People from Grenada have plenty to be proud of when it comes to titillating the tastebuds with their local fares, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone on the Caribbean island who isn’t ready to wax lyrical about the incredible properties of their local rum. The country has a long history of producing this drink, which has an intrinsic link with the slavery of the past thanks to its reliance on sugarcane. Nowadays, though, the industry is mostly run by Grenadians, for Grenadians – and they’re ready to share their drinks with the world.
Big Business or Small Stills?
While there are a couple of larger distilleries now dotted around the island, at its heart Grenada rum is a local affair. Micro-stills and the ease of access to materials mean in many ways rum remains a cottage industry, but that doesn’t mean the quality is lacking – and as most of these smaller groups don’t export, this is the only chance you’ll have to try a bit of the local produce.
What Kind of Rum does Grenada Produce?
While the small island nation hasn’t quite reached the rum producing heights of its past – which some estimates put at 1.2m gallons in 1823 – there’s a whole host of new and exciting rum-related developments in Grenada. With that said, the country also has a lot of attractions and old-stills that showcase the history of drink production on the island, so if you’re more interested in learning about the culture of this place through its local drinks instead of simply sipping them, you’re in luck.
Once known as the spice isle, it’s no surprise Grenada make some great dark, spiced rum, but in honesty it’s the pure sugarcane variety that’s best here. Everything is grown on the island, and it shows in the flavour profiles.
Places to Visit
Grenada’s River Antoine Rum Distillery
No Grenada rum tour would be complete without a visit to this rum-mecca. The oldest operational distillery in the country is still powered by a nearly two hundred-year old water wheel, that crushes sugar cane to release the juice. The resulting liquid is processed in almost the same way it was centuries ago, and the stills are heated by burning local hardwood underneath them instead of targeted steam, like more modern distilleries.
Some of the rum made here is incredibly popular among rum aficionados – so much so the distillery is often low on stock. Although they don’t distil throughout the year, you can still tour the facility even when rum is not being made – but don’t be disappointed if they don’t have much else to sell.
The distillery is off a small road, and there isn’t much denoting you’re about to enter one of the most feted places in the rum world. If you do get a chance to buy some of the produce, there are two strengths of Rivers Royal Grenadian Rum, as it’s known. The bottle with the blue label is lower in strength, but the one with the red ribbon is for locals. Flavour profiles can vary with Rivers Rum Grenada, but that’s part of the joy of buying boutique.
Grenada Distillers Ltd.
Producers of the Clarke’s Court Rum, one of the few major rum brands that is exported from the island, this Grenada rum distillery have been operating for nearly ninety years. They’re located in the capital St George and unlike the near-mythical River Antoine, you very much know you’re in a distillery here.
If you are a bit of a booze and rum geek, then a factory tour is a must. You get a little bit about the history of the space and how they distil from sugar cane, as well as the chance to look at the steam engines that once powered the entire operation. You’re then invited to sample the products, which are some of the finest Grenada rums on offer.
Because this is one of the more modern, tech-driven stills, the flavour profile and strength is a lot more consistent, so if you’re a bit worried about homebrews, then this is the Grenada rum tour for you.
If you really want to learn about Grenada rum, then the best way is to drink what the people drink. St George’s Market is the largest market on the island and is right in the heart of the nation’s capital. This bright, vibrant place is worth a visit on your trip for its own reasons, but rum lovers will relish the chance to try out the sorts of rum old-timers and toothless old men drink.
If you’re really keen to explore, then Hillsborough on the nation’s second, smaller island Carriacou is a great place to visit. There are very few tourists compared to the main island, and the sorts of rum on offer here are varied enough to make even the most seasoned drinker feel like Charlie Bucket. A must for those who crave authenticity.