Sunday, December 16, 2012

2nd Annual Tis' the Season for a Holiday Punch Competition & Toy Drive

Mount Gay Black & Mount Gay Eclipse Rums
A night of good cheer began in Liberty's back room with proper punch bowl preparations; and a few drams of rum of course! However, for this event, not just any rum would do. This year's Holiday Punch Toy Drive required none other than Mount Gay Rum - a Bajan Rum from the oldest rum distillery of record. We join forces with our friends from Seattle Gin Society to raise a glass (actually four) of punch to raise money and toys for Toys For Tots. Wait, what? Enjoy four cups of hand-crafted rum and gin punches to help bring a smile to the face of a local area kid this holiday season?! Hell yes! Isn't that what everyone does at holiday parties? In the partying spirit of the lyrical song by Rihanna (who is also from Barbados), I'll drink to that!!

Guests arrive and two gin punches are served. Both of the gins are locally produced. Nice!

Gin Punch 1 & Gin Punch 2

For the gin punch recipes, see Seattle Gin Society Facebook page
The evening was filled with raffles. After a couple cups of gin punch, the mood was set.
Let the raffles begin!

Big Gin t-shirt & The Drunken Botanist

Bajan Rum Punch seems to flow from the punch bowl naturally and the guests line-up to have their glasses garnished with freshly graded nutmeg courtesy of Keith Waldbauer, co-owner of Liberty. Oh yeah!
Rum Punch 1 & Rum Punch 2
 The first rum punch recipe that was used came from our friend, Matthew Robold's (a.k.a. Rumdood) site, where it was mentioned as "outstanding" in a Competition using Mount Gay Rums in 2009.  
Rum Punch 1: Antigua Blue Devil's Punch
by Alex Sadowsky
(single serving)
1.5oz Mount Gay Extra Old Rum
0.5oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
2oz chunks of pineapple
0.5oz lime juice (fresh pressed)
0.5oz grenadine syrup
1 tsp raw sugar (Turbinado or Demerara)
2oz Champagne
Garnish: nutmeg (freshly grated)
Preparation: muddle pineapple, rum and sugar until puree. Stir in lime juice, grenadine and bitters, strain and chill. Add large ice block and garnish each cup with nutmeg prior to serving.


The second rum punch recipe came from a book close to our heart. It's titled, Punch: The Delight (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, written by David Wondrich, one of the world's leading authorities on punches and cocktail history in general. If you haven't a copy in your library, its time you do so...
Rum Punch 2: David Wondrich's Classic Rum and Brandy Punch
(rum and brandy were modified for this event)
(approximately ~ 30 servings)
Peels of 4 lemons
1 cup of raw sugar (Turbinado or Demerara)
8oz lemon juice (fresh pressed)
6oz Mount Gay Black Rum
2oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
40oz cold water
Garnish: nutmeg (freshly grated)
Preparation; Muddle lemons, sugar well and let sit for a few hours. Add and stir in all other ingredients, set to chill. Add in a large ice block and garnish each cup with nutmeg prior to serving.

Mount Gay swag made the raffles a hit. Not to mention each winner received a photograph with the Marines. You know what they say about men in uniform!
Rum Raffle 1: Mount Gay Rum gear
Nice smile Kat!
Captain Peter Brown,  Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Symons, Master Sergeant Jorge E. Castillon
Rum Raffle Winner: Kat Cabell
There were also two silent auctions amidst the roaring punch drinking crowd.
The first was Big Gin...
 Big Gin Bottle and Bag
The second silent auction was Mount Gay Black Rum...
Captain Peter Brown and Master Sergeant Jorge E. Castillon
Silent Auction Winner: Minna Hong
Overall the event was a success! We raised $500 plus 15 toys for local area children, doubling our donation from our event last year.
Marines with the Donations
Captain Peter Brown, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Symons and Master Sergeant Jorge E. Castillon
A big round of applause to everyone who came out to raise a glass for a good cause.
A sincere thank you to the Marines and Toys for Tots organization for their service and dedication to helping give each child a special Christmas every year.

Addendum: Readers note, in reporting fairness, I will mention the winning punch was Gin Punch 2. There was open voting with poker chips provided (and sold). Despite the relatively low turnout among The Rum Collective, many gin drinkers preferred the rum punches. The competition was all in good fun to help support the cause. For all who raised a glass, we all know the Antigua Blue Devil's Punch was superior!
Until Next Year...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

River Antoine Estate: Touring Grenada part 2

Entrance to River Antoine Estate
The road from Grenada's south coast to the River Antoine Estate was long and windy, but worth every hair-pinned curve. Stopping at a rumshop going through the hills for a Stag or Carib Beer was all part of the Rum Bus journey and a brilliant way to start off what turned out to be a rumtastic day! We arrive with the ocean to our right and turn left to witness a page of living history that hasn't changed much in the past few hundred years. Welcome to River Antoine Estate!

River Antoine Estate

River Antoine is the oldest rum factory with a functioning water wheel in the Western Hemisphere!

