William Gosling

Gosling's Rum: Promoting the spirit of Bermuda

April 15, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

Two centuries after the Gosling clan settled here, one member's mission is to export the family rum -- and protect the trademark on a certain cocktail.

By David Whitford, editor-at-large

Malcolm Gosling Jr. at the bottling plant in Bermuda

Malcolm Gosling Jr. at the bottling plant in Bermuda

FORTUNE -- It will be a dark and stormy night; I'm counting on it. But it's early yet. The sky is blue, the sea an unfamiliar shade of turquoise, and the air, room temperature. Maybe a little blowy, but I'm not complaining. I woke up this morning in Boston (we had some snow this winter -- maybe you heard), and here I am, two hours out of Logan, in Bermuda.

I came down with Malcolm Gosling Jr. Malcolm, who just turned 50, was born and raised in Bermuda. He looks the part: cleft chin, square jaw, blue blazer, white shirt open at the collar. He talks as if he has a mouthful of marbles. Malcolm's great-great-great-grandfather was Ambrose Gosling, whose brother, James, the oldest son of William Gosling, a London vintner, arrived in Bermuda from England in 1806 aboard the barque Mercury, carrying 10,000 pounds sterling of wine and spirits. Bermuda was not the Mercury's intended destination. James meant only to stop, but he lingered (I'm not surprised), and eventually Ambrose joined him.

Business was shaky, initially, but Ambrose persisted, and nearly two centuries later his descendants -- among them Malcolm; his sister, Nancy Gosling, who's CEO; and his cousin, the Right Worshipful Charles Gosling, mayor of Hamilton -- preside over an eclectic and prosperous family enterprise. They're the biggest distributors of wine, beer, and spirits on the island, and among the biggest retailers of same. They control the duty-free franchise at the airport. They own real estate. And they blend rums -- notably, Gosling's Black Seal.

You used to be able to walk into any Gosling's store on the island with an empty container and fill it with rum straight from the barrel. Bottling -- using champagne empties salvaged from the officers' mess at the British garrison -- began only after World War I, in response to demand from participants in the annual Newport Bermuda yacht race, who bought cases of Gosling's to bring back home. It's front-of-the-shelf behind every bar from St. George's to Somerset (where you'll find the last Gosling's store that still sells Black Seal on tap). But until fairly recently, if you had a craving for genuine Gosling's rum, you had to go to Bermuda to satisfy it. More

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