I don’t have a lot in common with pirates. Sure, I’ve heave-hoed with the best of them whilst crewing a tall ship, and once made a jolly roger for my canoe, but I’ve always been too much of a landlubber to give the profession any serious thought. Besides, I’m the sort of girl that giggles at the mention of poop deck and have it on good authority that my cries of avast me hearties fall far short of conviction. Despite this however I have perhaps found a soul mate in none other than Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. It seems it isn’t just me who often asks…
Why is the rum always gone?
I’m not really a drinker, but if there’s a tour on offer that involves either red wine or rum, then I’m at the front of the queue! I’d probably be called a scallywag for suggesting that our visit to Mauritius was based purely on the fact we could visit the Rhumerie de Chamarel, but considering we didn’t go for the beaches it’s probably not far off the mark!
Rhumerie de Chamarel
Tucked away in a lush valley in the south-west of Mauritius, La Rhumerie de Chamarel is surrounded by vast sugar cane plantations, floral blooms and exotic fruits. The local area is a tropical inland paradise and home to the famous Seven Coloured Earths and the fairy-tale Chamarel Waterfall, both of which are not far from the Rhumerie. All three can be done in a day, and what better way to finish than with a drop or rum. Or eight!
We joined one of the Rhumerie’s tasting tours, and as we followed our delightful giggly guide around the distillery (I think she’d been sampling some of their own wares) hubbie and I discovered all the different processes involved in turning sugar cane into rum. This is where I could admit I didn’t even know rum was made from sugar cane but that would be far too embarrassing!
The pleasant climate in Mauritius is perfect for growing, and the fertile valleys surrounding the Rhumerie de Chamarel are cloaked in fields of sugar cane, which is freshly picked at dawn each day for harvesting at the distillery. Earlier this year in Laos hubbie and I crushed sugar cane by hand to drink the pure sweet juice, one of the most refreshing drinks ever, but I didn’t realise it could go one stage further and be turned into rum! The fermentation of the cane is a lengthy process and apparently is used for just 5% of the world’s entire rum production. All the distilled rum is stored in stainless steel vats for at least six months to mature (I’d be hopeless at that…far too impatient to wait that long!).
Everyone loves green credentials and a bit of sustainability, so you’ll be pleased to hear that there is no waste at the distillery. Our guide showed us that the bagasse (the fibrous residue left over after the juice has been extracted) is converted into energy, and ash from the flumes is used a fertilizer on the fields. Even the gardens are watered from the steam produced by the factory.
The whole place was alive with the fragrance of flowers, tones of fruity liquors and an overly sweet haze hanging in the air from the sugar cane crushing. My nose didn’t know what had hit it!
The tour took around forty minutes and ended in the much anticipated tasting parlour, full of visitors in varying states of sobriety. Poor hubbie had volunteered to drive so guess who had to do most of the research! It’s tough work.
The tasting stations were set up on gorgeously tactile wooden benches, and with the guide (a different one but just as giggly!) being rather liberal with her measures, we got on with the job of testing the end result. There were eight types of rums and liqueurs, each very different but equally potent. Some of it was enough to burn off your eyebrows (double distilled rum at 44% I’m talking about you!) whilst others were surprisingly moreish. I loved the vanilla rum liqueur, made from natural vanilla pods and pure cane juice. That was only 35% so much more suited to a lightweight like me! Hmmm.
Twenty minutes later I decided I had an answer for Captain Jack Sparrow.
This is why the rum is always gone…it’s blooming delicious!
After we’d drunk our fill we moved on to the last section of the tour – the sweet stuff. The Rhumerie also makes it’s own preserves, so we spent a happy few minutes licking spoonfuls of honeys and jams like little children, and getting just about as sticky!
After the tour we probably should have popped into the restaurant for a bite to soak up some of that rum, but hubbie had his eye on a hammock back at our lodge, and me? Well, being three sheets to the wind, I had some serious yo ho ho’s to practise. Savvy?
Of course I had to visit the boutique before leaving, and being indecisive (and slightly inebriated) I purchased sample bottles of ALL of the rums on offer. Hubbie rolled his eyes, knowing exactly whose suitcase they’d have to travel home in. I’d love to say a few months later they’re all gone, but I do conclude these things taste far better when you’re standing in the sun on a tropical island, surrounded by beauty with sweet flowery fragrances lingering on the breeze. It also helps when your guide’s idea of a ‘taste’ involves an entire shot glass of rum each time. So yes, I still have my entire rum collection.
All I can say is, come on over. This is where the party is at!
The Rhumerie is open between 9.30 and 5.30 Monday to Saturday.
You’ll need a few of your pieces of eight for the tour, it costs €11 per adult.
It does become busy with coach parties between mid-morning and mid afternoon so if you can’t face a tasting first thing after breakfast (where’s your dedication?), the best time is to come in the late afternoon when it is quieter. There were only 4 of us on our tour!
Don’t visit on an empty stomach!