Tour Guide and Water Wheel
We receive a brilliant tour of the site from our guide, beginning with their famous water wheel. River Antoine Estate began in 1785 and little has changed here. Today, the site has 3 owners and employs 95 local people. Local workers, local brand and the oldest working water wheel, pretty cool eh? It is glorious to see a distillery, operate for the most part, self-sustainable, without electricity or significant oil consumption. Yes, we are talking green, sustainable and organic, case in point. The water wheel was and is still the tool harnessing the energy from water of natural river located about a 1 mile away. The diverted water from the river turns the wheel at 15-17 revolutions/minute creating the mechanical energy necessary to crush the cane. The charm of its 18th century character is something to behold today, just as it was, back in time.

River Antoine Estate Water Wheel

Experience the Glory!
The water wheel's center extends through the wall. The mechanical energy captured from the water wheel is transferred via grooves connected to the adjacent wheel, turning the gears that ultimately end in crushing the sugar cane.

Pure energy!
Water Wheel connection to gear wheel for Cane Crusher
The River Antoine Estate is located in St. Patrick, a parish in the Northeastern part of the island. It encompasses 450 of the original 500 acres of plantation that the Frenchman named Antoine acquired in 1656. At present, 40 of those acres are used for cultivating sugar cane. The most recent sugar cane samplings were planted 20 years ago and consist of a new species variety that yields more juice. The age old methods of cutting sugar cane by hand into bundles and crushing the sugar cane twice using the water wheel's energy alone are remarkable. Due to the limitation of the wheel running only a few hours each day, it takes 3 days to crush the cane.
Cane Crusher

Once the sugar cane is crushed and its juice extracted, the crushed sugar cane, known as Bagasse, fills an old box cart. It is then pushed down a track and emptied to join the other overflowing piles left to dry in the Grenadian Sun.
Cart full of Bagasse
 The Bagasse is not wasted. It serves two important purposes, by providing energy to the Boiler House and mulch for the soil around the plantation.
Full load coming through!

Full cart of Bagasse being pushed by a worker

Holy Bagasse!
Bagasse drying in the Sun
Off to the Boiling House...

The Boiling House is where the fresh pressed sugar cane juice undergoes a process of sequential heating to become sugar cane syrup. It was built in 1785 and last renovated in 1950. The sun dried Bagasse is used as the energy source to fuel the fire (see photo). It is burned underneath the coppers (or rather iron bowls) holding the steaming sugar cane juice. The juice first enters the hottest copper and moves sequentially away from the fire pit underneath it into 3 additional coppers each decreasing in heat. After the juice is heated to a thick syrup it is transferred by pipe into a cooling tank where it cools for one day before being transferred to the fermentation containers.

The aromas of the heated sugar cane juice inside are not to be missed...

Fermentation Container (Cement)
There are eight cement fermentation tanks inside the cement building adjacent to the Boiling House. They allow the sugar cane syrup to ferment in open air with natural yeasts for 8 days; one tank for each day of the fermentation process.
Old Fermenting Vat (Wood)

Just outside we get up close and personal with the dual pot stills!

Pot Still (side view)

Dual Pot Stills
(firewood for heating the stills in the foreground)
The two pot stills we see are more recent and are both made in Kentucky by Vendome. Previously, they were being made by an outfit in the UK. The energy source for the pot stills is local firewood instead of Bagasse due to the heat produced. The wood burns at a higher heat and for a longer period of time. Approximately 300 gallons are made per batch. We are told their present output doesn't even satisfy the local market!
Pot Still
After entering the lower area, we witness the hydrometer, underground collection for bonding, and their hand bottling station. Wow! We then walk to their restaurant bar for a royal River Antoine Rum tasting experience including lunch.
Gotta love quality assurance!!
Rivers Rums & Local Fruits and Spices
We taste Rivers full line with jugs of fresh coconut water for mixing.
We are also invited to taste an unreleased aged expression (see oak barrel in photo). The Rum had been in the cask for approximately a year, weighing in at about 80% ABV.
Nothing short of awesome...even at 160 proof!
River Antoine Estate Barrel Aged Cask Tasting

When talking about rum at River Antoine Estate...
"Don't Say Rum, Say Rivers"
Their punches are delicious and despite my hesitation about ready-to-drink punch mixes, they drink up surprisingly nice over ice. Rivers Royal Grenadian Rhum Punch with Sorrel was lovely!
Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Witnessing the water turn the wheel and workers oversee the sugar cane being cut and crushed on vintage machines is like a living picture out of a history book. They also illustrate the natural beauty of sustainable organic rum by their independence from the limited resources of modern world. Moreover, the mastery of man over his dominion by implementing hard work and intelligence in pursuit of the age old Caribbean craft of rum production, holds a timeless attraction. Rum may be one of mankind's simplest treasures and finest rewards when done right; River Antoine Estate seems to have captured the essence of that for all to see.

River Antoine Estate

Cheers to River Antoine Estate and a big thank you for an incredible guided journey back in time!

 On our way back aboard the rum bus it was necessary to stop off at a few rum shops.
In Grenada, rum shops have a home made spiced rum called "under the counter" and it is literally under the counter. We stopped for a beer and some "under the counter" at The Grand Etang House.
The Grand Etang House

A drink and a view....
 And a couple of monkeys across the road
John Gibbons and Mona Monkey
 Interesting resemblance?
The Mona Monkeys are not native to Grenada, but were brought over on slave ships from Western Africa during the 18th Century.

Mona Monkeys

Stay tuned for the final article in the series on Grenada...coming soon!