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Vintage rum fetches millions

Published:Wednesday | December 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Ortanique rum punch

Richard Browne, Business Reporter

A dozen bottles of vintage rum more than 230 years old and believed by auction house, Christie's, to be from Barbados, have sold at auction in London for on average £6,500 (J$1.1 million) per bottle, several times more than their expected sale price.

The sale price almost tripled the price of a bottle of Appleton 50-year old rum.

The bottles were found in 2011 in a cellar at Harewood House, a manor near Leeds, West Yorkshire in England. The 12 bottles were expected to sell for a total of about £12,000 (J$2 million), but instead fetched £78,255 (J$13 million).

Harewood House was built by Barbadian-born landowner, Edwin, Lascelles, in the 18th century from a fortune made in the West Indian sugar trade. Part of that wealth was invested in estates in Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada and Tobago.

David Elswood, international director of Christie's Wine in Europe and Asia, said in a news release, "We are thrilled with the results of today's sale of the 1780 Harewood Rum. The 12 bottles of dark and light rum sold for a total of £78,255, making it both the oldest and most valuable rum ever sold at auction by Christie's."

The five bottles of dark rum fetched the top price, selling for £8,225 (J$ 1.4 million), each.

The rums have sold for considerably more than the 50 year-old rum which Appleton launched in 2012 and calls the "oldest rum in the world."

According to Appleton's website, "Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum - Jamaica Independence Reserve, comprises rums that have been aged for a minimum of 50 years in hand- selected oak barrels and it is believed to be the oldest rum available for sale in the world."

The distiller produced 800 bottles of the rum "for sale around the world at a target retail price of US$5,000 (J$510,000) per 750ml bottle," the site said. That translates to about £3,080.

oldest rum distillery

Barbados was the first of the Caribbean islands to produce rum and claims the oldest rum distillery in the world - Mount Gay, from 1703. The rum is now owned by French distillers, Remy Cointreau.

Other notable rum brands from Barbados include Malibu, Cockspur and lesser-known Doorly's.

Jamaican rum also has a long history, with Appleton, now owned by Italian distillers, Campari, tracing its roots back to 1768, predating the Barbadian vintage bottles by 12 years.

Newer rum brands in Jamaica from Worthy Estate claim an even longer heritage, with the estate tracing its roots back to 1680 and sugar and rum production starting 40 years later in 1720.

Rum was believed to be the beverage of choice for pirates and buccaneers in Port Royal, Jamaica, when it was called the richest and wickedest city on Earth, in the late 17th century. The world's second- biggest rum brand, Captain Morgan, is named after one of the city's most infamous residents from that period.

Proceeds from the sale of the vintage rum will go towards the Geraldine Connor Foundation, which was established in 2012, to continue her work as a teacher with disenfranchised young people in the performing arts, the release from Christie's issued in London said.

Born in Britain and raised in Trinidad, Connor was a major figure in Yorkshire's West Indian community, heavily involved in carnival and the steel band movement. She was the creator of Carnival Messiah, a piece of musical theatre which was last performed at Harewood in 2007, the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade.