We started out the day by doing some driving around and touring. Stopping in the market at St. George’s was interesting, and though there were people trying to get you to buy things, there was a laid back attitude, and all you needed to do was say “no thanks.” If you’ve been to some crazier markets, like the Medina in Fez, Morocco, for example, this was a cake walk.
One of the real highlights of the day came at the River Antoine Rum Distillery. Opened in 1785, the distillery is one of the oldest in the country, and still uses most of the machinery that was shipped over from Darby, England in the same year. As the guide said, “Not much has changed since.” With 3 owners, River Antoine employs 90 people. The reason for this is the old machinery. Rather than updating with computers and newer technology, the distillery has chosen to remain traditional for two reasons.
First, there is the tradition of making the rum. Pride goes into the work, and the Grenadines who work here are passionate about the rum. Second, updating would take away jobs, and the owners are more concerned with the quality of staff than turning some extra profits. Though it’s Saturday and no one is working, we were still shown around and given a history of the process.
The power source comes from the river, hence the name, and the ancient water wheel powers the distillery. We were offered samples of the rum, and just as the rum appeared, the women in the group decided to step outside. Now the men showed their medal by trying the rum, marked at a whopping 75% alcohol per volume content. River Antoine makes their rum with a minimum of 75%, and sometimes takes it up to 86%. This means that if you like it and want to buy a bottle, you need to drink it all before you leave, because legally you can’t take alcohol on a plane that’s higher than 70%.
Sometimes to counter this, they’ll water down the rum a bit. Otherwise, they won’t sell you the higher volume stuff. Every bottle is hand bottled, so only 2,000 bottles are made a week. Remember, it can’t be exported, so it’s made by Grenadines for Grenadines.
First I tried the 75% alc rum. It was powerful, to say the least. Next I went for the big guns. Before I even got the 86% in my mouth I could sense it coming strong. The resulting effect was a grimace and some indigestion lasting for the next hour or so. And I thought Absinthe was bad. It was powerful stuff, and if we hadn’t eaten lunch shortly before, I probably would have fallen asleep on the ride back.
Rum seems to be the drink of choice in the Caribbean, and whether it’s clear or dark, you have a plethora to chose from. If nothing else was gained from this day, at least I can say I had the most potent rum I’ve ever had in my life, and I owe that to Grenada.