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Photo was taken by Marco Pierini, the Rum Historian for "Got Rum?" magazine.
Drax Hall, a Jacobean house built by James Drax in the early 1650’s, located in Barbados.
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Mr. Marco Pierini is from Tuscany, Italy. He has had a real passion for history and a few years ago he discovered rum. He is now "Got Rum?" Rum Historian.
A JOURNEY TO BARBADOS- PART 1: DRAX HALL
Between the end of January and the beginning of February I spent two weeks in Barbados. I was full of expectations. After reading and writing so much about Barbados, at last I would be able to see the cradle of rum directly.
I can now say with pleasure that Barbados has lived up to (almost) all my expectations. The two weeks were full of meetings and experiences. It ’s impossible to tell everything. If you want to have an idea, you can visit my Blog www.ilsecolodelrum.it.
It’s in Italian, but at least the photographs speak a universal language, luckily. But there are some things which I’d really like to tell. I’ll start from the most exciting.
One morning I asked a taxi driver to take me to Drax Hall. It wasn’t easy. The beautiful Jacobean house that James Drax built in the early 1650’s to celebrate his wealth and power is now a private residence and it is outside the tourist itineraries. The taxi driver had never been there. The map helped us, but we had to ask for directions several times to the few human beings we came across.
At the beginning of the colonisation of the island, most colonists obviously settled on the coast, but James Drax pushed into the interior and even now the area is almost uninhabited. Eventually we got there. There wasn’t anybody. The house seemed empty, with a few low outbuildings around. All in all, it looked like a farm. A few trees around, and gently sloping hills covered with sugarcane swaying in the wind, as far as the eye can see.
It is right here, perhaps, that everything started.
Here, on a distant day of the early 1640’s far from prying eyes, James Drax started to grow a new, strange plant imported from Brazil: sugarcane.
It wasn’t easy. At the beginning he made mistakes. The first crops were bad, the first sugar he produced was of very low quality. But, as well as capable and clever, James Drax was strong and determined and at last success crowned his endeavors. The crop went well, the refining process too and his sugar was sold at very good prices in Europe.
It was the beginning of that Sugar Revolution that would change forever the face of Barbados and of all the West Indies. And the destiny of millions of human beings.
In the complex factory for the extraction and refining of sugar that Drax built, with the help of the Dutch and perhaps also of Sephardic Jews, in what Ligon calls ingenio, did they already have a pot still? Did they already distil that “hott hellish and terrible liquor ” that later would be called rum? In the plan that Ligon would draw only a few years later, yes, there was already a pot still (actually there were two). But in Drax’s factory? We cannot know, but we like to think that there was.
I was moved. I got out of the car and I enjoyed the solitude, the silence and the wind. Then I took some photos. I don’t know how much time passed, not much, anyway. Then a car arrived, some dogs barked and I saw someone moving.
The magic moment had passed. I got back into the taxi and we went away.