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Beyond the bling, in the north of Barbados, Fred pulls up alongside a never-ending field of sugarcane, which is being harvested for rum, filling the air with a fresh, sweet scent.

He’s taking us to Mount Gay Rum’s ageing and blending facility. Rum is a huge deal in Barbados. And, having first started production in 1703, Mount Gay is considered “the rum that invented rum”.

Being the birthplace of rum is something the country is incredibly proud of – you’d be hard pushed to find a bar which didn’t stock it in Barbados.

Naively, I’d always considered the drink as something you mix with coke – an act on par with blasphemy here, master distiller Allen Smith explains. It’s his job to blend the next award-winning rum.

“I’m like a DJ,” he laughs in a broad Bajan accent. “I work off the cuff, there’s no set method.” Pre-empting our next question, he adds: “No, I don’t get drunk. In this business it pays for you not to. You can taste, but you’re not supposed to get sloshed.”

Keen to try Smith’s handiwork, we head back to the visitors centre in Bridgetown for a tasting session, where we’re served a small measure of Eclipse Silver, Eclipse Black, Extra Old and the revered 1703.

I’m told each combines delicate notes of banana, almond, vanilla and moka, but, much to our guide’s amusement, the rum instead sends a burning sensation across my untrained palate and tastes like pure alcohol.

I grimace like a child taking their first sip of beer – hand me a mojito any day.

However, it grows on me, and, a few rums later, and not yet lunchtime, we’re all a little bit merry. We pile, giggling, into Fred’s minibus and he ferries us to the Bridgetown harbour.

I can feel the bass from the Bajan music vibrating on the wooden slats underneath my feet on the boardwalk as I head for the catamaran that will be our party boat for a few hours.

Although the west coast lays claim to the best beaches, it’s here and in the east that adrenaline junkies can satiate their cravings, with watersports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing and bodyboarding on offer.

But that all sounds far too much effort today, as I clamber on board. There’s a whoop from the bikini- and Bermuda shorts-clad crowd as we set sail, music blaring.

The vessel is huge, with space to sunbathe at the front, and a bar with an area for dancing inside. I order a rum and I’m grabbed by a friendly Bajan with dreadlocks running down the length of his back, who leads me to the dancefloor, where the rest of my group are ‘wukking up’ with about as much grace as a startled kangaroo.

I’m handed over to a woman who attempts to teach me how to move my hips, placing her hands on me and pushing my body around.

Luckily, I get kudos just for trying, and then there’s a round of applause as the experts steal the limelight.

The men lap it up, of course, seizing the opportunity, bottles of rum in hand, to assert their authority, stomping around, singing loudly, in typical alpha male fashion.

Fuelled by alcohol, we dance away the next hour, the sun beating down upon us, before heading back to the dock to Fred, who sensibly takes us to get food to soak up the booze, making a pit stop at Oistins.

It’s a village close to the backpackers’ haven of Rockley that was, until recently, a fish market.

Now, it’s a lively hub with food stalls selling every type of Bajan cuisine.

We occupy a huge table outside, and a waitress brings us a selection of fried fish – ‘dolphin’ (actually dorado), barracuda, tuna – and a pile of sides. including a macaroni pie and cou cou (cornmeal and okra), and, of course, more rum.

Then someone starts the music. Local lads have brought a sound system, and create a makeshift stage, where they compete in a dance-off while a crowd gathers around, egging them on.

None of us is brave enough to even try to rival their finely honed skills, but stand safely at the sidelines, drinking, as each dancer tries to outdo the one before.


Barbados: The real rum diary - essential travel tips for Bridgetown and beyond
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