Review: Renegade Pre-Cask Single Farm Origin Rums – Lake Antoine and Hope

Mark Reynier is obsessed with terroir. He was an early proponent of the concept, as it applies to whisky, when he owned Bruichladdich. He then built an entire whisky brand around the idea with Waterford Distillery in Ireland, offering almost tedious levels of production detail for each release. Last fall, Mark applied his obsession with terroir and transparency to an entirely new spirits category, rum. Read on for the deets on these two unaged expressions:

Renegade Rum Distillery, the game-changing terroir-driven rum project based in Grenada, announces the launch of a diverse new selection of four flavorsome Pre-Cask white rums in the United States. An industry-challenging enterprise from Mark Reynier, the man behind the renaissance of Islay’s Bruichladdich single malt whisky and multi-award winning Waterford Whisky, Renegade Rum seeks to explore the effect terroir, cane variety and distillation style has on the flavor of rum. The cane plant, rum’s primary raw ingredient, is the natural source of its flavor. Thus, the land on which it grows and its microclimate determines its character. With these details in mind, Renegade Rum chose to explore the terroirs of Grenada one place, one farm, at a time – to be shared initially as these fresh, vibrant spirits before cask ageing.

Renegade Rum CEO Mark Reynier says, “We are delighted to share more Pre-Cask bottlings for the curious, to explore with us these new realms of natural flavor derived from sugar cane. They are for spirits connoisseurs searching for authenticity and transparency. And as the building blocks of our Renegade Rum, we have discovered they also make for intensely flavored, ultra high-provenance ingredients for the most discerning cocktail enthusiasts. Even though these are among our first distillates, we have been delighted with their award-winning reception and the fact that we have commenced serious discussions around terroir, traceability and transparency in rum, adds Mark. This is a prelude, of course, to our aged rum – and we look forward to sharing our first serious studies with the world this autumn.”

Stay tuned for Mark’s terroir-driven vodka, gin, tequila, and amaro projects. Just kidding. Or am I? Before you start Googling that, let’s check out a pair of Renegade’s Pre-Cask offerings.

Renegade Pre-Cask Single Farm Origin: Lake Antoine Upper Crater Lake South – This rum was distilled on a pot still from the sucrose-rich Purple Tall Boy variety of sugar cane grown in the Woburn clay loam of More Field on the Upper Crater Lake South terroir of Grenada’s Lake Antoine. And it is, hands down, the funkiest rum I have ever encountered. The nose is brooding with dense notes of overripe banana, raw sugar cane, potters clay, and moss. It’s intensely earthy and pungent at first with a meaty funk that’s initially off-putting and only becomes tolerable with time to open in the glass. The palate is dry with notes of green grass, underripe pineapple, and pencil shavings. A cinnamon spice arrives on the finish as things sweeten a tad. There’s still plenty of green veggies and wet earth at the outset, but the conclusion is far more appealing than the opening salvo. This is a challenging rum, not at all designed for the occasional sipper or even cocktail base, but it is rewarding, in a mostly academic way, for those who take their time with it. 100 proof.

Renegade Pre-Cask Single Farm Origin: Hope – Like Waterford’s Single Farm Origin, you can get more information than you’d ever want to know about this rum (and the rest of the Renegade lineup) from a unique code on the label. The CliffsNotes version is that this expression was distilled from Renegade’s oldest sugar cane variety, dubbed Cain, which grows in the Boulders terroir in the south-east of the island. The aroma is again brooding and pungent but less tropical with notes of tinned pear, lemon oil, and apple chips. It’s certainly not as distracting as Lake Antoine, but there’s still a bit of meatiness to it, along with a creamy texture and clean minerality. On the palate, this is a more rounded experience with a gentle sweetness and notes of tart green apple and poached pear. It’s still quite earthy and vegetal but in a more familiar, rhum agricole way. The finish is clean with a bit of sea salt and fading notes of green Jolly Ranchers. It’s still a rum that demands some attention, but I’m far more likely to sip this one or mix it in the right cocktail.

100 proof.

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