Updated: May 2, 2019
by Mechelle Sweeting-McDonald
Bring your walking shoes, curiosity and energy to the IslandzTours Rum Runners Passage - where you will explore Downtown Nassau on a winding route of art and history centered on the Bahamas’ strong connection to rum through piracy. Fine, handcrafted and aged rum awaits you and will tantalize your taste buds as you journey the passage; each stop showcases a unique aspect of how rum is integrated into the fabric of the Bahamas.
Our tour guide Julio, was warm and charismatic – greeting our intimate group of 3 with refreshing candor and a sincere smile that set us at ease. We began this exploration at The Pirate Republic Brewery on Woodes Rodgers Wharf – a landmark named after The Bahamas’ first Governor General who created the former motto: Expulsis Piratis – Restituta Commercia, meaning Pirates Expelled – Commerce Restored. Julio introduced us to the creation of rum and allowed our noses to be our guide for the five rum samples, which were nicely paired with conch fritters (a fried Bahamian staple at casual settings such as parties or outdoor venues) as they were dense and lightly seasoned (some may find it spicy). We laughed and chatted as the aromas from the shot glasses tickled our noses, and we soon discovered just how distinct in color and flavor each shot was. The crowd favorite, the Bacardi Pineapple, was said to be made with a pineapple extract that sits at the bottom of a steel barrel giving it its strong scent. Our parting gift was a refreshing rum punch which everyone enjoyed and carried as we began our walking tour. Guests can also purchase glassware or a growler (stainless steel drinking container) and receive a free beer fill-up!
Between our second stop, we sauntered onto George St. where Julio highlighted our State church, Christ Church Cathedral, where the first row is exclusively reserved for the queen. A brief trot led us to Hillside House which is a part of the powerful art movement known as Transforming Spaces, featuring a bold sub-theme: I Have a Dream which connects local youth through art. Hillside provided a shaded setting as we learned about prohibition while biting through soft, upside-down rum cupcakes. Topped with minced nuts, the cupcakes had a bottom layer of fresh rum that accented the yellow-hued pound cake – a local favorite in bakeries, homes and special events. We were also able to write on the venue’s public chalkboard; expressing our interpretation of the sub-theme.
As a special note, I appreciated the company’s sense of responsibility as they provided water at each stop, ensuring that their guests were well-hydrated – especially during the 82-degree weather and more importantly to avoid dehydration in between rum sampling. Julio also asked about allergies and sensitivities beforehand to ensure that everyone was able to experience the tour thoroughly.
The world-renowned Graycliff, located on West St., is a 5-star boutique hotel and restaurant, and also houses a cigar company on its property. Strolling through shaded pathways of Italian artwork, fine dining settings, and a tranquil koi pond, we arrived at the Graycliff Cigar Company.
Here, diligent and highly-skilled workers rolled and created Cuban cigars in a simple 3-part process. Surrounded by layers of fresh tobacco, the cigars are stuffed and pressed before receiving the final layer of tobacco and sealed with tree sap. It is a carefully handmade and all-natural masterpiece.
Graycliff is also home to the only chocolate factory in the Bahamas – the Graycliff Chocolatier. Their handmade chocolates are bites of cacao bliss in a wide selection of colors and tastes such as ‘Twice as Hot’ (chocolate infused with goat pepper – a Bahamian fruit used for adding spice to meals). Showing their belief in pairing spirits with chocolate, we were given a rich chocolate truffle rolled in Persian hazelnuts and accompanied with a rum shooter. It had an exquisite and decadent flavor. There was also the ‘Island Sky Juice,’ a white chocolate bite made with sky juice or gully wash (fresh coconut water mixed with gin) that resembled an oceanic hue and oozed with coconut flavor. Tour guests can carry a few chocolates to enjoy on the remainder of the walk or to the hotel, starting at $4.
The John Watling’s Distillery settled on the breath-taking Buena Vista estate, showcases an open landscape and three wooden barrels (similar to those used to age and create rum). Upon entry, we were given samples of their signature rum – the Buena Vista which had a soft brown color and had a sharp taste. The distillery allows their guests to learn hands-on the distinction between the aged rum, with a barrel available for aged rum of 2 – 5 years. The distillery offers four rums: Single, Pale, Amber, and the Buena Vista, which was aged for five years. With a choice of a spiced or sweet cocktail, we chose the icy Pina Colada Daiquiri, which was made with fresh fruits (coconut and pineapple) and accented with their three year-aged Amber Rum.
Throughout, Julio remained engaging and relatable, keeping the tour surprising and fun while ensuring participants felt safe and relaxed. He answered questions for guests who were curious to know the ins and outs of downtown and what more they could discover before returning to the cruise ship. The Rum Runners passage is one of the most informative and interactive thing to do in Nassau and will leave you with an appreciation for the depth behind the Bahamas’ rum, both in flavor and character. Guests are said to appreciate becoming familiar with the area and knowing where to go the next time they visit New Providence.
This tour is easily bookable at BookATourCaribbean for $70+ and includes 5 rum samples, 2 cocktails, 1 culinary bite, and 3 rum-infused sweets. I recommend it for those who appreciate art, history and of course, a little bit of rum as they explore.