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Island Rum Shopping

Some people travel to the Caribbean to shop for watches and perfume at dockside duty free shops.  We were on a mission to find RUM, of course, and we cleaned up!!


Over the last few weeks we’ve traveled to 10 islands and shopped for rum at dozens of out of the way liquor shops and corner stores.  The variety never ceases to amaze me and the discounted prices can be shocking to say the least.  Getting home without exceeding the 50lb. luggage limit soon becomes the biggest challenge of the trip.

Naturally, selection is different based on where you are in the Caribbean and prices and availability differ from one side of an island to another.  Cruise ship docks and tourist districts are NOT the place to buy rum.  I’m not saying that you won’t get a good value on a few bottles from one of the many duty free shops that line the streets of every port town.  But mainstream whiskey and vodkas dominate the shelves of these stores and you just don’t see anything rare or out of the ordinary.  Off the beaten path, even by a block or two, is the best path to take.

The rums being made on the island that you’re visiting (home brands) are always well represented in shops and bars. There is also a huge market for “local brands”, labels that we seldom see outside of a particular island market.  In Barbados we discovered Old Brigand and Special Barbados, two wonderful rums made by Richard Seale at Foursquare Distillery.  These smooth and flavorful rums can be had at local rum shops for $3-4 a pint and even cheaper by the liter at neighborhood markets, but you’ll be hard pressed to find them outside of Barbados.

In St. Lucia the popular local rum is Bounty, in Antigua it’s Cavalier.  In the USVI it’s Paradise Rum, the same white and gold Cruzan rum that we buy on the mainland, but with a different name and half the price.

The deals on rums from neighboring islands may have been the biggest surprise of all.  How about a bottle of Cubaney 8 for $5, or a half gallon of Brugal Extra Viejo for $14, or a 750ml of Barcelo Imperial for under 20 bucks?  Needless to say we stocked up on plenty of good buys, both to take home and to drink while we were away.  Here are a few of the highlights.