Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Westerhall Estate: Touring Grenada part 3

Tasting Area
Another beautiful sun-filled Grenada sky takes shape to start off our morning and final rum distillery tour in Grenada. I am learning rum-filled nights on the Isle of Spice beckon morning sun glasses and the hope for a little more coconut water. However, duty calls! Today, those hopes quickly evaporate and are replaced with the thirst for a different sort of holy water. Alas, I find a a full line of overproof and aged rums before my eyes. Enter Westerhall Estate!

Bird of Paradise
(Heliconia latispatha)

We find Westerhall's convenient roadside location and receive a warm welcome from Damon Du Bois, Marketing Manager of Westerhall Estate. As we make our way around to begin the tour of the Estate, one can't help but notice the beautiful scenery. The scene is tropical paradise, literally. Damon is smartly dressed, personable and ready to talk rum. Walking throughout the grounds of the Estate conjures images of the Roman Forum, except filled with ruins of old rum making equipment from a time past.

Upper Water Wheel
Originally, back in the 1700s, Westerhall Estate's 950 acres were used primarily for growing citrus fruits, cocoa and bananas. At that time it was known as the Grand Bacaye Estate. Later, after its purchase by Sir William John Stone of Dumfrieshire, Scotland, the name changed to an old family name and the focus became more on the growing of sugar cane and rum distillation. Today, as expected, many things have changed. The majority of the land was given to employees upon retiring and only 40 acres remain. Damon tells us that distillation of rum was abandoned due to unfavorable economic and water conditions. However, this was not necessarily a bad thing for Westerhall. Ending all distillation processes and carefully sourcing their base product from Angostura (not uncommon in the rum world today) allowed them to focus more on the process of aging and blending rums. This is where Westerhall and their vision for popularizing aged rums in Grenada is unique. Grenada is traditionally, and still is primarily, a unaged overproof market. Westerhall has been blazing a path for appreciation of more refined, sipping rums beginning with their Westerhall Estate Plantation Rum and more recently their Westerhall Vintage Rum. And, they're doing a nice job of it!

We climb to the top of a hill rising above the facility.
The view is glorious with a light, refreshing breeze.

Westerhall Estate Water View

Lower Water Wheel
Westerhall, at the time when they were actively distilling (pre-1994), harnessed energy in a similar manner to other distilleries on the island; by utilizing natural water sources and a wheel. Water, at one time, from the nearby St. Louis River was used to move the two wheels connected by a cement canal. The upper and lower wheel provided the power to crush citrus and sugar cane respectively. Both of the original wheels can still be seen on the Estate (see photos).

This plant is used to make dyes today as it was by the island's original Amerindian inhabitants.

Achiote Tree
(Bixa orellana)

The last remaining sugar cane plants on the Estate.

Sugar Cane

The site is well manicured and there are many interesting historical remnants from earlier times to explore and contribute to the educational value of the tour.

Old Water Canal

Old Tractor & Water Canal Wall Foundation

Much of the original equipment used in the rum making process still 
exist in addition to the foundation walls for the boiling and fermentation houses. The ruins of the site are nostalgic of a time gone, but not forgotten. In fact, we learn that eventually the Estate will become a Heritage Park under the Westerhall Family Initiative. 

Copper and Iron Heating Cauldrons

Old Copper Pot Stills and Westerhall Museum (background)

A brief stop to smell the flowers on the way to the Museum

Purple Heart
(Tradescantia pallida, Setcreasea purpurea)

Inside the Museum...

Old Bottle Museum Display

Old Bottle Museum Display

The museum displays an interesting collection, much of which is from the late and local journalist, Dr. Alistair Hughes. There is an amazing assortment of vintage pieces including a few bottles no longer available today (see photo above).The Westerhall Plantation, Grand Havana, White Jack and Jack Iron are still made today. Damon tells us the Grand Havana Rum is an export only product originally created for the Cuban Oregi Family in Miami, Florida.


Off to the tasting room...

Damon showing us a good time in the Tasting Room
We taste through all
seven rums in their line as Damon points out important facts about each expression. He tells us, "Rum has a harsh connotation here" among younger social circles today. He describes the view as a parent's drink or something less sophisticated. I take a drink of the White Jack (140 proof) and his words take on a another meaning. His enthusiasm about Westerhall's direction in their local market and personal goal of communicating the idea "rum is fun" is clear. Agreed!

Westerhall Estate Vintage Rum has been receiving accolades every since its release. In fact, many of Westerhall's Rums received awards at the 2012 CAB Awards. Westerhall's Vintage Rum is not a new rum to this site and if you haven't tasted it or want to know more, read about it here.

Westerhall Rum Bus

A sincere thank you to Damon and Westerhall Estate for a fun and interesting tour.

On the way back....

The Hangover Bar is a "must do" rum shop in Grenada and would fit in perfectly after a trip to Westerhall Estate. This local hangout with a great name actually hangs off the side of the cliff looking over the bay. Cold drinks, fun people and a great view. Stop in for a visit next time you're there!

Thank you Grenada!!

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