Cruising Chronicles: Anguilla Surprise

Roy's Bayside GrillWell I’ve finally returned from my 7 day journey through the Northeastern Caribbean.  We had a great time and bought one or two bottle of rum.  OK, OK…we bought somewhere around 11 different bottles of rum.

One of my main goals during this cruise on the Caribbean Princess was to make my way to Anguilla during our stop at St. Maarten and try to get a tour of the Anguilla Rum Ltd.’s factory (where they make Pyrat Rum).  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be doing a thorough write-up of my experience at the rum factory for Refined Vices, but this entry is about a very pleasant surprise I made along the way.

After hurrying a great deal to make sure we’d make it to Anguilla with enough time to tour the rum factory and still make it back to Philipsburg on St. Maarten and catch the ship out, my party found ourselves on Anguilla at around 9 am local time.  This was at least 90 minutes earlier than we had been led to believe was even possible.  Being curious people, we decided to take our rental car for a bit of a drive and see some of the island up around Sandy Ground – the area in which the rum factory is located.  The first place that caught our eye as we neared the beach was Roy’s Bayside Grill.

Roy’s is one of 2 establishments owned by Roy, a native of England who emigrated to Anguilla during some time that I wasn’t able to pin down (he departed before I could ask and has not yet responded to an email I sent).  This particular location, right on the beach at Sandy Ground, is open and airy and quite peaceful (at least it was peaceful at 9 AM…I mean, I’m sure there are bars/taverns that have raucous parties going on at 9 in the morning somewhere in the world, but Anguilla ain’t any of those places).

After sitting on the beach for a bit with a glass of Coke, I wandered back into the bar and struck up a conversation with a nice English fellow that turned out to be the man himself – Roy.  I noticed that he had a bottle of Havanna Club white on the shelf, and – being an American citizen living in America where you’re free to do many things, but buying products from Cuba isn’t one of them – asked him for a dram of the rum to try.  He poured me a generous shot (about a shot and a half really) and I sat there sipping it for a few minutes (it was quite good) while we discussed the island and rum in general.

During the course of our conversation I mentioned that I like to wrap myself in the cloak of a self-important rum connoisseur and that I was thoroughly enjoying my bit of what would be contraband at home and that I was looking forward to my tour of the rum factory just up the street a bit.  Roy suggested that I might enjoy the house blend, and promptly turned to a small barrel that had once been filled with Royal Navy rum, but now wore a sticker-label reading “1994-95” and filled another shot glass to the brim with a deep brown liquid.

House blends are fairly common through-out the islands at any bar or tavern that’s worth returning to (or so I’m told), and this blend alone makes Roy’s and the island of Anguilla a place worth visiting.  The rum is a blend of several rums, with a tablespoon of sugar added to the mixture.  It’s then placed inside of this small wooden barrel, where it sits and allows the flavors to mingle and – well – blend into a concoction that is smooth and rich.

Roy estimates that the rum is probably around 100 proof due to extra fermentation within the barrel, but if this is the case one wouldn’t know by the burn, which was minimal.  The nose had strong notes of caramel, accented by floral hints.  The taste was deeply satisfying, with flavors ranging from toffee and toasted sugar to orange peel.  The finish was clean with just a slight tingle on the tongue.

The rum was just fantastic, and had I had the opportunity, I would have gladly come back to Roy’s to enjoy it until my pockets were empty and my head was inseparable from the bar.  By the time I had finished my sample, Roy had scampered off in search of his morning coffee and to run a few errands, and the time for our tour was rapidly approaching.  We bid the staff good morning and climbed back in to our rental car and headed up the road for our next adventure.

If you ever find yourself with a free day in St. Maarten, head to Marigot , take the ferry to Anguilla, and then head to Sandy Ground or Crocus Bay to seek out Roy and his fabulous rum – as well as some fish & chips – and find the true, relaxing rhythm of this tiny island.

UPDATE:  I have heard from Roy and have some information on the man, the myth, and the legend.  Roy has been living in Anguilla since 1981.  The first Roy’s location was opened in 1982 with a total investment capital available of $13US.  Yes, THIRTEEN DOLLARS!  During the first few years of operation, Roy actually caught the fish, lobsters, and conch for his patrons by himself.

The house blend of rum is something that they’ve been doing at Roy’s since 1985.  The blend consists of 2 dark rums and a light rum, a vanilla pod, and a “small amount” of brown sugar.  The rum is then stored in a wooden cask to age, mellow, and allow the flavors to marry.

According to Roy, the “must have” item on the menu these days is their lobster bisque.  So again, if you ever have the opportunity, stop by Roy’s in either Sandy Ground or Crocus Bay and have some fish and chips and a dram of house blended rum…and if you’re lucky, have a word with the “world traveled sailer, soldier, pilot, diver,chef, and entrepeneur” that is Roy Bosson.

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  • Rum Runner

    December 11, 2007, 22:12

    Roy estimates that the rum is probably around 100 proof due to extra fermentation within the barrel, but if this is the case one wouldn’t know by the burn, which was minimal.

    Great story on your visit to Roys Dood!…I’ve lived for 10 years not too far from there and have not made it yet. You give me inspiration to get my ass over there well as a trip to Orient Beach too! 🙂 One small techy note on Roys comments above….Nothing is “fermenting” in a barrel of alcohol that strength..Even the new “super” yeasts die after about 20%-25% alcohol by volume…We’ll leave it to Roy weaving a nice web of lore. Very Island like of him!