Uncommon Photo-Op: A Quiet Visit to River Antoine Estate, Grenada
While in Grenada last month, I took my brother’s advice and trekked up to the northern coast of the island to visit the River Antoine Estate, the Caribbean’s most historic rum distillery where the famed Rivers Rum is still produced in the same manner as it always has since the late-1700s. Loving history and rum as much as I do, I just had to witness the world’s most enduring rum-making tradition first hand. Only problem was, my visit fell on a Saturday, a day of rest for the folks at Rivers.
Now, you might think this scheduling snafu might better qualify this visit for my recent post highlighting a few other mistakes I made in Grenada, but it’s actually quite interesting to visit River Antoine while it sleeps.
The workers you’d normally find toiling in the rum’s production are instead relaxed, playing dominoes and enjoying the spoils of their labor. They’re happy to greet you and share a little bit about life in Grenada, working at the Estate and the rum itself. On regular working days, many of these guys would be sweating it out in here:
This is the Boiling House, where the fresh cane juice is filtered and collected before being processed into syrup. As noted by Patrick in point #4 in his story on River Antoine, all the work that’s done in this room toward producing Rivers Rum is done by hand. Those long sticks with silver pans at the ends are the ladles used to move the boiling cane juice from one pot to the next until the right level of sweetness is achieved. Then the liquid is ladled, again by hand, into a holding tank where it cools for two days before being transferred to fermentation tanks in the next room.
It must be an amazing process to witness, but I also enjoyed getting a bit more up-close to the pots and handling the ladles, no doubt no-no’s during production.
Walking around, I think I probably took closer note of things I would’ve otherwise missed, or not paid as much attention to during a group tour, like this artistic mess of wood…
Or the notch cut out of this building near the entrance…
Over the years, as the trucks that came calling at the distillery grew larger and wider, the corner of the building was slowly whittled away. It’s still a fairly tight squeeze for larger vehicles, but better to improvise than tear down the whole building, right?
All in all, I really enjoyed visiting River Antoine in its quiet state. It was definitely more museum than distillery that day, but the tasting at the end made it clear that the good times are still flowing here just as they always have for more than two centuries…