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You know those siblings you occasionally meet who seem to have nothing in common whatsoever? The pair who look completely different, have different faces, different voices, different interests and abilities. The pair it’s difficult to believe are even siblings at all? That’s New Bacolet and Old Bacolet.
They are our ultimate examples of just how extreme the terroirs of Grenada can be, even with barely anything to separate them in terms of distance. In the case of Old and New Bacolet, that separation is nothing but a slender stream – no more than a yard or so across – and a screen of bamboo. But that’s enough.
They are opposites in every respect; sitting in a coastal valley in the south-east of the island, just before the coastline turns northward. The valley runs east to west, and to the east the ridges taper into a funnel that the wild Atlantic winds rush down. That’s important – we’ll come back to that.
Old Bacolet commands the whole of the valley floor. Expansive, its ordered fields of cane forming perfect squares like mighty legions (and every bit as well ordered; a joy to farm). New Bacolet, meanwhile, climbs in a trio of natural amphitheatres up the slopes of the south facing ridge. Its fields look for all the world like the great vineyards of Burgundy, or perhaps Côte Rôtie in the Northern Rhône.
Aspects therefore are utterly different. Whilst Old Bacolet is almost preternaturally flat, New Bacolet is small and tight and painfully steep. Manual harvesting is essential. It’s serious work. And where Old Bacolet revels in the rising sun passing almost directly over it, basking in sunlight right the way through the day, New Bacolet, turned by the angle of the ridge away from the sun’s rays and screened further by that thick bamboo, sees a fraction as much.
The aspect has vital ramifications for soil and water retention too. Being a slope, New Bacolet’s soils are shallow; there’s a great deal of run-off, and indeed the small, flat terroir of New Bacolet that sits at the bottom of the primary amphitheatre is almost marshy in its lushness. Old Bacolet meanwhile boasts a deep, rich, brown earth soil. It takes on vast quantities of water, but with all that depth can hold incredible amounts without becoming waterlogged, maintaining reserves all the way through the dry season, much like similarly flat, lush Pearls to the North (Old Bacolet’s spiritual cousin in many respects).
Unlike Pearls, however, and indeed unlike New Bacolet, Old Bacolet is windy. Seriously windy. Indeed besides the upper slopes of Lake Antoine to the North, Old Bacolet might just be our windiest farm. That might seem surprising, since there are several farms just as close to the coast as New Bacolet – if not closer – but these farms are almost ubiquitously protected from the wind by screens of mangrove or other vegetation.
The valley’s natural funnel turns the whole of Old Bacolet into a wind tunnel. Sprawled out across the valley from ridge to ridge, unprotected by trees or mangrove, every part of Old Bacolet is exposed. Stand in Old Bacolet at almost any time of year and you will be surrounded by an orchestra of rattling cane. This is actually a boon in a couple of ways. It can help deal with certain cane pests and reduce excess moisture on the cane – Old Bacolet is an especially healthy farm – whilst the salt winds, as they do for our sister distillery, Waterford Distillery’s barley on Ireland’s south coast, influence the very flavours of the cane itself.
New Bacolet – belligerently different once again – is protected from this wind by the same environmental factors that shield it from sunlight; aspect and bamboo screen. Indeed standing in either of the two smaller amphitheatres, where the bamboo thicket draws closer in, the air seems heavier, moister, almost eerily still. But for glimpses of Old Bacolet through the small gaps in the bamboo you would think you were somewhere else entirely.
Given such extraordinary differences in their terroir it’s no wonder that the flavours and textures we extract from these farms in rum sit on almost opposite ends of the spectrum. New Bacolet is all about concentration, elegance, precision. Lighter of body than its sister farm; a sophisticated, perhaps cerebral spirit – pure cane rum’s answer to those Burgundian or Northern Rhône wines whose vineyards its amphitheatres so vividly recall.
Extending the wine analogy, Old Bacolet could perhaps be said to be our Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A broad, bold, mouthfilling spirit; the bass rumble of thunder to New Bacolet’s flash of lightening. With Pearls and perhaps with certain terroirs of Hope, it represents our fullest-bodied, burliest spirit; even distilled on column it retains its sheer weight of flavour and breadth of expression.
To quote Distillery Manager Devon: ‘if I compare New Bacolet to Old Bacolet – Old Bacolet has that boldness. When you taste Old Bacolet it puts you on the edge of your chair, you’re still waiting, thinking ‘what’s going to come next?’ New Bacolet, when you taste it, you’re sitting on the edge of your chair and then you just relax back into it. It’s really elegant, refined. I call it a couch drink!’
This pair of utterly mismatched farms is a Holy Grail to us as we look to extract rum’s most natural flavour from pure cane juice and Grenadian terroir. Not only the ultimate duo for curious drinkers to compare and contrast, but two farms with absolute clarity and individuality of voice.
It’s no wonder, with Old Bacolet’s bass rumble and New Bacolet’s alto lilt, that the pair dovetail so beautifully when we bring their spirits together; indeed they are two of the three spirits assembled in our first unaged Cuvée Nova, their unique melodies intertwining atop Moya’s floral base. Siblings may not always be much alike. But when it comes to terroir-driven cane juice rum, that’s exactly what we’re hoping for.
Renegade Rum Distillery
Meadows Lane, Conference,
St. Andrews, Grenada, West Indies
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