It is an absolutely fascinating glimpse into the past and is certain to enthral anyone interested in the cultural heritage.
A visit to the River Antoine Rum Distillery is a must-do for visitors to Grenada. It is an absolutely fascinating glimpse into the past and is certain to enthral anyone interested in the cultural heritage of the region. If you have been hiking and have come across ruins of sugar estates, machine works, waterwheels and cane presses covered in bush and weeds, this experience will bring those discoveries to life.
‘Captain’ Antoine was a Kalinago chief with whom the French settlers sought peace following the series of conflicts leading to the tragic events at Leapers’ Hill in present-day Sauteurs. Chief Antoine’s village was located in the northeast and so a number of places still carry that name today, including River Antoine, Antoine Bay and Lake Antoine. Black Rock, a small islet located in the Atlantic directly east of the mouth of the River Antoine, is also recorded as being originally named Islet d’Antoine by the French.
A visit to the River Antoine Rum Distillery is a must-do for visitors to Grenada © Paul Crask
Constructed in 1785, the distillery claims to have been continuously running since that time, making it unique in the Caribbean. The machinery and the processes of rum production employed by the estate go back to the 18th century, to a period of colonial rule and of course to a time of slavery. The huge waterwheel, some 8m high, is powered by water channelled from the river along an aqueduct and over large wooden paddles.
The wheel in turn drives the machinery, which includes a huge crusher used to extract cane juice. The sugarcane harvested from the 180ha estate is cut and then loaded onto a rickety wooden conveyor that transports it up to the crusher. Workers manhandle the cane, pushing it into the crusher and then reloading it for a second run to ensure all the natural juices have been thoroughly extracted. The residue cane, now pulped and dry, is called bagasse and is used as a fertiliser and mulch for the cane field.
The cane juice is filtered through wicker mats and then ladled by hand along a succession of enormous copper bowls which are heated by a fire below. The juice develops its sugar concentration before being ladled into cooling tanks where it is given time to allow fermentation to begin. Once this has happened, the cane juice is channelled into large tanks where it ferments for about a week before being superheated and distilled. Bottling is a very manual process. The rum is decanted into large plastic drinks coolers and then hand-poured into bottles.
After your tour you will be invited to try some Rivers Rum, either in its neat form or as a blended rum punch. Go steady if you are driving!