For most people the RumBar experience in Jamaica is buying a bottle or flask of white rum and drinking it. For me it was a beautiful road trip, an informative tour, an ecological wonderland and a huge education on how a rum distillery operates. I’m SO grateful to my friend Shane for this opportunity to get a private tour of a Jamaican rum factory that doesn’t offer tours to the public. And extra thanks to Ravi, one of the engineers at the factory, for welcoming us into his home and into the giant cane fields of Worthy Park Estate!
This road trip began like any other on this past trip – in my Budget Rental Car in Ocho Rios. I hit the road with two ladies who I’ve met through this blog – one fellow Canadian and one American. The drive from Ochi to the Worthy Park Estate took us about 1.5 hours mostly because we stopped a lot on the way to get out and take pictures of the amazing countryside. We drove up through Fern Gully which was still heavily damaged from hurricane Sandy along with construction for a new drainage system. You’ll see that in the beginning of the video below. Driving all the way through the winding hills into St Catherine we hit Ewarton, turned off at a gas station and followed along another 30 minutes of gorgeous country mountain road.
We finally arrived at the never-ending cane fields of Worthy Park. It was just gorgeous. If you know Bamboo Avenue in St Elizabeth, this road into Worthy Park Estate was like Sugarcane Avenue. One big, long, straight road through acres of sugar cane. We were instructed to stop at the tire roundabout and Ravi would come out to meet us and lead us into where he lives. When we drove up to the house Shane and Ravi were all ready to spoil us with a bottle of Worthy Gold, one of the blends they make here. Out came the cups, ice, Pepsi and good cheer! Shane also told us they had been jerking some pork on the grill and we’d be having dinner later. I was so happy to be there and even happier that my two friends were able to share this experience with me! First of all this rum factory doesn’t offer tours to the public, and second, they surely don’t feed random tourists who happen to make their way in here! I should explain though, that I’ve met Ravi before at the apartment where I used to live in Ocho Rios. He’s a good friend of Shane who used to be my neighbor and they’re both originally from Guyana.
After enjoying a nice cool glass of Worthy Gold in the slight bit of rain that started to fall the five of us piled into Ravi’s work truck and headed out into the maze of cane fields for the educational portion of our day. Us three girls joked about this place being the perfect Halloween spot – instead of a cornfield maze they could make a cane field maze!
As Ravi drove us through he explained in detail, the inner workings of this operation. A crop of sugar cane takes about 6 months from planting before it’s ready to harvest and take to the factory. One of the most intriguing facts he mentioned about harvesting is that although they do have large machines to do that job they also have people who do it manually. This estate is like a giant compound where hundreds of residents live and work. As we drove through the cane fields we occasionally came upon a cluster of these homes that are provided by the company, where the workers live.
Another concept about the Worthy Park rum operation that completely baffled me is that there is ZERO waste. Ravi explained that any trash from the cane is burned in boilers and used as steam fuel which is then used to power the turbines and generators, producing electricity. He went on to say that energy cannot be destroyed – it can only be turned from one form into another. They don’t waste raw energy. I was highly impressed! These are things one never thinks about when drinking a glass of rum!
We drove around the cane maze for probably 1.5 hours learning many interesting facts about the process and the final product. I only wish I had a video camera rolling the entire time to catch every single thing Ravi taught us. The only place we didn’t get to see is the actual factory because we weren’t authorized to go inside; as I mentioned this plantation doesn’t offer public tours. But I was already on information overload so it’s all good!
The last place we happened upon during our tour of the estate is a large cut-out area of the cane fields that Ravi told us is a landing strip. Small aircraft can (and does) actually fly in and land here for various purposes. Now seriously, when you gaze off into the mountains in Jamaica would you EVER have any idea that all this is going on out there? I was so intrigued and I would love to be able to follow one of these crops from harvest right through to a bottle of rum!
I know that Appleton offers full tours to the public through their distillery but to me, this was way cooler because we got the grass-roots personal tour. We stopped several times in the cane fields and got out to look around, take a closer look at the sugar cane and everything we were surrounded by. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in this country. The air here is cool, clean and ultra-quiet. I could live out here, no problem!
After the entire tour we briefly drove through the town of Lluidas Vale – Ravi wanted to show us the place. There was actually a huge funeral procession moving through the main road as we came into town so we got to pull over and watch an entire community celebrate the passing of what appeared to be a very important person. It looked like the entire town was in this procession. We then headed back to his house for our dinner of jerk chicken and pork, and a little more rum.
The sun would soon be going down and I hate driving the winding mountain roads after dark so the time came to say our many thank-you’s and goodbye to Ravi until next time. Shane rode back to Ochi with us and made fun of my over-cautious driving skills in the dark and after about an hour we reached “home” with a great new understanding of where a bottle of RumBar overproof rum comes from.
The following video is a collage of photos and video clips of the road trip, driving through Jamaican sugar cane fields and the good time we had at Ravi’s house. Enjoy!!