Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 Caribbean Alcohol Beverage Awards

The 2012 Caribbean Alcohol Beverage (CAB) Awards have been released after some days of anxiously waiting. This year's Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival in Grenada came and went earlier this month, almost as fast as Kirani James. If you didn't make it, take a look at a few of the highlights here. Included in the festival is the CAB Tasting Competition. A distinguished list of judges from all around the world entered a closed door room for a full day of evaluating rum. These folks take their rum seriously. Inside, there was the usual judges' banter, albeit with an uninhibited tongue. Tough job! The blind tasting unfolded and after rating each of the 56 Rums on appearance, aroma, taste, finish and overall impression, they left the room without casualties. Let's take a look at what the judges scored highest. Rum roll please...

2012 Caribbean Alcohol Beverage (CAB) Tasting Competition Results

White Rum:
Gold - Westerhall 12 Degrees Rum
Silver - Clarke's Court Superior White Rum
Bronze - Cuello Caribbean White Rum
Overproof Rum:
Gold - Clarke's Court Pure White Rum
Silver - River Antoine Special Aged Rum
Bronze - Westerhall White Jack Rum
Flavoured Rum:
Gold - Cuello Caribbean Coconut Rum
Silver - Bois Bande Rum
Bronze - Clarke's Court Rum Sorrel
Brown/Gold Rum:
Gold - Westerhall Plantation Rum
Silver - Myers Dark Rum
Bronze - Tommy Bahamas Gold Rum
Aged Rum (5 - 9 years):
Gold - Clarke's Court #37 Rum
Silver - Borgoe 8yr Rum
Bronze - Cockspur Old Gold Rum
Aged Rum (10 - 14 years):
Gold - Mount Gay Extra Old Rum
Silver - Westerhall Vintage Rum
Bronze - Cockspur VSOR Rum
Aged Rum (15 years and over):
Gold - El Dorado 15yr Rum
Silver - Borgoe 15yr Rum
Bronze - Zacapa 15yr Rum

Congratulations to all the winners!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Clarke's Court Rum Distillery: Touring Grenada

Inside Clarke's Court Rum Distillery, Grenada Distillers Ltd.
The journey to visit Clarke's Court was in proper style; beginning and ending with rum. The morning consisted of judging 56 rums for the 2012 Caribbean Alcohol Beverage (CAB) Tasting Competition. Not a bad way to start the day! Let's just say, the engine was primed and any inhibitions for drinking more rum dissolved after the final session of overproof. Onward to the Woodlands Valley for a tour of Clarke's Court Rum Distillery!

All aboard the Rum Bus!
Clarke's Court Rum Bus

Clarke's Court Rum Distillery
A blue sky was the backdrop for my first look at the Factory. The Grenada Sugar Factory operation dates back to 1937, however the site records indicate having an active mill since the 18th Century. Before the name Clarke's Court Rum was coined, their rums went by the name Tradewinds and Red Neck. Today it is Grenada's largest distillery. Inside the gated fence, the industrial complex is clean and well maintained with a "Hospitality Center" a few steps away. I already like where this is going...

The old scale used for weighing the sugar cane.

Weighing Scale (dated 1935)

 Sugar cane was last ground at Clarke's Court in 2003.

Old Sugar Cane Press & Conveyor Belt System 

Michael Kirton, Special Projects Manager
Mill House
Our tour was led by none other than Michael Kirton, Special Projects Manager at Grenada Distillers Limited (GDL). We walk outside looking, asking questions about what appear to vestigial remnants of an earlier time (see photos above). He tells us the days of obtaining and crushing local grown sugar cane as the base product for their rum ended in 2003 due to limited sugar cane production on the island. Mr. Ruel Edwards, General Manager, noted that in 1957, approximately 27,000 tons of sugar cane were produced in Grenada. By 2003, that number dropped to roughly 1,300 tons. To meet market demands, both domestic and future growth in export, change became necessary. Like many distilleries throughout the Caribbean today, Clarke's Court distills locally using imported molasses. The question of "why" sugar cane production declined is another topic altogether, but the impact that certain US subsidies has had on many Caribbean nations' economies and agricultural environment comes to mind.

Old Sugar Cane Crusher Roller

Distillation and fermentation processes are not active during our tour due to regular maintenance, but they fire up the steam engine wheel anway. Awesome!
Steam Engine Wheel
We breach the upper level of the Factory.

Old Juice Heaters
Fermentation and distillation take up the majority of the year from January through September, leaving time for both maintenance and time to meet increasing demand. There are five active tanks holding 7,000 imperial gallons each for fermentation processes.

Fermentation Tank

Old Liming Tanks

Although the Juice Heaters and Liming Tanks have not been used since 2003, one can imagine the sight of all of these components harmoniously functioning together to clarify the crushed cane juice as the truckloads of sugar cane rolled in.
Where it comes out Rum!
Column Stills
 Off to the Hospitality Center...a.k.a., Nick's Barrel House!!
Yours truly at Nick's Barrel House



Tasting Bar
Nick's Barrel House
The full line of rums at the bar for tasting is hospitality indeed. In front of the bar one can sit and enjoy in finished seats, once rum barrels and look across at their display (see photo below). Oh, did I mention, they sell and ship them? Getting to know each of the expressions in their line and talk with the staff is what it's all about. Many of their award winning rums are good value, including their recently released aged rum, Clarke's Court #37. Yum!
Take a seat and marinate in an old rum barrel!

