We took a tour of Grenada last week and one of our stops was the Rivers Rum Factory. It is the oldest distillery in Grenada, dating back to 1785 and it is very unique because the cane press is run by a water wheel.
It was a fascinating tour and we learned how the sugar cane is crushed by the water wheel press and then filtered into big vats that are ladled by hand through a series of vats (or coppers) with each one getting progressively hotter until the last one gets the cane juice to boiling. The fire used to boil the cane juice is fueled by the bagasse, left over cane pieces, and what is not used for fire is returned to the field to be used as fertilizer, so none of the sugar cane is wasted. The cane juice is then cooled for a couple of days and then sent to fermentation tanks where it ferments for eight days and then is sent to be distilled.
One interesting fact about Rivers Rum is that you can only buy it in Grenada. It is not exported. The two reasons given were: 1) Using this low tech (but very green) process, they can only make enough to supply the local population, and 2) The alcohol content is so high that it is not allowed on airplanes as cargo! If you want to purchase some to bring home from your vacation, you have to buy the watered down version. The label says 75% Alc/Vol "Slightly Overproof Rum".
I loved the tour and we had a great guide that explained the process to us very thoroughly. They had me hooked. I couldn't wait to buy a bottle of this organically produced rum as a souvenir. At long last we get to the tasting area. The guide showed us the bottles of rum and small sample cups and instructed us to go ahead and sample as much as we wanted! I poured myself a taste, ready to enjoy a nice rum. It did smell strong, after all, it's at least 75%, but once I tasted it I realized that, to say the least, it's a acquired taste! I was pretty sure they had traded my rum bottle for kerosene and now my mouth would be forever numb and I would probably go blind! Wow. We decided that maybe we didn't need a bottle of Rivers Rum on Storyville after all!
Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil be done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
~Robert Lewis Stevenson
|Piles of bagasse, will it be fire fuel or fertilizer?|
|The river providing power to the cane crushing wheel|
|Water, providing the power to make rum!|
|Sugar Cane waiting to be crushed|
|On the way up to the crusher|
|Lisa helping make rum!|
|That's cane juice!|
|Running the cane back through to double crush it|
|The bagasse rides this train down to be used to fuel the fire|
|The coppers of cane juice. The closest one is the coolest and the last one is boiling.|
The juice is moved by hand using a pot on a long pole.
|Mmmmm, cane juice|
|Mmmmm, fermenting cane juice|
|Lisa posing at the distillery|
|This is where they measure the alcohol content. If it's too low, it is returned to the distillery|
to be processed again.
|Stacy and Lisa labeling bottles|
|I did one too.|
|And - the finished product!|