“Why is the Rum gone!” – Captain Jack Sparrow .
Let there be rum!
A land that springs sugarcane is a land that pours rum, they go hand in hand. And Mauritius oozes of rum! At every corner, every restaurant, every home, and every turn of the road there is rum. In fact, every citizen of that island has their own recipe for rum! It kind of comes with the identity! Any restaurant you go to has their own blend, or house secret recipe for flavoured rum. And all the rum is good, and all the blends are good, and all the flavours are super good, and all the people take pride of their rum creations and want to share it with you. It seems that wherever you go, you are offered tasters of rum, blends, and home flavoured rums. They offer it to you with great pride, and they tell you stories of how they made it, how it is to be had and why it is the best on the island… every single one! Two specific rums do stand out in Mauritius, one is the finer, grade A, Chamarel varieties of rum especially their double distilled and VSOP variety, and the more common yet absolutely delicious River Island rum, which is just the perfect rum for cocktails. Absolutely recommended.
If you are into Rum: whether pure and served as Apéritifs/digestifs, or into the whole Cuba Libre or Mojito style of rum, this is a post you are going to enjoy so read on…
To be fair, Mauritius Rum is very, very tasty. Actually that does not do it justice! Their rum is fabulous. The whole experience of having rum is completely different from that of the typical mass-produced rums that the world has come to know and love. Most rums in Mauritius are similar in experience to cognac – smoother and with less heat, but treated with the same degree of respect – and many products can stand out to a cognac (despite not being of that grade), both in flavour and experience. When in Mauritius, one thing you have to taste (in variety) is the rum and the house blends.
It is very common in Mauritius to meet Rum Connoisseurs! Perhaps the whole island is a country of rum connoisseurs! On the second night in Mauritius, We had gone to the One & Only for a recommended show of local talents. Which by the way is highly entertaining and worth watching. There I had met a lovely gentleman, Monsieur Valayten. As it turned out the guy is a celebrated rum connoisseur, who’s been featured in top French and German gourmet magazines. Valayten is such a sweet spirit, who will sit with you for hours talking about rum, flavouring, and how he discovered his passion. Then he will sit with you for a few more hours telling you how he was discovered by the gourmands. Despite the conversation being slightly lengthy and highly philosophical, the guy does rum, and he knows the thing or two that are very interesting to know about rum, blends and infusions. His Rum infused with orange and clove is exceptional, not a hint different from Grand Marnier, I actually had to ask him repeatedly “Are you sure this is not Grand Marnier?”. He has tens of blends on hand and will offer you a taster of each, all while cracking his unusual jokes, that only he can pull off! He will tell you: “White must become black, even white rum is best when brown!”
Contrary to the rum of refineries (distilleries), agricultural rum is a simpler form of rum. It is made of pure sugarcane juice (single press) that is then fermented and distilled into rum. It is more or less Cachaça (the Brazilian sugarcane liquor). The process of production is mainly pressing sugarcane to obtain the juice which is then left at room temperature to ferment. After the first fermentation yeast is added and the fermented juice is left to ferment further for a few days in room temperature. By now it is a wine, as all the sugar in the juice had converted into alcohol (7%). It is then distilled and bottled.
Agricultural rum is the base liquor that is then used to refine into the different grades of rum. This rum type is very popular in Mauritius, mainly among the community of sugarcane farmers, house rum makers and is also widely used by restaurants in the creation of their house blends/ flavoured rums.
Refined Distilled Rums
Most rum distilleries use cane molasses and/or sugar syrups to produce the rum. This is one of the major differences between refined rums and agricultural rum. However, some distilleries deploy the, the same process of agricultural rum production, where the rum is refined using agricultural rum as base instead of molasses. These distilleries produce excellent quality rums, that are smoother and better flavoured. While the better quality rums go for single press, the cane might be double pressed, depending on the distillery. Of course, the rums made out of single pressing of cane are viewed to be more superior in quality.
