Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where The Rum Comes From pt. 5

Entering the weathered distillery complex I was met by the sight of two towering, wood-fired copper 'pot stills'. You'd expect to see these sorts of antiques inside a museum, if they could fit. In fact, thanks to an attendant who was stoking the blazing furnaces with carefully chosen hunks of trees, they were happily cooking away. As I circled the distilling shed there was the cane mill, powered by a gigantic cast-iron waterwheel -the product of some long-gone English foundry. Workers fed a steady stream of cane into a wooden chute leading up to the press (yeah, watch those hands). With those infernal blazes and 'White Zombie' (1931) technology, a night tour would be very atmospheric, but perhaps dangerous. Afterwards, the 'bagasse' is dumped into a heap by a worker continuously pushing a cart back and forth along a short length of elevated tracks -supposedly Grenada's shortest, and only 'railroad' (unless you count the few yards of rail that the mace drying platforms roll on like giant drawers from underneath the Dougaldston Spice Boucan.) The cane juice flows along an open sluice into a building where it is concentrated in a succession of huge open vats, then fermented, again in the open air. The fermented 'wash' is then piped to those massive, prehistoric looking copper stills. "It takes 10 days from cane to rum" explained the guide, with all the product going out unaged or 'white' except for an excellent 36 proof bottled punch that's reminiscent of the Angostura version from Trinidad.