St. John’s Bay Rum trees reveal the island’s history.
Leaves of the West Indian bay rum tree are harvested to produce Bay Rum, a beauty and health elixir made popular in the Virgin Islands in the early 19th century. Today, the iconic palm leaf wrapped bottle of St. Johns Bay Rum can be found in the finest stores throughout the world, a fragrant mixture of essential oils distilled from the bay rum leaves and added to fine local rum. Typically used as a cologne or aftershave lotion, Bay Rum can also be used as a deodorant, fragrance, astringent, or soap. Bay Rum was invented by a Danish chemist named Albert Heinrich Riise in 1838 and production on St. John island started in the areas of Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, Carolina Estate, and Lameshur Bay. A century after Bay Rum was exported, bay rum trees can be found all over St. John island, easily revealed after a rain, when the sweet smelling leaves fill the air. The West Indies Company still produces AH Riise St. Johns Bay Rum today. A common misconception, the “bay leaves” commonly used in cooking come from a completely different “bay laurel” tree.