Barbados native Trudiann Branker may have been born and bred on the island that produces the sugar-cane for Mount Gay’s famously sweet serum, but this year marks her first producing a special master blend for the 300-year-old label. And, oh, what a blend it will be. Here, she gives us a sneak peek into the twist she’s putting on the next 1703 Master Select—which debuts this fall—along with a bit of rum history and expert know-how.
You’re taking the premium 1703 expression in a new direction. How is it usually made?
The 1703 Master Select is crafted from our oldest reserves. It’s an annual release and is typically a blend of pot- and column-still rums, aged 10 to 30 years. Due to the scarcity of old barrels needed for this level of maturation, we release only a limited quantity of bottles, all individually numbered. I’m currently working on my secret recipe for the latest edition  of it, and it’s very exciting to assess the quality and characteristics of our rums at that age.
If you weren’t drinking rum, what would you be drinking?
Coffee! Because I nose and taste rum quite early in the day, I don’t drink coffee first thing. So, by the time I can take that first sip, it’s a much-needed burst of energy to get me through the rest of the day.
Do you collect spirits?
I have a few that are particularly sentimental to me, and my most prized bottle is a personalized bottle of Laddie Valinch from Bruichladdich. At Mount Gay, we also collect rums from all over the world. It’s important to not remain in a silo, so we comparatively taste and educate ourselves on what else is available.
How did rum get a reputation for being a sailor’s drink?
Rum and sailing have centuries of interwoven history, some of which dates back to goods being brought to the Caribbean. Upon departure, barrels of rum were placed in the bottom of the boat to act as ballast. Over time, as the rum traveled around in barrels and was tasted when it got to its destination, people found it tasted better as it aged and matured.