02 April 2009

Grenada Rum Report

Rivers RumThis is the third installation of the Rum Report. Updates will be given from islands in the Caribbean where Sandpiper stops at that have distilleries.

Grenada has no lack of rum. That is what I have determined after our 4-week stop at this rum soaked island. Production techniques vary around the island... from pot stills capable of making just a few gallons, to modern two-column stills yielding several thousand gallons a day. Sprits are made from sugar cane juice, cane syrup, or molasses.

There are many distilleries around the island. Not having the time to visit them all, we picked one. We decided to visit the River Antoine Estate as they are one of the few distilleries that still operates with its original equipment from 1785. That is just 9 years after America’s Independence!

Sugar cane that is grown on the estate is hauled down to the water-powered cane mill that they claim is the oldest working water mill in the Caribbean. It is then hand fed twice into the roller press that turns when river water is let into a sluice that runs the large water wheel. The goal is to extract as much cane juice as possible. The fresh squeezed sugarcane juice flows down a wooden sluice to the boiling house, where it is cooked in open cast iron pots over an open fire of dried cane stalks and wood. After the juice has boiled a few hours, the thickened liquid is ladled into another sluice that directs it to the fermentation tanks. There, yeast is added, and in 8 days it turns all its sugar into alcohol. This ‘wash’ is then directed to a copper pot below where a fire is built under the pot. Vapor from this boiling wash is condensed and piped to the sight glass on the ground floor of the still house.

After the tour we were given small samples that were more then enough. Rivers make Strong White Rum, and just one small sip is so strong that is absorbs right onto one's tongue.

Grenadians say one either loves Rivers Rum, or one hates it. I have to say it’s a bit overpowering, and it costs twice as much as other rums on the island. But the tour is ‘One Of A Kind’! I was a bit surprised how close we were allowed to get to the open topped fermentation tanks. And I was even more surprised when a German tourist stuck his finger into the tank and then into his mouth.

Another small distillery is the Dunfermline Estate, which has as very small distillery making their labeled Dunfermline Rum and Spicy Jack that is three years old. I never did see any of these bottles for sale around the island. So I think one must go to the estate to purchase bottles of their rum.

One of the larger distilleries on this island is Westerhall Estate Ltd. who dates back to the 1800’s. Their top selling rum is Westerhall Plantation Rum. It is quite tasty and comes in a distinctive bottle with a wax seal over its cork stopper and a hand written batch number on the label. They also produce Superb Light Grenada Rum, Strong Rum, and Jack Iron Rum. Their Jack Iron Rum is not the same Jack Iron that is produced on the neighboring island of Carriacou, but it is quite strong at 140-proof (70% alcohol).

The biggest distillery on the island is Clarke’s Court who is part of the Grenada Sugar Factory that was built in 1937. Tours are not given here and it is a very busy factory with over 500 cane farmers growing and harvesting for this facility. This factory produces 100,000 gallons of rum annually at 96% alcohol. That’s a lot of hangovers! Clarks Courts principle product that most Grenadians drink is Clarks Court Pure White Rum, 138 proof (69% alcohol). This rum is about $5.00 a bottle and is the best selling rum in Grenada.

They also produce regular strength rums such as Kalypso White Rum, Superior Light Rum, and their Clarks Court Special Dark Rum that is aged for six months, and then colored with carmel to give it its brown color. This dark rum turned out to be one of our favorites as it has a pleasant taste and is inexpensive.

One other interesting rum in Grenada is Tradition Specially Spiced Rum. It is a strong white rum that when bottled has spices, barks, nuts, herbs, roots and extracts floating around in the bottle. I never had a chance to taste this interesting rum, but I do have a bottle on board for one lucky Sandpiper Shore-Side Supporter!
A large part of Grenada’s economy comes from tourism and there is a big difference between ordering a rum drink in a tourist bar and ordering rum from a rum shop. Grenadian’s like their rum strong. They drink the white strong rum because it is cheap and you get more for your money. At the tourist bars you will not find the strong rums. As reported to us by a bar tender “The tourists cannot handle themselves when drinking strong rum.” Instead they serve them Clarks Court Special Dark Rum, or upon request a bit more expensive Westerhall Plantation Rum.

Most these Strong Rums are not exported off island and are consumed locally. During Piper’s haul out one evening at the boat yards bar I spied a large jug among the other liquor bottles. It was was filled with leaves, tree branches, and all kinds of other stuff. I asked the bar tender what it was and she told me it was ‘"Under the counter rum". So I ordered a shot of this very strong rum and the bar tender got a bit flustered as I think I am the first white person to order this there and they did not know what to charge me. It was a bit strong and tasted more like tree branches. I am not sure that I can recommend the ‘Under the Counter Rum’.

While among these islands I have been perfecting my rum punch recipe. There is a big difference between a rum punch that is ordered at a bar and a real rum punch. The rum punch’s ordered at a bar are just a fruit punch with rum and are consumed by tourists. Locals drink the Strong White Rum straight up with a bit of water as a chaser. A real Rum Punch recipes goes like this:
  • One part sour (lime)
  • Two parts sweet (sugar, or cane syrup)
  • Three parts of strong (rum)
  • Four parts of weak (water, juice, or nectars)
  • Five drops of bitters and nutmeg spice
  • Serve well chilled with lots of ice!!
This all means to squeeze lime juice into a glass along with some sweetener.  Then add one shot of white rum, a bit of water or juice, and mix. Then top this with five drops of bitters. The original bitters comes in a small bottle that is produced in Trinidad and claims to be the original recipe from 1824 by Dr. J.G.B. Siegert.

Then the last step is to take a nutmeg nut and small grater. With this grate a dusting of nutmeg on the top of this wonderful concoction and enjoy!!

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