Passenger Pick of the Month
Tortuga Rum Company
Enjoy this month's Passenger Pick as we explore the story behind the beginning of one of the Cayman’s best known treasures: Tortuga Rum and Rum Cakes.
In 1984, while working for Cayman Airways, Captain Robert Hamaty and his wife Carlene, an in-flight supervisor founded the Tortuga Rum Company, Ltd. They introduced the first rums of the Cayman Islands, primarily to appeal as a souvenir to the growing tourist and cruise passenger business. The name, Tortuga was chosen from the original name given to the Cayman Islands by Christopher Columbus -- Las Tortugas, the Spanish word meaning turtles -- for all the turtles he saw on the islands’ sandy shores.
In 1987, the Hamaty’s opened the first Tortuga duty free liquor store and later that year introduced the now world famous Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake.
For years Carlene had baked rum cakes for special occasions, using a four-generation old family recipe. Friends in the food business encouraged her to make it part of the Tortuga line. First offered at a local restaurant, her moist delectable rum cake was an instant hit.
By 1990 the demand was so great that the company expanded with a bakery, making their cake the Caribbean’s first commercially produced rum cake. A custom vacuum-seal packaging machine was added in 1991. The process prolongs the cakes’ shelf life for up to 12 months or indefinitely if refrigerated or frozen – ideal for distribution anywhere in the world.
Today, Tortuga rum cakes continue to be made from the same secret family recipe, using the finest ingredients and hand glazed with a special oak-barrel-aged, five year old Tortuga Gold Rum. They are sold in three sizes and eight tropical flavors. They can be found worldwide in a variety of locations and can also be ordered online at www.tortugarumcakes.com
Tortuga Rums now are available in many varieties, most of which can only be found in the Cayman Islands. These include the original Tortuga Light Rum and Tortuga Gold Rum in addition to Banana, Coconut, Mango, Vanilla, Pineapple, Spiced, Rum Cream, Rum Liqueur, Coffee Rum Liqueur, Ponche, Orange Rum Liqueur and their international acclaimed, award winning aged rums -- Tortuga 5 year old and 12 year old Premium Gold Rums.
Tortuga also provides a wide variety of branded, Caribbean gourmet products such as: 6 flavors of flavored syrups, fruit punch, 3 flavors of rum fudge, chocolate rum turtles with sea salt, rum truffles, 6 flavors of gourmet rum coffees, a selection of hot and savory Caribbean sauces, honey, pepper jelly and more. It's most recent addition to the line - Tortuga 100% Jamica Blue Mountain Coffee - (whole bean and roasted & ground) has just received a 2013 Editor's pick New Product Award from The Gormet Retailer, an American speciaity food magazine. Tortuga Chocolate Rum Turtles with Sea Salt was recognized by the magazine in 2012 with a similar award.
The Tortuga Rum Company has become Tortuga International Holdings, Limited with operations and bakeries in Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas and a distribution center in Miami, Florida. Robert’s daughter, Monique Hamaty-Simmonds is the Chief Marketing Officer for Tortuga International and her husband, Marcus Simmonds is Chief Executive Officer.
Robert and Carlene Hamaty continue to own Tortuga Liquors, their wholesale and retail liquor distribution business in Grand Cayman and are shareholders in Tortuga International. Their locations include duty-free shops in Georgetown, West Bay, two shops at the airport and numerous local retail Tortuga Liquors, Fine Wine & Spirits thorough Grand Cayman.
The Tortuga brand is well-known by the more than 20 million annual Caribbean tourists and cruise ship passengers. Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cakes are the #1 export of the Cayman Islands and named the 2013 “Best Cruise Souvenir” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for the eighth consecutive year. Tortuga products are sold in gift and specialty food departments and gourmet stores throughout the Caribbean and North America, in onboard gift shops of nearly 100 cruise ships and shipped to 70 countries around the world.
"We are very proud of our deep roots in Grand Cayman," says Monique Hamaty Simmonds, Tortuga's chief marketing officer. "A little over a year ago on December 17, 2013 we celebrated the 30th anniversary for the company. It’s been quite an exciting ride. And we’re even more excited about the next 30 years!"
To pre-order duty and tax-free liquor, call (345) 815-7201.