Renegade Rum Independent Bottler The Story of Renegade Rum – From Independent Bottler to Grenada Distillery

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Renegade Rum distillery opened its doors in the early months of 2022 on the small island nation of Grenada in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Despite being a modern distillery that may appear to have a brief history, the story of Renegade Rum begins more than a decade before and over 4,000 miles from its current home, in a country already famed for its world-class spirits - Scotland. Renegade produces 'terroir-driven' rums, exploring how distinct geography, climate, and soil can create distinct and intriguing spirits. 


The Beginnings

It's not possible to talk about the history of Renegade Rum without first introducing the man (and mind) behind the distillery, Mark Reynier. Born in London, Mark was the son of a wine merchant and spent much of his early career in the wine trade. By the early-1990s his passion had turned to Scotch whisky, a spirit that would change the shape of his career forever. From reviving the dormant Bruichladdich distillery on Islay to founding Waterford distillery in Ireland, Mark describes himself as a 'distilling entrepreneur' and is today considered a legend of the modern whisky industry. 

Bruichladdich Distillery

Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay

Mark's first venture into the whisky trade came in 1994 with the co-founding of Murray McDavid, an independent bottling company pursuing a new approach to bottling single malt Scotch. Murray McDavid was one of the first to experiment with a variety of casks during the maturation process (especially fine wine casks) and pushed forward the practice, now commonplace in the industry. Over the next decade, Mark continued to establish himself as a key figure in the whisky world, however, his independent bottling interests began to broaden to rum, not just Scotch. The Renegade Rum Company was founded in 2005, acting as the rum bottling arm of Murray McDavid, setting out to source and bottle premium, single-estate rums from across the world. 


Renegade Rum Co. Independent Bottlings

During the mid-2000s it was becoming increasingly difficult to source casks of high-quality Scotch whisky for bottling: 'the glory days had gone', as Mark says. However, demand for rum was much less during this period and sourcing well-aged casks from obscure, interesting distilleries became a more appealing venture. 2007 saw the first rum releases from the Renegade Rum Company, comprising four vintage rums from Enmore & Uitvlugt in Guyana, Don José distillery in Panama, and Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

Simply purchasing single casks and bottling the rum contained was not on the agenda for Renegade. In line with Murray McDavid's practices for maturing Scotch, Renegade focused on 'cask enhancement' (i.e. cask finishing) and utilised a variety of interesting cask types that were used for the final stages of each rum's maturation. A particular emphasis was placed on enhancement with fine wine casks, likely influenced by Mark's background in the wine trade, including examples such as: First-Growth Bordeaux casks from the likes of Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion and Château Margaux, alongside Madeira, Port, and Amarone casks. Marrying casks, as opposed to releasing single cask expressions, was also a foundation for Renegade's releases. This not only provided a greater degree of creativity and control over quality but also increased outturn for each release - commonly between 1,000-1,500 bottles. Transparency was key at Renegade, with each bottle providing clear information on the distillery of origin, distillation year, cask maturation, bottling date and age.

Over the course of seven years, Renegade Rum Company released twenty-one independent bottlings, each presented in a distinctive frosted-glass bottle. Despite the success of the releases, 2012 marked the end of Renegade Rum's first chapter, with Rémy Cointreau acquiring Murray McDavid the following year. Managing to retain the Renegade brand, Mark's sights began to look past simply bottling rum and towards distilling the spirit himself. The next decade of Mark's career would culminate in the opening of Renegade Rum distillery in 2022.

Renegade Rum independent bottlings

Selection of early Renegade Rum Company independent releases [Source: Rum Auctioneer]


Grenada - The Home of Renegade Rum Distillery

Following on from his successes at Bruichladdich and Murray McDavid, Mark Reynier deciphered that in order to have full quality control of a spirit, you must make it yourself. He first applied this to whisky, founding Waterford distillery in Ireland in 2014, before transferring this principle to rum. Having spent much of the last decade searching for an already functioning distillery to make his own, Mark realised it was best to start from scratch. The Renegade Rum distillery settled in Grenada and became the newest large-scale rum distillery to be built in the Caribbean for over 15 years. Focusing on producing terroir-driven, single-estate rum, Mark explains why the project came to fruition on this small Caribbean island:  


Serendipity? A chance invitation to a holiday house owned by my colleague’s university friend… I was looking for a ‘quiet corner of the Caribbean’ and was immediately taken by Grenada's lush, verdant, volcanic origin bursting with potential of diverse terroirs. Its mountainous topography, bisected by ravines, gulleys and valleys; the fertile soils and distinct micro-climates make it the perfect home for Renegade Rum’s novel approach to sugarcane and rum production. And, it has to be said, Grenada has a beguiling ambience.


Mark Reynier, Renegade Rum 

Grenada has a population of less than 150,000 and has four operations making rum on the small island today – Westerhall, Rivers Antoine, Clarke's Court, and Renegade Rum.



