Sunday, December 6, 2015

River Antoine Rum Distillery


From Cane to Rum the Old Fashioned Way

The River Antoine Rum Distillery has been in business since 1785. The machinery is powered by the River Antoine via this giant water wheel which is said to be over 150 years old. We were lucky enough on our tour to actually see it in operation.
I made a little video (click here) of the water wheel in operation.

Antique Water Powered Crushing Mill
Bundles of Stalks Going to Crusher
 
The Crusher
 
The bundled canes are put through the crusher a couple of times until all the juice is extracted. The juice runs down to the boiler room through a tiled trough. The dried canes are now called bagasse. They are wheeled out of the crushing room to dry further in the sun and then used to heat and concentrate the juice and also to fertilize the fields.
 
Here is a video of the crusher in action.  (Click here)
Burning the Bagasse Under the Boiler Room
 
The furnace below the boiler room is fueled by the dried bagasse. It produces the gentle heat needed to concentrate and sweeten the juice. In the boiler room above the furnace the juice is moved from pan to pan. The first pan is furthest from the fire and each pan gets closer to the fire until the last one is directly over the fire. The juice is moved from pan to pan with giant long-handled ladles... 

The Boiler Room
 
until it is finally scooped into a trough which carries it to the fermentation vats.
Ladling the Juice
After fermenting in large concrete vats for almost two weeks, the fermented juice is distilled in these copper stills from Louisville, Kentucky and stored until bottled by hand. The whole process is very simple, organic, and labor intensive.
The Still
Here are the finished products. They make a 150 proof rum which is too strong to even export, but they produce such a small volume that it's all consumed here on the island anyway. They also make a weaker version (which is allowed on the airplanes) for the tourists to take home. They also make two rum punches; one lemon flavored and the other kind of chocolate flavored. We tasted them all, but we didn't buy any. I guess we are not really into rum, but the tour was fascinating. 
Rivers Rum
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