Think Rum. Kegs and kegs of it. Like a cultural trademark, each Caribbean nation touts its own rum and fascinating stories to go along.
For those who remember, Nutmeg Restaurant & Bar in St. George's, Grenada, stands alone as the must-go place for arguably the region’s best rum punch. Former owner Denis Ross would never reveal exactly what made his concoction so pronounced. But the many cruise passengers who chose to make it a “two rum punch day” will never forget the experience, as they took their time getting back to the ship.
Let remember the basics: The source of rum is sugar cane, one of the few crops that grow in abundance in the Caribbean. The harvest is boiled down to produce refined sugar. What’s left over is molasses, a dark thick goo with a sugar content of about 55 percent. The molasses is then fermented and distilled to produce a clear liquid.
Finally the liquid is mellowed in oak casks which produce a golden hue. Aging can last 20 years or more, making rum one of the most varied distilled spirits.
Like Barbados and Jamaica, Grenada has multiple home-grown brands. Westerhall Estate, the country’s third oldest distillery, produces a premium blend of rum with eye-catching packaging. Packed with history, Westerhall stands out as a site worth visiting because it is more than a visitors center – it represents a tribute to the Caribbean rum industry.
The waterwheels were decommissioned in the early 1970s, replaced by a small diesel-powered mill which operated until December 1988. At that time Westerhall purchased Morne Delice sugar mill, where all grinding of cane and boiling of cane juice was conducted. The syrup was transported to Westerhall for fermentation and distilling.
Presently the major operation of the company is the blending and bottling of rum, applying the special family skill that has been kept a secret since 1944. The company now produces six brands of rum, with its flagship brand being Westerhall Plantation Rum.
Originally all the rum from the company was sold in bulk containers and casks. The first bottled product was Rum Sipper Strong Rum and this was introduced to the local market in 1974. The product grew steadily as the market accepted the convenience of purchasing rum in bottles rather than in bulk containers.
Visitors are able to see firsthand all the relics and hear explanations of the rum production process. See the artifacts from the Cynthia Hughes Collection which were donated to the estate by the late Mr. Alister Hughes. There is a comprehensive display of memorabilia from Grenada’s early days, including the first taxi which came to the island.
If you only care to explore the town on foot, then enjoy a walk to Nutmeg Restaurant on the Careenage. See if you can survive a “two rum punch day.” The top shelf house specialty, the one Mr. Ross used to serve by the glass with a cherry, is to be remembered and cherished.
When you go
American Airlines offers seasonal non-stop service from Miami to Maurice Bishop International Airport. Caribbean Airlines has connecting service via Trinidad. Many cruise lines include Grenada in Southern Caribbean itineraries.
For additional details on best bets, refer to www.grenadagrenadines.com. This is Grenada’s official travel planning site. Also make sure to visit Dot’s Plaza, not a plaza at all – just a small shop adjacent to Nutmeg Restaurant. Owner Dorothy Patterson and son Garfield exude a true entrepreneurial spirit selling souvenir gift baskets with rum and spice samples. Can’t be beat.