Finished Rum Barrels
Nick's Barrel House
A closing note on the potency of Grenada's Rum...
Rum was being produced in Grenada during the 18th century. Indeed, it played a significant role during the 1795 Fedon Rebellion as a means of rendering British troops unfit for battle.
--Ruel Edwards, General Manager, Clarke's Court
Time to buy some Rum!
Retail Display
Nick's Barrel House
 Cheers to Mr. Michael Kirton and the staff at Clarke's Court for a wonderful tour!
On the way back we stopped off at Le Phare Bleu's Marina for a waterside drink...
Le Phare Bleu Marina
Grenada and its views are stunning!

View from Le Phare Bleu Marina

Readers stay tuned for the next article on rum in Grenada...

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival: Enter Grenada

Kim & Ashley (SummerCrew Grenada)
2012 Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival
The enjoyment of rum, in all its styles and flavors, may be best described by the phrase, 'variety is the spice of life'. After two years in Barbados, the land where rum, as we know it, originated, the festival moves forward further exploring the geography of its namesake. If you missed it last year, find the recap here. This year, the 3rd Annual Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival set down in Grenada to celebrate the isle of spice. Just back from the scene, I return to share a few of the highlights, baring that uncut footage for all to see. Witness photos of the Festival, Grenada's lush vegetation, charming historic distilleries and endless rumshops in the upcoming articles. If you haven't had the opportunity to visit yet, read up and rum on!

Entering the outside area one can hear the rythmic pulse of different drums setting the stage for the opening ceremony. Tivoli African Drummers pour out the beats, so turn it up!


Dr. Williams and Dr. George Vincent, Minister of Tourism
2012 Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival
We welcome the Honorable George Vincent Ph.D., Minister of Tourism with the hot Grenada sun to our backs. He talks of Grenada, the tourism sector and a little about his earlier endulgences with Grenadian Rum. Nice!  It's 83 degrees in the shade and the warm Caribbean air is making me thirsty. No worries, for the outside area of the festival is comprised of beer stands and I stand with a refreshing Caybrew Beer in hand. As the crowd begins to arrive, an enchanting dance of the calabash kicks off the festival. Life didn't suck one bit...nope, not at all!

Calabash Dance 
dance: Ms. Brenda Millington
music: Tivoli African Drummers & Dance Troupe


Festive Rum Barrels
(Carribean Rum & Beer Festival and Grenada's colors)
It was time for some more fun so, naturally, it was necessary to make my way towards the rum. Inside the Grenada Cultural Center, booths of rum lined the hall. There were some old favorites, exciting new discoveries and Grenada was well represented. Checking out the displays of each brand while sipping some amazing rums is half the fun. Meeting and talking "rum" with locals and other attendees as well as notable rum enthusiasts is the other part. Over the next two days, good rum-soaked times were had whether you took notes at rum seminars from some notable authorites, like Luis Ayala of Got Rum? and Carl Kanto from Demerara Distillers or just marinate outside chillaxin' with a rum punch taking it all in. Here is a short pictorial of the rum scene...

River Antoine Estate, where sugar cane is still crushed using original methods of human toil and a water driven wheel... 

River Antoine Estate Rum

Mount Gay 1703? Yes please!

Mount Gay Rum

Clarke's Court's cane-tastic booth was impressive and showcased their full line, including
Clarke's Court #37...yum!

Clarke's Court Rum
Rum Punch O'Clock!
River Antoine Estate Rum
A few good years...both paired with chocolate.
Angostura 1919 Rum
Oh, the memories!
Angostura 1824 Rum
Notable authorities on both the Caribbean and Rum...getting all RumFire'd up.
Ya' mon!

Steve Bennett (Uncommon Caribbean) and Dave Russell (Rum Gallery)
Gaining strength with Iron Jack, making the right choice with 12 Degrees and winning awards with their aged Vintage Rum, Westhall Estate has style...

Westerhall Rum

Straight from Suriname and catching lots of attention from the crowds...

Keep you eyes out for this line folks!

Borgoe Rum

The Mount Gay sign read, "Once you go black...", so, why not?
I did and was inclined to return for seconds.

Mount Gay Rum
It was another fun year indeed...
Long live the Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival!
View of Grand Anse Beach from Mount Cinnamon
A few blocks away from the Festival lies Grand Anse Beach. Not to be missed, this 2 mile long white sandy haven has something for everyone, night or day (I walked it more than twice just to be certain). Whether you are grabbing a beer at The Owl, partying at Umbrella's or dining like a king at Coconut Beach, the water is a few feet away and view is stunning. I hope to see this little strip of paradise again soon!