Grenada Explorer Travel Guide

Clarke's Court Sugar Factory St. George's, Grenada

Clarke's Court Sugar Factory, Grenada

Sun, sea and sand, of course, to name but three of the "s" that come to mind. But let's slip back a letter in the Caribbean alphabet, to one that's just about as well-known: RUM.

Grenada has several distilleries, and each has its own character (and its own product!) But, at this time of year (March - May) in particular, Clarke's Court ("The Sugar Factory") stands out. This is old steam technology, shipped over (somehow) from Scotland in the 1930's, and still very much in use. Sugar cane is cut up by steam-driven knives, conveyed to the presses by a steam-driven conveyor belt, and, after the last drop of juice has been squeezed out of it, it is conveyed (guess how ?) to the boiler, where it is burned to produce more steam. (The boiler has a steam-driven "extractor fan" to make it more efficient).

All this is very well: there are several museums in Europe with huge steam engines on display, and some of them working: but where can you see one still used for the purpose for which it was designed: and making a range of rums, two of which were judged to be among the best in the Caribbean in a 1993 tasting?

Of course, there's more to be seen: the condensers (where cane juice is boiled to syrup, which can be stored until needed, the vast metal vats in which the diluted juice is fermented, the "spin dryer" in which the last drop of useful juice is filtered out from sediment, which is used as fertilizer in the cane fields. It's a clever, self-contained system, where everything is put to some use, and there is precious little waste.

Clarke's Court Sugar Factory, Grenada

It is hot in there, though. Fortunately, after you've seen the distilling apparatus, it's just a short walk to an air-conditioned hospitality centre, where you can sample as many of the rums as you like. The prize winners are "Special Dark" and " Superior Light": but "Old Grog" and "Agricultural" are also well worth a taste. And there's rum punch, and a liqueur, and packs of miniatures that make excellent souvenirs or presents... All these, and a range of other products, can be bought, and the rums in particular are very attractively priced. (Just make sure your driver doesn't join you in the sampling!)

Written by Ian Blaikie - Sunsation Tours

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