Monday, 17 March 2014

Rum In Mauritius

                “Why is the rum always gone?”

Jack Sparrow perhaps missed an important detail here. He should have first asked where the rum came from... Well, it just spun off from time and perhaps, neglect! 

As a coincidental by-product, Rum shared a lane in the labyrinthine history of Sugar. After Columbus introduced sugarcane (saccharum officinarum) to the West Indies in 1493, it is believed that Brazil, Barbados and Jamaica produced the first (crude) rum of the New World. While sugar was long renowned for its mercantile value, rum was first discovered by the sugar mill operators who noticed that molasses would ferment when mixed with water and left out in the sun. The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. Today still, the Caribbean and Latin American countries have remained the world’s epicenter for rum production.

Reputed across the world for the quality of its sugar, Mauritius has not made an exception to rum. Sugarcane, naval troops, colonization, battles of empires, slavery —Mauritius has, for the most part, been a silent and submissive witness to it all. It should be of no wonder that today, founding upon this heritage, it is thriving to become one of the leading producers. Rum production started on the island nearly 200 years ago. Dr Pierre Charles François Harel was the first person to have developed the concept of local distillation of rum in Mauritius in 1852. Records have it that he used, as sole ingredients, the finest plants from his Pamplemousses Garden Estate to manufacture a purely refined liquor of exclusive quality. “Arrack”, a precursor to rum, a distilled alcoholic drink produced from fermented molasses, had been present in the island since mid-17th century, at the time of the Dutch reign.

What is rum?

Rum is one of the most varied distilled spirits made by fermenting sugar and water, typically of a 35%- 40% alcohol concentration by volume. Where the word ‘rum’ originated from, nobody is sure of as yet. It may have been derived from rumbullion, meaning a great tumult or uproar. Other versions suggest that it comes from rummers, large drinking glasses used by Dutch seamen. Some people believe it is a contraction of the words saccharum, Latin for sugar, or arȏme, French for aroma

The original source of the word itself may be unknown, but today when the name rum is used, it is easy to determine the rum’s place of origin. From Spanish-speaking locales, the word ron is used. Rum that has been aged and is often used for premium products is called ron añejoRhum is used for rums from French-speaking locales, while rhum vieux is an aged French rum.

Rum production

Unlike some other spirits, rum has no defined production methods. It is based on traditional styles which in turn, vary between locations and distillers. In most countries and in Mauritius, rum production typically involves three processes in the following order: fermentation, distillation and aging and blending.


The sugar is fermented from cane juice, concentrated cane juice, or molasses. Depending upon the recipe, the “wash” (cane juice/ molasses and water) is fermented using either cultured yeast or airborne wild yeasts, for a period that can range from 24 hours for lighter rums to several weeks for heavy, full varieties. Understandably, the use of slower-working yeasts causes more esters (a chemical compound produced by the reaction between acids and alcohol) to accumulate during fermentation, allowing for a fuller-tasting rum.


No standard method is used for distillation as well. Some producers use ‘single distillation’, also known as, ‘column distillation’, others may use ‘double distillation’ or work in batches using pot stills. 

Single distillation is a form of fractional distillation and is used to manufacture white rum. Depending upon condensation, various types of rums can be obtained. Pot still output produces fuller-tasting rums than single distillation as it contains more congeners, a by-product formed during the fermentation process. In the double distillation process, the vapors collected a second time can have an alcohol content of 70%, for instance, as those produced by the Rhumerie de Chamarel. The liquid manufactured is then called “coeur de chauffe”, in English, “the heart of the distillation”. As suggested by the name, it is the part of the distillation of sugar cane juice (not molasses) of the best quality.

Aging and blending

The ageing process is what determines the color of the rum. In oak casks, the solution becomes dark whereas in stainless steel tanks, it remains virtually colorless. Most countries require the rum to be aged for at least a year, often 15, but the period can even go beyond 30 years!

The final step is blending. This is done for the flavor and will thus, entirely depend upon preferences.

Industrial (Traditional) Rum and Agricultural Rum (Rhum Agricole)

Mauritius is perhaps the only island that produces both industrial and agricultural rums. The main differences between these two rums lay in the materials used in the production process, though both rums are distilled from a fermented liquid containing sugar from sugarcane plants.

Agricultural rum is made from pure sugarcane juice, a solution called “vesou” while for the distillation and fermentation of industrial rum, molasses—a sweet sticky residue produced after crystallized sugar is extracted from boiled sugarcane juice—are used. 

This specificity in raw materials gives rum a wider bouquet, especially white rum, as in older ones barrel aging tends to reduce the differences. What is interesting to note is that production in rhum agricole distilleries is territorial. Because fresh sugarcane juice is so exposed to oxidation, a rhum agricole distillery can only source from local sugarcanes. 

Molasses based rums, contrarily, have no such restrictions. So, the distilleries can source from anywhere in the world. Industrial rum production is thus more repeatable and guarantees a standardized output. Its variability depends more on the distillation columns and aging processes. When compared to the traditional rum, rhum agricole offers more variety as in addition to the distillation columns and aging processes, its variability also depends upon the land where the sugarcane was cultivated. The fresher the sugarcane juice, the more various the aromas can be. To guarantee its enviable level of quality, most rum distilleries in Mauritius are located inside the sugar estates.

Rum Varieties

Primarily used as mixers or blended with fruit flavors, white rums are generally light-bodied, clear and have a very subtle flavor. If aged in oak casks to create a smooth palate, they are usually filtered to remove any color. 

Golden rums, also called Amber rums or Rhum Paille, are usually medium-bodied. Most have spent several years aging in oak casks, to which they owe their smooth, mellow palates.

Dark rums are traditionally full-bodied, rich, caramel-dominated rums, the best of them being produced in pot stills and usually aged in oak casks for extended periods. The richest of these are consumed straight up.

Spiced rums can be any of the three above categories, infused with spices or fruit flavors. Rum punches are very popular blends of rum and fruit juices.

Añejo and Age-Dated rums (also Rhum Vieux) are aged rums from different vintages or batches that are mixed together to insure a continuity of flavor in brands of Rum from year to year. Some aged Rums will give age statements stating the youngest Rum in the blend (e.g., 10-year-old Rum contains a blend of Rums that are at least 10 years old). 

The Flamboyant Oak Aged rum (7 years), for example, is a fantastic sipping rum with a big, smooth, well-rounded nose and palate, aged in Bourbon casks. Golden in color due to oak maturation, the rum has no artificially added colors.

Overproof (or high-proof) Rum
Often used as a float or dash in cocktails, this potent rum of 75% pure alcohol must be diluted before use. Otherwise, it can be dangerous to the human body. Due to its high alcoholic content, it should never be used in cooking or near an open flame. Safest is to let your bartender prepare your cocktail. For connoisseurs, overproof rum is simply awesome, it burns perfectly well, is punchy, lively, full of flavor, and adds a dimension to cocktails no other spirit can—you just have to treat it with the respect that it deserves!

You can also find this type of rum in Mauritius. For instance, the Green Island Overproof 75.5% rum is a blend of up to 5 year old, oak aged rums which have undergone charcoal filtration to remove the straw color gained from the ageing process.


Rummy for your tummy. Trust me, you do like rum. The fact is that there is such a huge and diverse category of rums that you are sure to find at least one out there with your name on it. 

Fortunately, in Mauritius, the rum is here to stay!

1 comment:

  1. Brand and quality has been confirmed, what we can see and can recognize proven.