distillery’s commitment to authenticity and quality. Sugarcane is harvested annually from the island's fertile soils. Then it is transformed through time honored distillation techniques that coax out the nuanced flavors found in every sip.


Rum has been a product of the British Virgin Islands since the 1600s. This homegrown distillery serves not just rum but captures the essence of the BVI in every meticulously crafted bottle. Join us on this intoxicating journey and embark on a tasting adventure at the Callwood Rum Distillery, a treasured gem in Cane Garden Bay, on Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.



The History of Callwood Distillery


The Callwood Rum Distillery holds a special place in the history of the British Virgin Islands and is a proud reminder of the Caribbean’s rich past in sugarcane production and rum distillation. On the western side of Cane Garden Bay just as the beach turns north, the distillery is one of the Caribbean's oldest continuous pot distilleries.


Rum has been produced in the BVI since the 1600s. While African slaves were brought to the Caribbean to work on sugar cane plantations, the soil composition and topography did not lend its self to large scale sugar cane production in the BVI. Slave uprisings began in earnest around 1790, however it took until August 1,1834 for slavery to be abolished in the BVI. In the late18th and early 19th centuries, the heyday of rum production, 106 distilleries existed in the BVI, 26 of them on Tortola. Today, Callwood’s is the only one still operational. 


In the late 1800’s, a buccaneer named Richard Callwood (who owned Little Thatch Island) bought the Arundel Estate in Cane Garden Bay for his son, Richard Jr. The estate included sugar cane fields and a rum distillery. Richard Jr. was the son of Richard Sr. and one of his slaves. The distillery has been handed down from one generation to the next. Today the Michael Callwood is the 4th generation of Callwood's operating the distillery.


The Callwood Rum Distillery has maintained much of its historical architecture and the traditional distillation processes. At its heart, the original boiler still heats the cane juice to start the fermentation process, a method unchanged through the centuries. The rum produced by the distillery is renowned for its unique flavors, a direct result of the traditional techniques and the tropical climate influencing the aging process.


Over the years, the Callwood Distillery has resisted modern industrialization, cherishing the historic methods that define its character. The distillery still uses the same stone buildings and wooden vat houses that have survived for hundreds of years. When you visit the site you can see the remarkably preserved sugar cane mill and the rustic barrels used for aging rum, which contribute to the historical ambiance of the locale. This continuity of tradition has not only preserved a segment of BVI history but has also ensured that the rum from Callwood Distillery maintains a distinctive taste profile deeply rooted in the heritage of the islands.


The distillery quickly gained a reputation for its smooth and flavorful rums, which became sought after by locals and visitors alike. Over the years, Callwood Distillery expanded its offerings to include a range of rums including a 10 year aged Brown Rum, each crafted with the same level of expertise and dedication that has become synonymous with the Callwood name.



Essential Online Links For Booking Your Trip to the British Virgin Islands


Logistics: There is one international airport in the British Virgin Islands. You can also fly into St. Thomas USVI and take a ferry to Road Town, Tortola. : Taxis are available throughout the islands. Private Transfers are available from both airports: Private Arrival Transfer from EIS Airport to Tortola, Private Ground Transfers, St. Thomas, Ferry Schedules are available at USVI.net, Water Taxi transfers are available through Dolphin Water Taxi 


Top-rated British Virgin Islands tours and experiences:

Conch Island Snorkel Tour: Contact Kelly at Anegadaconcierge@gmail.com or Whatsapp at 281 496-0961


Top places to stay in British Virgin Islands: 

Wyndham Tortola BVI Lambert Beach Resort (Tortola - Budget Friendly, )

Sebastian's on the Beach Hotel (Tortola - Budget Friendly)

Saba Rock Resort ( North Sound - Luxury,)

Anegada Beach Resort (Anegada -Budget Friendly, )


My favorite Guidebook for Bareboating in the British Virgin Islands: The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands 

My favorite Guidebook for the British Virgin Islands: Top 10 US & British Virgin Islands 


Don’t forget to pack: water shoes*** underwater camera*** HD mask ***reef safe sunscreen.



