Moonshine, History And Woodman: Exploring The Rum Culture Of Grenada

Rum and Caribbean culture go hand in hand, with every island having its own unique culture that’s sprung up around drinking, spirit production and lifestyle choices. A country that I find of particular interest in regards to rum is Grenada, as everyday life on the island is as distinctive as the rum that’s produced.

From moonshining to potent batches of overproof grog, let’s take a closer look at the rum culture of Grenada.

A picture of Grenada.

A tiny island with a lot to say 

The 10th smallest country in the world, Grenada is a microcosm of the Caribbean: golden beaches, clear waters, abundant wildlife and damn good drinking opportunities. 

While the island’s main claim to fame is the production of nutmeg, there’s plenty of rum stories that surround the place. This is connected to the two main distillers Grenada Distillers Ltd and River Antoine, yet there’s also a strong influence of moonshining.

In The Curious Bartender’s Rum Revolution, Tristan Stephenson estimates that there are over 50 illegal stills hidden away in the hills of Grenada and this potent stuff is called babash, or ‘mountain dew.’ 

Another part of this subculture is the fact that sex sells and that spiced rum is known as ‘woodman.’ This type of rum could be infused with all manner of ingredients, from borbondi bark to centipedes. You can imagine why people would want to drink this stuff for the sexual potency it brings on.

Clarke's Court rum is from Grenada.

A tale of two distilleries 

Focusing on the two main rum distillers, both have interesting backstories. Grenada Distillers started life as the Grenada Sugar Factory in 1937, a powerhouse of sugar production that remained strong for decades and produced brands such as Red Neck Rum and the famous Clarke’s Court.

In 1982, the factory was privatised and renamed Grenada Distillers to coincide with the elimination of sugar manufacturing. 

The River Antoine Distillery is much older and was first established in 1785. What’s interesting about River Antoine is that the distillery has retained its old-school practices and is one of only two rum distilleries in the world to be powered by a water wheel.

The rum that’s produced here is powerful, with some bottles bearing a minimum ABV of 75%. The famous Rivers brand is so fiery that to sell it overseas, it’s been easier to promote the standard variety at 69% ABV.

In terms of rum, this is only a snapshot of what Grenada offers to the world. But it’s also a reminder of how such a small place can produce something big and bold. From the people to the production methods, Grenada is a destination well worth exploring.

Lisette Davis is a champion of Grenada rum and the culture of the island. Be sure to check out her interview with The Rum Ration to see what makes the rum so special.

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