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One of the great joys and wonders of wine is how starkly some terroirs assert themselves, even by comparison with other vineyards separated sometimes by no more than a fence.
Think of the famous vineyard of Montrachet, on Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune. The untrained eye might struggle to ascertain why this one Grand Cru vineyard should be of greater quality than the four excellent Grand Crus that surround it, yet those differences are there, and they amount to perhaps the greatest white wine on earth.
They are there in the slightly different consistency of the soil — less pebbly than the vineyard above, less clay than that below. They are there in the drainage it enjoys through its slope, more even, for instance, than Chevalier Montrachet, higher up. In the perfect, long sunlight exposure its vines are offered. And in its position on the mid-slope, better drained than lower sites but more protected from exposure to wind than the vines higher up the ridge.
Step away from Montrachet in any direction and the conditions become slightly, but perceptibly less perfect for producing the Chardonnay grape.
There are countless others to draw on within the world of wine. The conical hill of Hermitage, rising up from the flat lands around it, instantly improving the concentration and length of its Syrah compared to that of the lower ground. The step from the deep, warm, well-drained gravels of Margaux or Pauillac into the thicker, colder, more water-retaining clay of lesser appellations that instantly affects the ripeness Cabernet Sauvignon can achieve.
That immediacy of terroir distinction is there in rum, too, if one is curious enough to go looking for it. It is why we have chosen to distil farm by farm, terroir by terroir, in search of the disparate flavours that might be found through these fluctuations of place, even within a surprisingly small area.
Perhaps the most dramatic comparison of two farms comes through the pair of Bacolets — Old Bacolet and New Bacolet — along the south coast. Old Bacolet, flatter, more water-retaining, New Bacolet drained by its steep natural amphitheatre. Separated by no more than a road, yet the flavours they bring to a rum are utterly distinct, even to the untrained palate.
TERROIRS OF NEW BACOLET AND OLD BACOLET FARM
Indeed Grenada’s volcanic geology and dramatic topography is so extreme that, even within a single farm, there will be several different terroirs, each with clear individual characteristics of soil, aspect and microclimate. Their cane will grow wholly differently, and under wholly different conditions: you can literally see it in the canefield. So it is no surprise that they inflect themselves utterly differently in the distillery.
A perfect example comes from Lake Antoine: the largest of our farms, located on the north east coast of the island, subject to the fierce ocean winds of the Atlantic.
TERROIRS OF LAKE ANTOINE
Whilst the soil, a heavy Woburn Clay, is the same for all nine of the terroirs found at Lake Antoine, the other aspects that form their characteristics are markedly different. For Lake Antoine is the crater lake of a large extinct volcano, one which has given the soil its characteristic ashy richness.
The farm sprawls its way around the ocean-facing side of the volcano, all terroirs exposed to the often-uncompromising elements. But we have chosen to plant cane on both the upper and lower slopes of Lake Antoine, and have found the resultant spirits to be markedly different.
Although the lower slopes are not as flat as the farm at Old Bacolet, they are nonetheless far less steep either than New Bacolet or than the fields planted on the higher slopes, just above. That thick, rich soil soaks up the runoff water from the higher ground, whilst the position lower down means they are less exposed to the harshest excesses of Atlantic wind.
It is too early yet to be sure — to specifically attribute the fluctuations we are finding with any one quirk of the dozens that amount to an individual terroir’s sum total character. What we can be certain of is that those differences are there in the glass.
You don’t just have to take our word for it, either. We recently bottled Pre-Cask Lake Antoine rum both from the Upper and Lower slopes of the volcano. Both the same variety, Purple Tallboy, both fermented in precisely the same, controlled way and both distilled in our double retort Adam still. Yet put them beside each other, as we have done so many times at the distillery, and as curious drinkers at Whisky Live Paris were able to do, and the differences become marked.
In Head Distiller Devon’s tasting notes he talks of finding floral, fruity flavours from the Lower Slopes, greener, grassier flavours and a particularly textural mouthfeel from the Upper. Drinkers in Paris remarked on the elegance and approachability of the Lower, and the bold, rumbustious flavour and textural richness of the Upper. Opinions were evenly split when it came to naming a favourite, but were universal in assessing the two as unmistakeably different.
LAKE ANTOINE UPPER CRATER LAKE PRE-CASK CANE RUM
LAKE ANTOINE LOWER CRATER LAKE PRE-CASK CANE RUM
This is the true joy and glory of terroir and encapsulates in a nutshell why we have chosen to harvest not only farm by farm, but field by field, drilling as deeply as we can into the micro-nuances of terroir and the individuality of flavours that spring from it. Not only to pull those differences out, but to use them, ultimately, as building blocks in complex cuvées. Curious drinkers have already taken the opportunity to not only compare and contrast the two Pre-Cask Lake Antoines but to blend the pair, and discover the additional layers of flavour and texture to be unearthed. Imagine, then, the possibilities to be found by layering the flavours we have gleaned by separately distilling several dozens of individual terroirs from twelve Single Farm Origins, then maturing them in a profile of super-premium oak.
Ultimately it is through terroir; through exploiting the distinct building blocks of flavour it provides, that we hope to achieve greatest profundity. A rum even more complex than the greatest single malt whisky.
Renegade Rum Distillery
Meadows Lane, Conference,
St. Andrews, Grenada, West Indies
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