Distillation Process at Callwood Distillery


At the core of Callwood's rum production is the distillation process, which starts with the fermentation of locally sourced sugarcane juice. The juice is allowed to ferment naturally in open air vats, utilizing local yeasts to convert sugars into alcohol. This process that can take several days to complete and infuses the rum with distinctive local flavor notes.


After fermentation, the liquid, now known as wash, is heated in a rustic pot still. This is crucial in determining the final flavor profile of the rum. The heating starts the distillation process, where alcohol vapors rise through the pot still. The vapors eventually reach the condenser, where they cool and revert to liquid form. The wash is often subjected to multiple runs through the still to achieve the desired purity and potency. If you are lucky, on the day you visit, you may get to see fermentation or distillation in action. It takes sugar cane a year to mature, so this process only takes place annually.


The resulting spirits, clear and potent, is then matured. Callwood Distillery uses oak barrels to age their rum. The tropical climate of the British Virgin Islands accelerates the aging process, meaning rums can acquire depth and character more rapidly than in cooler climes. The barrels impart additional flavors to the rum such as vanilla, smoke, and oak.


As with many artisanal processes, the distiller relies on experience and sensory expertise to determine when the rum has reached its peak flavor for bottling. The result is a range of Callwood Rums, from light, clear rums to aged, amber varieties, each with a unique profile that tells the story of its creation and the rich history of the Callwood Rum Distillery.



Unique Spirits Produced at Callwood Distillery


The Callwood 10 year old Rum is a masterpiece, aged to achieve its deep amber color and rich flavor profile. With notes of oak, vanilla, and a hint of tropical fruit, it's a rum that can be enjoyed neat or in your favorite cocktail.


For those who prefer a lighter spirit, Callwood Distillery offers a 4 year old dark rum and a 4 year old white rum. as well as a unique light sipping rum for ladies, which contain a piece of sugar cane stalk for extra sweetness. It is rumored to make ladies feel sexy, and is aptly named the Panty Dropper. Each bottle is a testament to Callwood's commitment to craftsmanship.



Distillery Tours and Tastings at Callwood Distillery


A visit to Callwood Distillery is an experience to walk back in time and explore the art of pot distilling rum. The distillery offers guided tours that take visitors behind the scenes, allowing them to witness the distillation process firsthand and learn about the history and heritage of the Callwood family.


During the tour, visitors have the opportunity to hear first hand how rum is created. If you visit during the sugar cane harvest, you will see the age old process of creating rum. During the rest of the year you are treated to vivid descriptions and stories often by members of the Callwood family. You will walk among sugar cane, see the fermenting barrels, 300 year old pot distillery and cane crushing machine.


All tours end with an opportunity to sample a selection of Callwood's rum, guided by knowledgeable staff who are passionate about sharing their love for the craft. Tasting their smooth and complex rum is a journey through the flavors and aromas of the BVI. You can also purchase rum and other fun rum themed merchandise at this time. Allowing you to raise a glass to the artistry and passion of the Callwood Distillery with your friends and family at home.



Recommendations for Visiting Callwood Distillery


Whether you're a spirit enthusiast looking to expand your palate or a curious traveler eager to immerse yourself in the flavors and aromas of the BVI, Callwood Distillery is a must-visit destination. Take a tour, indulge in a tasting, and discover the artistry and craftsmanship that sets Callwood's spirits apart.


You can visit and tour the distillery there is a $5.00 fee for the tor and tasting. Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. A word of caution, this is family run business that runs on "Island Time." If you visit from December 15th to April 15th, you will find a stricter adherence to the posted operating time.


For sailors, the Callwood distillery is an easy walk from the dinghy dock. We walked along the beach using the google maps on our phone to indicate where to turn in to reach the site. For visitors arriving by cruise ship, the shore excursion to Cane Garden Bay allows you ample time to visit. For people staying on Tortola, taxis are available to and from the site. From Roadtown the taxi is about $25.00 per person round trip.


The Distillery is only open on Sundays if a cruise ship is in port. If a cruise ship is in port, it is best to visit after 2:30 pm. The distillery will be less crowded. For more information you can email them at CallwoodDistillery@gmail.com, or visit their website at callwood-cane-rum.com.


Plan your visit to Callwood Distillery today and embark on an intoxicating journey through the distilling secrets of the British Virgin Islands and uncover a true treasure in the Caribbean.


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