Senior Executives of the John Watling’s Distilleryin the Bahamas presented Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Frederick A. Mitchell, with the company’s specially crafted commemorative blend – John Watling’s Paradise —  that will be showcased at the upcoming regional Heads of Government Meeting as part of the CARICOM 50th Anniversary Rum Blends Initiative.

The Rum Blends Initiative is one in a series of events designed to “formally acknowledge and celebrate” CARICOM’s half-century of regional cooperation and development, and marks the culmination of a year-long celebration of CARICOM’s achievements and contributions to the Caribbean region.

As part of the Initiative, 13 CARICOM Member States that are home to members of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA), each individually presented their specially crafted, signature commemorative blends to their respective national governments during the month of June. The full set of 13 expressions will be showcased at the regional Heads of Government Meeting in Grenada.

Distillers/distilleries involved in the Initiative include well-known names such as John Watling’s Distillery, Buena Vista Estate (Bahamas), Mount Gay Distilleries (Barbados), Demerara Distillers (Guyana), Suriname Alcoholic Beverages, Angostura (Trinidad and Tobago), Saint Lucia Distillers, Belfast Estate (Dominica), Antigua Distillery, Grenada Distillers, Travellers Liquors (Belize), National Rums of Jamaica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Distillers.

Minister Mitchell said the company’s excellent reputation as a regional and global distillery, and producers of a product that is “without question” the finest in the West Indies, makes it a joyous occasion to be able to present the product for showcase at the regional Heads Meeting.

“I have always been at a disadvantage when I went to Guyana, or Grenada, or the Dominican Republic and they were all boasting about the best rum in the West Indies, and until John Watling’s came along, I did not have a brand to throw back in their faces,” Minister Mitchell said. “Now our Prime Minister, when he goes down to Grenada, will have a neatly packaged product that says this is the finest in the West Indies without question. It is a Bahamian rum, enjoys a good reputation and so we support the product and we are happy on this occasion, marking the 50th anniversary of CARICOM, that we are able to supply this to the Heads of Government when their meeting takes place in Grenada.

“It’s a wonderful surprise, it’s great to be here and I look forward to joining the Prime Minister in Grenada in making the presentation on behalf of your company.”

Minister Mitchell also applauded the distillery for the impact it has had on the country’s tourism product. More than 370,000 tourists visited the Estate over the course of 2023.

“This is a very special occasion for me because it is a walk down memory lane first of all because I have spent many times coming to this property and I was thanking Mr. Argamasilla for bringing this property back and for the wonderful tourist attraction it has become. I was advised that 375,000 people visited this facility last year and that they have great plans for bringing the entire neighbourhood back, (and) so I want to thank him for that investment and for his vision in moving the project forward.”

Mr. Pepin Argamasilla, Managing Director, Marketing and Production at John Watling’s Distillery, said the signature rum — John Watling’s Paradise – was aged for 4 to 6 years in once-used Bourbon barrels, hand-blended in small batches, and then Sherry-cask finished. Mr. Argamasilla was accompanied by Mr. Jose Portuondo, Managing Director, Operations and Sales and employees of the distillery.

“The result is rum with a slightly toasted woody and nutty character, with hints of vanilla and a walnut aroma,” he said. “Its taste is extremely smooth with a warming Oloroso Sherry finish. Next month this Initiative will culminate in a grand presentation to the Heads of Government in Grenada which will celebrate the diversity and excellence of Caribbean Rum and our rich heritage. Let us toast to 50 years of CARICOM and a bright future for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”