These are complex spirits from the island of Grenada
By Steven Sandor | June 28, 2023
Grenada is a tiny Caribbean nation. The island is just 34 kilometres wide and 19 kilometres from north to south. Its population is around 125,000.
But, despite its diminutive size, Grenada has numerous climate zones, the product of many elevation changes. Many of the farms are kissed by salty ocean air. There is volcanic soil. So, for entrepreneur and wine and spirits expert Mark Reynier, this was the perfect place to launch a rum distillery that made the spirit the old-fashioned way, using sugar cane straight from the plantations rather than molasses.
Renegade Cane Rum was launched in 2015; and it took years to convince farmers on the island to plant sugar cane; the island is know for spices, but the sugar-cane trade stopped in the 1980s. And, once the cane was planted, there was some trial-and-error time needed — some varieties did not do well in Grenada. Some simply didn’t like the conditions, and others were more prone to disease. Reintroducing a crop to a region is not as easy as one might think.
Now, Renegade’s rum is trickling onto Alberta shelves, with the aged New Bacolet and Pearls varieties coming to Edmonton. Each of Renegade’s bottles comes with a code that can be searched, so the buyer can learn when the cane was harvested and when the batch was distilled. And each of Renegade’s brands represents a rum that has been single-sourced from a specific farm, so each has different flavour characteristics. Like wine grapes carry their terroire, so does sugar cane. And that’s why Grenada, with its varying climates in a small, small area — is a great place for Reynier’s rum experiment. These are complex drinks — for example, the Pearls variety carries an almost earthy tone, followed by sweetness, then spice. It clings to your palate.
Jen Nurse, Renegade’s marketing and sustainability communications officer, was in Edmonton last week to lead a tasting of five different Renegade offerings. Sadly, the Hope variety, which is sourced from cane grown close to ocean, is not yet available here. (Because that’s the one I liked the best). It has a beginning like dark chocolate with chili, and then finish of salt caramel. The salt-and-sweet, Nurse said, comes from the fact the sugar cane was regularly subjected to ocean mist before it was cut down.
“Within a farm, you can have two, if not three or four, terroires,” said Nurse.
She said the five rums on offer were just “the starting point” for a distillery that’s trying to change the public’s perception of rum as something that’s sweet and simple and is best in fruity cocktails.
“It’s a legacy project,” she said. “It’s a marathon. Definitely not a sprint.”
Renegade’s rum is currently available at Bin 104 Fine Wine and Spirits, and will be coming to more Edmonton stores, soon.
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