Updated: Oct 28, 2020
We are not, what you would call "big" drinkers, but we do enjoy quality, whether it be a delicious bottle of wine or a snifter of premium scotch. My other half holds quality rum in very high regard, and we often seek out new flavours when travelling.
When we decided to visit Mauritius, we ensured we would stop at a local rum distiller, The Rhumerie de Chamarel, so to tour their facility, view their method of making rum, and sample (and hopefully buy) their unique blends.
Most rum around the world is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar refining. In 1811, when France began to make sugar from sugar beets, sugar prices dropped and the factories in the French Caribbean could not survive solely on sugar production. The fresh cane juice was now available for fermenting and distilling into rum.
Cane juice rums from Mauritius are labeled AOC because French and European law allowed a designation called "Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée" (protected designation of origin) for rums produced on the island that meet certain local standards. Cane juice rums are usually distilled to 70% alcohol (140 proof) and then watered down to 40–55% (80–110 proof) when bottled. It is aged as little as a few months or up to a few years. After three years of aging in oak barrels, it may be called old rum.
In order to visit a few places in the area, we had hired a driver from our hotel, the LUX Le Morne, for an afternoon. Knowing what we wanted, he advised other locations we could visit instead, and brought us to a different rum distillery. The Rhumerie de Saint Aubin is located on a large plot of land in southern Mauritius, where there have been manufacturing sugar cane since 1918, with only a small shop to welcome tourists.
Everyone on site was welcoming and happy to see us. We were given a short tour of the shop, an explanation on how the rum is made and the opportunity to sample their flavoured rums. They were different and tasty, but not something that we felt we needed to bring home with us. The only rum we did not get the opportunity to taste was the very first bottle our tour guide pointed out. It was their single cask extra old (aged 15 years), Maison du Rhum, made from pure Mauritius sugar cane, created to commemorate the bicentenary of the Moulin de Saint Aubin.
Aged since 2003, in oak barrels imported from Scotland, then bottled in December 2018 for a limited series of 309 bottles. After the explanation, we immediately said we would take it and our tour guide laughed. Once she knew we were serious, she was elated and explained that we were the first to purchase one from the shop. We realized just how surprising this was to them after the tour and tasting, when we approached the cashier. A handful of employees from the shop and distillery had come to stand near the cashier to "see" the couple buying the bottle. It was funny but a little unnerving. Is this what celebrities feel like?
On our way home, at the Mauritius airport, we picked up a small bottle of souvenir rum, with the glass shaped in such a way that a dodo bird appears inside. We had no intention of drinking it, but loved the adorable design. Since it was duty free shopping, it was carried in a sealed bag and placed through the scanners along with luggage and bags. We happened to catch a glimpse of the inspectors screen as the bottle went through. Like a clip from a bad medical show, it looked like someone had swallowed a dodo bird. The shape was clearly visible on the x-ray scan.
Safe and sound at home, we celebrated with a taste of our latest edition to our special rum collection. Rum made from sugar cane juice (at least this one) has a thinner texture than one made from molasses. It's flavouring leans more towards a scotch than a traditional rum, perhaps due to the barrels, but is delicious in it's own way.