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Before we became full time sailors, I never cared all the much for rum.

Unfortunately for me, locally produced, inexpensive rum is where it’s at all over the Caribbean. So, in the spirit of doing as the locals do, I developed a taste for the stuff one island at a time: mojitos in Puerto Rico, painkillers in the BVI, ti punch in the French islands, killer bees in Nevis, and – obviously – ubiquitous rum punches at ramshackle beach bars from Turks & Caicos to Trinidad. My life is very, very hard.

And, since rum has become part of our sailing lives, we made it a point to visit River Antoine Estate, home of the Caribbean’s oldest rum distillery (est. 1785).

Of the numerous winery/distillery/brewery tours I’ve taken in my lifetime, this was by far my favorite! Watching workers process cane grown on the estate into rum, powered entirely by a water wheel, fire, and manpower – no electricity, no computers – was like stepping back in time.

And the rum? Our guide described the Grenadian style as “slightly overproof” by design, meaning they don’t stop distilling until it’s at least 150 proof, which makes it too potent to be carried aboard an airplane legally. It tastes like burning. Basically, it’s potable lighter fluid, steeped in history – also available in fruity rum punch and Grenadian chocolate flavors.

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All architecture and most of the machinery is original

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Giant, river powered waterwheel that drives all of the machinery

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Workers feed sugar cane into the machines that grind and press out the juice

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Boiling pots, set over fires that workers feed by hand. The juice is ladled from one pot to the next by hand. Each pot has a different temperature, based on proximity to the fire under the floor.

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Enormous pot still. The juice is distilled until it’s at least 150 proof.

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