Looking forward by looking back
The obscure cult-legend of Grenada: River Antoine Royal Grenadian rum. What is there to say to fans and where to begin for a layman?
The distillery was established in 1785. A bit later than big names like Mount Gay (the longest still operating distillery in the world, 1703), Appleton estate (1749) and Worthy Park (1740’s). But contrary to all these distilleries, Antoine stayed in the 18th century in all its pre-industrial glory or backwardness, however you see it.
Everything about the distillery is old. The cane is pressed by a water powered cane mill, the stills are heated by locally scavenged wood. There’s no controlling equipment whatsoever, so the rum is never quite the same, in flavour profile or ABV. Therefore, the percentage mentioned on the bottle is just a general guideline. There are 2 -let’s call them- expressions; one for local consumption, which is bottled with at an ABV of at least 75% and one for export (of which there’s very little) which is bottled at around 69% (nice).
The distillery has earned it cult status with rum fanatics (more specifically with the hogo-niche) through its wild fermentation, wildly inefficient yet very flavourful distillation and the whole mystique surrounding this rum.
This is only a short summary based on The CocktailWonk’s article of what the distillery actually is. It’s a great read, a deep dive that’s at once educational and easy-reading. Read it! Now!
The bottle in my possession, I got from Spirit Academy. They recently dropped a small amount of bottles, again thanks to Gargano, who is understandably a fan of the distillery. So getting it to Europe in a small quantity was his latest pet project.
The bottle’s aesthetic (if you can call it that) is very artisanal and authentic or cheap and Lidl/Aldi-ish, however you see it.
I’m running out of ways to say something is clear. So you know… it’s … it’s clear, and pretty see through… yeah…
A very deep and heavy nose presents itself straight out of the glass. Almost nothing like the funky Jamaican rums. Comparable to Clairin, but heavier and with less grassy notes.
This smells more like briny sardines that’ve been laid in the grass and dirt for a little while. And then put into their tin can, the salt still quite present. At times the alcohol really comes out with a whiff of eyewatering pungency; If your nose is dear to you, don’t put it to far in the glass as I just did, twice (what’s that saying about a donkey and a rock?).
After some breathing the rum reveals some lighter notes; grass, some varnish and tropical fruits come up. Quite the varying nose.
Yes, sweet Mary mother of Jesus and all that’s holy !!! This is something to careful with. It’s like drinking gasoline that’s on fire, then eating a cigarette. Yet I want to go straight back for another sip. The second and third sip are still challenging, hot and spicy. To be honest, the sheer power of it all never really subsides.
The full 69% is just hardly drinkable and enjoyable for any mere mortal.
Here’s my attempt at some actual tasting notes: the palate is very dry, leaning on sour. The briny and oily nose extends through the taste as well, though the fish doesn’t accompany it. More varnish and spice are along for the ride.
The finish is more of the same. A warm hearth filled with peat remains for minutes. Other than that there are trace amounts of the varnish and spice are also present.
This really is the rum equivalent of the exorcist. All the while you’re drinking it, you’re thinking “What the hell am I doing?” and you’re thinking over all of your lives decisions. Yet it still manages to intrigue, it still challenges you to tame it. Even though you know you’ll never truly be able to handle and understand it completely, you’re still chasing that ultimate Nirvana of conquering the beast. Actually; I’ll change my comparison, it’s probably like a bad heroin habit.
Personally (and by now, unsurprisingly) I like it. It’s challenging, interesting and nothing like I’ve ever drunk. This being said, it really is a manic assault on the senses and the mouth as a whole and I believe the novice of it all can wear of pretty fast and it can get boringly brutish. That’s why I’ll give it two scores. One for all you crazy psychopaths (of which I’m partly one), and one for regular people. I can only recommend giving it a try, if you find one out there in the wild. You might love it, you might hate it. But it’ll blow you out of the water regardless