Most of these fine distilleries have their own cane plantations, and pride themselves in the fact that their cane is hand picked for maximum juiciness and sugar, suggesting that the base product is of superior quality (the closer the cane is cut from the stem the juicier and sweeter the juice). Once cut and in the refinery, the cane is then crushed to obtain the juice, which then goes through the process of producing the wine (first and second fermentations), otherwise and if molasses is being used, the molasses is fermented instead of the juice. After obtaining the wine it goes through distillation. Distillation is mainly evaporation and condensation of the liquor, where the wine is heated to 100 degrees C to steam the aromatic vapor, which is then condensed and brought back into the liquid.
There are two types of distillations. The first is a continuous distillation, AKA single distillation. The second is discontinuous distillation, AKA double distillation. The method above is the single distillation, which produces 25-30% alcohol. The end result is a dryer liquor that is best used for cocktails and commercial consumption.
The double distilled rum goes through the whole distillation process one more time and is then separated into 2 parts: The head: which is the very strong alcohol, and The Tail which is where the aroma is and contains less alcohol. The head is removed, and the tail goes back to the fermentation tank to further fermented until it contains 70% alcohol. Despite being higher in alcohol, the double distilled rum is smoother and is therefore usually served as Apéritifs/digestifs. This rum is also used for aging, and creating the premium rums including cognac. The double distilled rum is then either bottled and sold as is, or it is flavoured by other liquors or flavourings such as coffee, vanilla and even coconut… Otherwise, the double distilled rum goes to the barrels (usually Oak) for aging. Barrel aged rums are usually darker in colour and are referred to as spiced.
- Gold rum – usually aged in Barrels for 18 months, which explains its woody flavour. This rum is usually served as an apéritif, and sometimes a digestif. It is popularly used in baking or is served as a shot with coffee.
- VSOP – usually a mix of classic (single distilled) and double distilled rums that are then aged in the Barrels for 4 years.
- XO – ages only double distilled rum, for 6 years.
While all Mauritian Rums are excellent, regardless of grade (as even the no grade or agricultural rum is delicious), one rum distillery that really stands out is the Multi-Award Winning Rhumerie de Chamarel. Their collection of rum including the classic, double distilled, flavoured and VSOP are all outstandingly good. The flavours and textures are varied, and each has its own unique characteristic. I must say that even their classic rum is way smoother than any other in the same category. It is really worth trying. The distillery has their own plantation, the canes are handpicked, single pressed into juice, which is then fermented and so on. They do not make their rums like the commercial grade rums from molasses or sugar syrup. In fact, they go through the whole process from scratch, relying on their own produce, following their own old and tested secret recipe. The distillery is still young, less than 6 years old, therefore, we got to see their XO aging barrels, but never got to taste them. However, everything else they produce, is offered for you to taste, including their fabulous VSOP. If you happen to be in Mauritius between July – December (sugarcane season), you will get to see the process of production – from the field to the bottle – when you visit them. However, if like me, you ended up there out of season, you are still taken on the tour but without the actual production bit.
While Mauritius is not a huge rum producer as the Caribbean or Latin America are – not even as well known for rum as its neighbouring La Reunion – Mauritius rum is unique and really tasty. A Mauritius produce worth exploring. The Chamarel distillery is one such very good example of Outstanding Mauritius Rum, and is a place I really recommend you visit when in Mauritius. Besides the tour and the many varieties of rum tasting, the distillery also has a an outstanding restaurant, where you get to have a fabulous five star meal in the cooking of which rum is used (starter to dessert) all the while being enchanted by its gorgeous scenery and serenity. Once done, you can check out the gift shop, and buy the many good rums, and other goodies to take home.
Here are some relative Mauritius Links
Mauritius Travel Posts
- 5 day trip planner to Mauritius
- Mauritius – the sweet culinary adventure & the very definition of mother earth
- Mauritius – the adventure of sugar
- Mauritius – the tea route
- Mauritius – Rums and the Chamarel rum distillery
- Mauritius – tried & tested restaurants & the island’s must eats
- Video Clip of Fun Mauritius
- Video Clip of Culinary Mauritius
Mauritius Recipe Posts
- Shrimp Beignets
- Breadfruit Gratin
- Calamari Shrimp Vindaye (mustard-based curry)
- Ananas au Rhum
- Mini Cinnamon Glazed Vanilla Tea Loaves & Muffins
- Rhum Arrange
- Gingered Crab Samosa