The distillery campus came into view as I approached the tour pavilion. The nicely finished offices and tour facilities were setup in front, but rustic abandoned-looking buildings filled out the rest of the visible buildings. A group of shuttle carts approached the right side of the pavilion next to where a small building stood and was labeled ‘gift shop.’ A group of about twenty exited the carts and like clockwork, a line of gawking tourists jumped on to start another tour. Five minutes later, another tour reached its destination and then again set out, off to another adventure.
Thankfully the tour was free and every other tour was English speaking, so I jumped on board the chain of carts and a thick accent reached my ears. From what I could understand, the guide who was stationed at the front of the train was thanking us for visiting and explained that we must never leave our carts. She had a grave, rude and robotic tone to her voice at this point in her speech. The carts stopped in front of a set of doors that wasn’t more than a hundred yards from where we had started. She plastered on her best fake smile and waved her hands to her left, welcoming the group of 'sheep' to enter. The tour started in a room centered by a large fountain and on each wall was a depiction of scenes from long ago. A new guide entered the room in a dramatic fashion, welcoming us with arms cocked wide. In perfect English, he used the paintings to describe the history of the Bacardi brand. The most recognizable was a scene dedicated to pirates of the Caribbean, who can be thanked for making this elixir as popular as it is today.
The rest of the tour went room to room, where a guard kept watch at each set of doors. It felt as though the tour group were here to be deloused in one room, then explained the rules of appropriate behavior in the next, finally arriving to our own personal, dimly lit prison cells. The rooms were setup much like the 'fake' Jameson distillery in Dublin, Ireland, where each room was put together like a bad set in a public playhouse on a budget. The only highlight for me was the smelling room, which featured small rum barrels full of their various potent flavors. In the the exhibit, you could sniff each flavor of rum and then read the explanation of differences and what to smell for.
Other than that, it was a dull twenty minutes that culminated with the group climbing back onto the carts and heading back to the pavilion. The group disembarked and proceeded into the gift shop. I skipped the frenzy and went straight to the bar, where I snagged my two complementary drinks, then I sat in a chair watching the workers around the facility. There was definitely an ominous feeling there; each employee had a nervous, shifty look about them. Keeping an eye out as I headed out back to the streets, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that they were so keen to leave undiscovered.