Rum Champions tells the stories of people who’re passionate about rum and how they became a part of the industry. For Lisette Davis, it’s about highlighting the diversity of Grenada culture and the rum that makes the island one of the most beautiful places to visit on Earth.
The Rum Ration caught up with The First Lady of Grenada rum to discuss what makes Grenada special and what it’s like to run a business that combines culture, chocolate and rum into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Rum Ration: Thanks for taking the time to chat about your rum experiences Lisette. For people who’re unfamiliar with Grenada rum, what makes it unique and what are the brands to look out for?
Lisette Davis: Rums from Grenada are quite diverse and there is not one particular style but versions of many different styles that exist in one island which makes it quite unique.
Rivers Rum is at present the most talked about brand. For its unique style pot still robust flavour, production and historical preservation.
Clarkes Court is the most consumed rum on island. It has a diverse portfolio of unaged, aged and flavoured rums. Column still style used in most island cocktails.
Westerhall – Westerhall rum is not distilled on island. Instead they purchase bulk rum and blend on site. The style is light.
Renegade Rum- New kid on the block and will be terroir driven, exciting new rum project using selected cane grown on island.
The Rum Ration: What’s one of your earliest memories of drinking rum and is there a specific point in time when you fell down the rum rabbit hole?
Lisette Davis: Rum is everywhere in Caribbean households so it can be so difficult to pinpoint the exact moment. But one memorable moment that stands out was having a taste of a rum and coke in a Caribbean house party as a young girl.
The Rum Ration: The unique terroir of Grenada must impart so many different characteristics into the rum. How does the terroir differ across each distillery?
Lisette Davis: Grenada has a unique landscape, it is mountainous and has multiple microclimates. Because the island is also volcanic, we boast great terroir.
Renegade will really document the differences in terroir with the rum they are about to release which will create really interesting dialogue within the rum industry. It has the potential to encourage consumers to pay even more attention to source and cane varietals.
The Rum Ration: I think The Rumboat Retreat concept is a brilliant way of introducing people to Grenada culture and the local drinks. What inspired you to create the idea?
Lisette Davis: Being born in Britain and having access through family and traditions into Grenadian and on a more general level Caribbean culture allows me to navigate with more speed and understanding through the islands. The culture is just familiar to me and I genuinely love the creole way of life.
However I also have the insight from living in urban Britain to understand how an island visitor can be overwhelmed when arriving, with all the pre-existing stereotypes in their home that exists of the islands, the culture, the food and drink and the traditions.
I provide a friendly space to debunk a lot of that stereotypes and show the real Grenada to those who really want that experience. We really have fun connecting and introducing visitors to the truth and freedom and abundance of the Grenada/Caribbean rum and culture.
The Rum Ration: As part of The Rumboat Retreat, there’s a rum masterclass experience. Does it solely involve local bottles or does it incorporate rum from other parts of the world?
Lisette Davis: The point pf the rum masterclass is to introduce our guests to rum in general from a global perspective and for those who have a good relationship with rum, we continue the journey.
This education about rum allows the participant to gain enough insight into the industry, history and culture generally. And of course we cover Grenadian rums to give a sense of place.
Being independent and non-bias means that we’re open to honest and discussion regarding rum and the diverse distillation/fermentation practices.
Our philosophy at Rumboat Retreat is enjoy the experience and drink better!
The Rum Ration: I’ve heard you’re also passionate about making chocolate. What makes Grenada chocolate stand out?
Lisette Davis: Grenada produces some damn fine cocoa! The main hybrid is Trinitario “the world’s finest cocoa hybrid.” It has a naturally rich and fruity flavour.
It really is yummy and so different when compared to the over produced forestero and different from criollo. But overall it pairs so well with aged rums.
The Rum Ration: What kind of rum and chocolate collaborations have you done in the past?
Lisette Davis: We feature a well paired rum and chocolate dessert on our dinner menu every night. We also have a perfect pair rum masterclass and literally create chocolate depending on the rums that we are featuring.
In the chocolate studio we have at Rumboat Retreat we create dark, milk and white chocolate using the local bean and literally pair the chocolate to the style of rum of cocktail to show that the perfect pair to chocolate is really rum!
They grow together in the same equatorial environment in similar terroir, they have a similar production journey. It’s so much fun to explore the two together and makes for an ultimately luxurious experience.
The Rum Ration: What are some of the most unusual types of rum that you’ve tried so far?
Lisette Davis: Some of the rhum in Guadeloupe were quite interesting and unusual. I also love some of the cask strength rums out there.
The Rum Ration: Where do you see the future of the Grenada rum industry in five years?
Lisette Davis: I see it in a very unique position, with terroir driven rum, creative play with molasses rums and diverse historical and contemporary methods of production.
Overall, it will be a great place to visit to explore rum and its diversity.
The Rum Ration: If you could change one thing about the rum industry, what would it be and why?
Lisette Davis: I’d like to see even more stories out there about the people behind the product.
What drives them, why they created the product that they did, it would be nice if this story was on the bottle.
I would like to see more humanising of rum, stories from the master blenders etc because rum is exciting and so are the characters behind it, the people behind the science and art. So that we understand more of the thought that went into what we finally are drinking and enjoying.