Saint George, Grenada [Source: Adobe Stock, Studio Barcelona]


Terroir-Driven, Single-Estate Rum

Renegade Rum is milled, distilled, matured, and bottled on Grenada, with all raw materials needed for production grown on the island itself. No additional flavouring, sugar, or colouring is used in their spirit and all rum is distilled as a 'single rum', i.e. distilled at one single distillery. Renegade's production follows the principles of Rhum Agricole, a style of rum crafted from freshly-squeezed sugarcane as opposed to molasses (a by-product of sugar refining that forms the base product of most rums). Rhum Agricole originated in the French Caribbean islands and is produced primarily in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Marie-Galante today. This style of rum has gained somewhat of a cult following in recent years among rum enthusiasts, many believing it showcases the plant's purest flavours. Despite following the traditions of Rhum Agricole, Renegade sets itself apart by focusing on the effect that distinct locations have on the character of the sugarcane grown - a concept known as 'terroir'.

Terroir is a French term that has its roots in the wine-making industry and is used to describe the environmental factors that contribute to producing grapes in a vineyard or in this case sugarcane in cane fields. The concept that distinct geography, climate, and soil will create a distinct and varied crop is now becoming increasingly popular in the spirits world. Renegade Rum have established sugarcane farms in a variety of unique locations and microclimates across Grenada, allowing them to create rum with provenance and individuality.

We asked Mark Reynier what makes terroir so important at Renegade:

This is a wine industry inspiration: to make the most profound rum ever made using the Grand Vin principle – the Renegade Cuvée Concept. To do so we start with the sugarcane and what nurtures its flavour: terroir, the three-dimensional interaction of micro-climate, soils and topography – and Grenada is chock full of those! Producing a terroir-driven rum requires exceptional attention to detail. From identifying the terroirs, themselves, growing our different varieties of sugarcane through to harvesting, milling, fermentation, distillation, maturation and bottling – every aspect of this project has been bespoke-designed and custom-built.


Drawing upon decades of wine knowledge and whisky know-how, Renegade Rum took the opportunity to build a brand-new, modern distillery designed not only to be environmentally compliant, but to distil Grenada’s terroirs field by field: it takes real provenance and the expression of profound natural flavour to the next level. It enables us to build an unprecedented library of maturing rums of integrity and individuality – to bottle individually, or as is the goal, to assemble together to create the ultimate in ground-breaking complexity.  To validate this Cuvée Concept, verify the process and vindicate the spirit we have a bespoke digital traceability system that vouches for the raw material from the field to the bottle in unparalleled transparency – that’s the Renegade bit: we’re running against the grain, the orthodoxy, the status quo.


Mark Reynier, Renegade Rum

Renegade also take full responsibility for the maturation of their rum in Grenada, utilising four main cask types: First Fill American Oak, Virgin American Oak, Premium French Oak, and Vins Doux Naturel (sweet fortified wines). Despite being a new distillery, Renegade has already begun using premium virgin oak casks from the likes of Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky, ex-red wine casks from Bordeaux's famed Château Haut-Brion, and a selection of other experimental casks. All of their spirit is Caribbean-aged at their on-site warehouse in Grenada. 

Sugar cane field

Sugar Cane Field [Source: Adobe Stock, pla2na]


Modern Market & the Rise of Rum 

It's no secret that the landscape of the rum industry is changing, with popularity continuing to grow among drinkers, collectors, and investors across the globe. Similar to the Scotch whisky industry, there is an array of new rum distilleries beginning to appear on the market, from Dark Matter Distillers in Scotland to DropWorks in England, and the recent announcement that Islay-based whisky distillery Kilchoman has plans to build a rum distillery in Barbados. In any crowded marketplace it can become difficult to stand out from the crowd, something Renegade Rum have addressed with not just their ethos, but also their modern, bright, and bold branding - a distinct step away from the Renegade independent bottlings of the late-2000s. We asked Mark Reynier if this branding represents the character of rum produced at the distillery:

The initial releases, the 'this is what we're up to' bottlings, reflected the diversity of the island’s fabric – colours that reflect the locations that can be seen around the island, inspired by farms and villages in question. We didn’t want the usual presentation for this most unconformist of brands. We wanted to express originality of idea, the vibrancy of places and the authenticity of people. Wait 'til you see what’s coming next… no pirates and palm trees I can assure you. Renegade's natural vision is a bold launch-pad for a fresh and deeply-considered new take on terroir in rum, so the branding must reflect the vibrancy, crispness and precision – which is also reflected in the outstanding aroma and flavour notes of Renegade rums.


Mark Reyneir, Renegade Rum

Renegade Rum Bottles

Selection of recent Renegade Rum distillery releases [Source: Rum Auctioneer]

The increase in popularity of rum has directly affected demand on the secondary market in recent years. Renegade Rum releases frequently appear at auction, both as independent bottlings from the Murray McDavid era and as new releases from the Grenada distillery. Although it's difficult to predict how popular Renegade Rum will be in the future, we asked Mark if the rum will be widely available for those looking to try it: 

Rum is indeed finally a growing category as the sector premiumises, moving away from the reliance of commodity production towards distillery brands. It's early days compared to single malt for one. In the grand scheme of things the number of bottles we can bring to market is linked one-to-one to the scale of our own sugarcane production. Every bottling reflects a unique single terroir or assemblage of terroirs at a time. This complex approach and fastidious attention to detail means high-quality Renegade Rum will always be relatively limited.


Mark Reynier, Renegade Rum


Interested in Renegade Rum at auction? View our entire Renegade Rum auction history hereRum Auctioneer's monthly auctions allow you to easily buy or sell rum wherever you are in the world. Our experts in authentication and valuation are available for advice today, fill in our Seller Form to get started on your selling journey.