Shore leave in Grenada – On the hunt for rum and spice and all things nice… like chocolate!
Our main priority on arriving in Grenada was to find the famous ‘Rivers’ rum from the River Antoine estate on the north of the island.
We got a little lost weaving our way through the mountains in the centre of the island on the treacherous pot holed roads narrowly missing speeding maxi taxi’s as we went. We stopped off briefly to view the crater lake, a dark murky lake with some absolutely humungous fish in it.
While searching for the Rivers distillery we happen chanced upon the Grenada Chocolate company, an organic cooperative on the Belmont estate.
The estate is nestled in the hills to the north of the island. Much of the production process is as it was in the early 1900′s.
Grenada Chocolate also happens to be the chocolate brand that the tall ship Tres Hombres is currently sailing back to the UK.
After a delightful meal, tour and discussions with the estate about future cargo we found our way to the River Antoine Estate, home of Rivers rum, a truly unique place.
It’s cooperatively run, renewably powered, organic rum distillery using 100% Grenadan cultivated sugar cane. The cornerstone on the boiling house proudly states 1785! A voyage back in time for all the senses.
Sugar cane, grown on the estate, is crushed in the water-powered cane mill.
The fresh-pressed juice flows down a wooden sluice to the boiling house, where it is cooked in cast-iron pots over an open fire of dried cane stalks and wood.
The waste bagass (waste cane stalks) either powers the furnaces or returns to fertilise the soil as mulch. Nothing is wasted.
As the juice is ladled from pot to pot to thicken the sweet liquid, tempering lime is added to precipitate out the unwanted impurities and to promote the fermentation.
The juice is boiled a few hours, then the thickened liquid is ladled into another sluice that directs it to the fermentation tanks on the second floor of the still house.
The fermentation of the boiled sugar cane is carried out by local yeasts floating around in the air over an 8 day period. Once all of the sugar has been converted to alcohol, the wash is drained from the concrete tanks to the pot still below.
The fermented liquid is then heated by a fire built directly under the copper pot with the alcohol-rich vapor condensing by cooler waters from the stream that also powers the mill. The fresh rum hand is piped to the sight glass on the ground floor of the still house.
The hydrometer in the sight glass indicates the alcohol content of the condensed liquid. Depending on its alcohol content, the distiller directs the liquid to one of the three concrete cisterns in the floor. Not all of the liquid is fit for consumption but since it contains some alcohol that can be recovered it is used to fill the vessels in the next distillation. Little is wasted in this operation.
On a large chalkboard in front of the sight glass, the depth of liquid in each cistern is recorded. Gallons of alcohol are calculated and entered in another column. Daily production is only about 35 gallons, but you can see the raw rum to be bottled is between 150 and 153 British proof, or about 87% alcohol by volume. I think Rivers is the strongest rum in the Eastern Caribbean. It certainly knocks your socks off leaving you reeling for a few moments while the sweet vapours of the sugar cane condense in your mouth. Not a rum to be consumed in large quantities!
We also paid the nutmeg processing plant a visit on the west of the island. Nutmeg is my all time favourite spice and I use it in good measure in much of my cooking. Nutmeg and mace are the principal export of Grenada, the 2nd largest exporter after Indonesia.
Production, processing and export is managed by the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association with farmers on the island getting a guaranteed price for the crop according to weight and quality.
There are 3 processing stations around the island.
We visited the the facility at Gouyave. Again we were engulfed in the heady scent of spice as we got the low down on the island’s principal crop.
Naively I hadn’t realised that nutmeg and mace are products of the same plant with the Mace forming the red fibres which envelop the nutmeg. Nutmeg is now making it into an assortment of food and drink onboard. It’s a key ingredient in our rum punch for starters. But makes a great addition in bbq sauces, dressing and stews. It also has a variety of medicinal uses.
Once again we met up with some residents who have given us the low down on speciality herbs, spices and dishes including ‘petite bum’ which is a bit like basil or mint which is added to lots of local dishes.
In between our foodie explorations we swam off the ship, had lots of little BBQ and generally enjoyed chilling out on our anchorage next to Hogg island.
Tuesday was may day with all workers on the island celebrating a national holiday. The little beach we were moored next to was swarmed for the day with families, sound systems and BBQs.
We have been joined in Grenada by Matt and Mike. Mike is a professional photographer and has joined us to take pictures of the ship, our foodie adventures. The fo’c's’le is now a little more crowded…
Sharing with smelly sailor boys. Great.
We set sail for the Tobago keys tomorrow. As we cruise up the island internet will be intermittent. So apologies in advance for radio silence.