Rum Terroirs: Mark Reynier of Renegade & His Pre Cask Releases

The newly-built Renegade Distillery in Grenada.

Photo provided

The newly-built Renegade Distillery in Grenada, Caribbean

The newly-built Renegade Distillery in Grenada.

Photo provided

Falstaff: How did your previous projects prepare you for Renegade? 

Mark Reynier: Influenced by my family’s involvement in fine wine import since 1919, I spent my initial career in wine bottling and distribution, wholesaling then retailing and owning a grand cru vineyard. That was precisely mirrored by the second half of my career in whisky, for which my interest began when single malt accidentally took off after the 1982 financial crash, following the bulk stock sell-off which resulted in the sector growth we see today. As those original stocks, mostly from the 1960s, dried up, I sought to buy Bruichladdich and its stocks. I also searched for an alternative spirit and found rum appeared to offer a similar rarity and maturity to those earlier malts. These were the original Renegade bottlings of a decade ago. Intrigued, I started a long search to buy a rum distillery before realising I had to build my own.

Why Grenada? 

While the island was once famed for sugarcane, most agricultural land had reverted to bush following independence and the collapse of sugar and refineries. We had a blank canvas to reintroduce genetically ‘clean’ cane ideally adapted to Grenada’s volcanic terroirs.

What did you plant?

With the expertise of Booker Tate’s Duncan Butler, we re-propagated six Caribbean varieties, developed in the 1950s. From our nursery, we planted 200 acres on 12 farms along the east coast including remnants of once-powerful estates. Each farm is subdivided into terroirs, two to four per farm, subdivided into fields of a day’s harvest. That is our base unit: one acre field of cane per day milled, fermented, and distilled separately creating a library of taste profiles either presented on their own or combined for complexity.

Who funded Renegade and what challenges did you encounter?

The same brave band of private UK shareholders who shared my vision in Waterford and even Bruichladdich before. My son, Ruari, meanwhile, has a hat-trick of distillery christenings, filling the first barrel of spirit in Islay, Ireland and Grenada. As for challenges, in the Caribbean the term ‘investor fatigue’ applies to islanders who tire of foreign investors promising the earth only to walk away. Either you’re mad or a crook. It required patience to navigate bureaucracy. Then there was the moment we ran out of money during construction. And then Covid left us and expert engineers unable to travel.

What is the goal for Renegade? 

The assemblage of the component, terroir-derived spirits maturing in premium oak – each contributing its own personality to make the most flavoursome rum possible. We will share our discoveries, our exploration in terroir, variety, fermentations, distilling techniques and casks. We share the traceability and transparency that sustains how Renegade Rum is made via the ‘CaneCode’ on each label leading to 10 pages of information.

TASTING NOTES

“Before the majority went into casks, we released a few bottles of the first new spirit to show what we had been up to these last five years,’ says Reynier. ‘Unrefined, rough and ready, these allow rum fans to compare and contrast pure cane juice spirit by terroir or distillation technique.”

93 POINTS

  • Renegade Rum Dunfermline Farm Column Still Pre Cask

Variety and terroir as per the Dunfermline pot still, though this time distilled in column still. Slightly more reserved nose with fresh banana and steamed pineapple then a hint of crème anglaise on the viscous palate. 700ml, 50% ABV, £54.95/$71.36

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  • Old Bacolet Pot Still Pre Cask

Particularly lush cane from the appropriately named Cain variety on the southern coast. Overripe plantain followed by a rich, gras texture binding long lived notes of nutmeg, buttered popcorn and Banoffee pie. 700ml. 50% ABV, £54.95/$71.36

  • Renegade Dunfermline Pot Still Pre Cask

From the Lacalome Red sugarcane variety on the mountains of St. Andrew on the north-east coast. In aroma, a twist of black pepper ground over mango, fresh vanilla, then cane juice on its zesty palate. 700ml, 50% ABV, £54.95/$71.36

 

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