Beautiful beaches, warm, turquoise water and the occasional tropical forest. That’s how most people generally perceive a Caribbean nation to be. And Barbados isn’t any different. It’s not a big place, so you’re never far away from a palm-tree-surrounded dip in the ocean. It’s not even 40 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide, as the crow flies, which means you will have seen the whole island in two or three days, if you rent a car. You will most likely even pass the same places more than once, which gives the whole experience a nice, homely feel to it. If you get lost, the friendly Bajans, as they call themselves, will gladly help you get back on your path.
And you will get lost. A combination of very few road signs, roads on the map that, confusingly enough, are not to scale in reality, and turns that do not exist on either physical maps or GPS, make navigation in Barbados somewhat challenging. But don’t worry. You’ll find your way back soon. Again, you’re never far from anything here, least of all that dip in the ocean, which, at the end of the day, is probably all you need. That and a nice cigar.
Cigars are becoming more and more popular in Barbados. That is, according to Angelika Marshall, the owner of Caribbean Cigar Company, the only producer of local premium cigars on the island. “The locals haven’t smoked as much as the tourists, but it started to change five to seven years ago,” she says.
Marshall’s cigar factory produces two lines, Royal Barbados and Sam Lord, and it’s conveniently located close to where the big cruise ships dock.
When she took over the business with her late husband in 1993, the focus was mainly on tourists, as it still is today. They come for the free tour and to buy an exotic, local cigar or two. “We roll them like they do in Cuba, with equipment originally from there, and we use tobacco from Ecuador, Cameroon and Cuba. Our cigars are a bit milder than Cubans, but still have a nice taste and a good, nutty flavor without being bitter at the end.”
One of the reasons Bajans have started to smoke more cigars is probably the opening of a Casa del Habano, in Holetown, 20 minutes north of the capital Bridgetown. It opened in December 2011 and is the only proper cigar lounge on the island. “We’re located here because it’s a tourist area, but it’s actually been hard to get the tourists here,” the manager, Armando Leefmans, says. “However, we were surprised about how much the Barbadians liked smoking cigars, so we get mostly locals, and we’ve been introducing the culture of Habanos to them. They didn’t really know what they were smoking before. They just liked smoking.”
One of these more informed Barbadians is Julian Alleyne. He goes there a couple of days a week. “I used to smoke the odd duty free cigar I’d get when I was traveling, but this place has brought in a variety we haven’t seen before,” he says. “So you learn more, and one day you might feel like smoking a Pártagas No. 4 or a Montecristo Petit Edmundo; another day you might feel like a Cohiba Siglo VI. I actually used to prefer Cohibas but now my favorites are Pártagas and Montecristo.”
According to Marshall, pop culture has also played a part in the increased interest. “Barbadians have become more sophisticated cigar smokers, and I think music videos are part of the change,” she says, laughing. “It’s the way they portray people smoking cigars in the videos, I think.”
Casa del Habano supplies some restaurants, a golf club and even a barber shop with cigars, and on Wednesdays they organize cigar evenings at the Hilton. “We bring cigars and inform the guests about the culture,” Leefmans says. “We’re also discussing with them putting in a humidor there.”
Besides these places, there are a few others where you can buy cigars. As always, you have to watch out for fakes, though, and if you’re looking for Dominican or Nicaraguan cigars – anything but Cuban and local sticks, really – you will probably be disappointed. “Since it’s mostly Americans coming down here, they’re not looking for brands they can get in their own country,” Marshall says.
Barbados is also known for its rich rum culture. The country has five or six rum producers, whose distilleries are spread about the island. Driving around, you can tick most of them off in one day. The most famous one, Mount Gay, is located not far from the Caribbean Cigar Company. During the tour you get to taste their different rums, learn the history of the company and see the bottling factory of the oldest commercial rum company in the world. At the bar you can have a cigar with your rum, supplied by Casa del Habano. “We started in 1703, and the rum is still produced in the same way, by Barbadian people,” our tour guide says. “In the beginning it wasn’t that good, and people actually called it ‘Kill Devil’ because of the quality, but it got better. At one point the rum business was so lucrative that the distillery owners were richer than British royalty.”
Today there are more than 1,800 so called rum shops around the island selling the different rums. “If you have a problem finding one, just look for a church,” the guide continues. “ There’s always one close by.” We aren’t at the actual distillery, though, but where the rum is bottled and tours are given. Should you be interested in visiting the actual distillery you can try knocking on the door if you’re in the parish of St. Lucy, on the northern part of the island. You might also get a peak at their operation there.
In Four Roads, a village in the southeastern part of the island, you can visit the Foursquare Rum Distillery. They also give tours, but if you want to roam around the factory on your own you can just show up. When we go by on a Saturday the place is almost empty, but still open to the public. This is a heritage park, so besides the distillery, other attractions on the property include a sugar machinery museum, folk museum, bottling plants, and glass-fusing studio. The Foursquare distillery produces RL Seale, Rum Sixty Six, Old Brigand and Doorly’s XO, among others. It also provided the first batch for the latest addition of rum distilleries on the island, St. Nicholas Abbey.
“This used to be a sugar cane plantation,” explains our tour guide. “When the current owner bought the property, in 2006, he brought with him rum from Foursquare, so we have a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old rum, which weren’t distilled on site.”
St. Nicholas Abbey, located in a Jacobean mansion from the 1650s and surrounded by a tropical forest in which you may see the occasional green monkey, has also been producing its own rum since 2009. It uses a different method than its competition. “We make our five-year-old and our white rum from sugar cane syrup and not molasses, which makes it sweeter than other Barbadian rum. From January to April we also crush sugar cane here; then you can see the whole process from start to finish.”
So it’s not only beaches that you’re never far away from in Barbados. It’s rum and cigars, too. If that isn’t an unbeatable combination, I don’t know what is.
1 Carribean Cigar Company
#3 Pelican Industrial Park,
T +1246 437 8519,
2 Rincon del Tabaco
Colonnade (Da Costas) Mall,
St. Michael, Bridgetown
+1246 436 9310
3 The House of Cuban Cigars
1 Cavans Lane
+1246 436 8834
4 Havana Hut Cigars
St. James, Holetown
+1246 432 7925
Platinum Coast Cigars
Limegrove Lifestyle Centre,
1st Floor, Holetown,
Hwy 1, Paynes Bay Beach
+1246 432 2731
7 The Cliff Restaurant and Beach Club
Highway 1, Durants
+1246 432 1922
8 Apes Hill Club
Apes Hill, St. James
+1246 432 4500
9 Fame The
The Beach House Complex
Sunset Crest, Holetown
+1246 623 3263
10 Mount Gay
Spring Garden Highway
St. Michael, Bridgetown
+1246 425 8757
11 St. Nicholas Abbey
On Cherry Tree Hill
+1246 422 8725
12 Foursquare Rum Factory and Heritage Park
Near Six Cross Roads, HWY 6
Four Roads, St. Philip
+1246 420 1977
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Summer Edition 2016. Read more