Today we will do something we haven’t done in a long time: We will taste only a single rum. The reason is trivial though: I just don’t have a suitable companion.
Grenada’s River Antoine is one of those few mysterious rum distilleries – but not because there isn’t enough information on them, no, it is because you typically cannot get the rum outside the island as they don’t have the capacity to produce more than what’s demanded domestically.
Production is extremely artisanal. The locally grown, organic sugar cane is cut by hand, the juice is extraced by crushing the cane with a waterwheel-powered cane crusher and the bagasse is loaded onto a wooden hand cart to be either used for heating the boilin cladrons (see below) or to be dumped around the facility to dry for reusage as a fertilizer. The squeezed cane juice “moves” (read, is moved by hand) through a sequence of boiling caldrons with each subsequent caldron being hotter than the one before. This results in a thicker and thicker syrup each time, which is then fermented without added yeasts for up to ten days, depending on the climate. Distillation takes place in one of two Vendome pot stills, which are heated by local hardwood. In this step, the temperature is controlled by the amount of wood added. After distillation, the abv is measured in a seperate room where the tax authority keeps it under lock until the required documentation has been filed. By the way, since the water for the waterwheel is diverted from a local river, it is only allowed to work for a few hours per day depending on if it’s dry or rainy season. But it’s probably best to see this in moving pictures. What is not to love???
Many thanks to Niki for the sample!
River Antoine Rivers Royale (69%): Finally! Nose: Very heavy and intense with fruity notes (citrus, pineapple) and acidic cosmetics (close to nail polish remover but not as sharp). Its very ester-heavy. Also there’s absolutely no indication of 69% – that’s as rare as it gets with unaged rums. With some more time I can pick out tangerine, juicy oranges and sweet as well as normal lemons. Really, really nice! Palate: Uh, this is a different animal. While we get the initial fruity notes (mostly citrus again) and esters I now also get boiled ham, pineapple, some of the acidic nuances and also plenty of smoky elements. Toast Hawaii prepared in a smoker perhaps, with a pinch of salt on top. It is a rather weird and unique combination and while I am not the biggest fan it surely has its place. Oh yeah, what we didn’t mention so far is what we already anticipated during the nosing phase: the rum is extremely smooth, waaay smother than it should be at this abv! Finish: Quite long and nice but basically a slightly less smoky version of the palate. So what do we make out of this? I am extremely happy that I finally got to try it but that is not to say that I absolutely needed to. Good juice and my inner rum nerd would like to give a few points on top but let’s judge the product as it is. All I am wondering about right now is if they will ever do aged expressions… (77/100)