Mauritius’ entry into the rum game started way back in the 1600s, when sugarcane – from which the drink is distilled – followed the Dutch onto the island. Back then, the production of sugarcane was extremely low-key, so it was a couple hundred years before the first distillery opened and the rum started to flow. But it did so under the watchful eye of the Brits who ruled the land during this time. Sugar was a massive commodity, so there was a ban on using raw sugarcane to distil rum – after all, the white stuff was far more profitable than plonk. It’s why, today, there are two types of the firewater – traditional and agricultural.
Traditional rum is distilled from molasses, which is a by-product of making sugar. And, because it doesn’t use precious sugarcane itself, it’s the most popular method of producing the drink. Like the more famous rums of the Caribbean, Mauritius’ traditional rum comes in a variety of grades, from light to dark, depending on how long they’re fermented. You’ve even got super-strong overproof varieties, as well as spiced rums – hardly surprising, as Mauritius was a stop-off point during the ancient spice trade.
Then there’s agricultural rum, which, although technically prohibited for hundreds of years, has helped Mauritius make its mark on the rum-totting world. It’s made from the fermented juice of the sugarcane, and is of a brilliantly high quality. The ban on this type of production was fully lifted in 2006, and, since then, big distilleries and small-scale artisanal bottlers have been experimenting with other Mauritian crops. Spices, like vanilla, and fruits, including passion fruit and coconut, are often infused in bottles of the stuff, creating delicious blends that are unique to the Indian Ocean island.
After the ban was lifted in 2006, it wasn’t long before the rest of the world caught a whiff of Mauritian rum. And, when it comes to the stuff, there’s no better approval than that of the world’s first and only Global Rum Ambassador, Ian Burrell. The man with the best job on the planet was so impressed with Mauritius’ export that he popped up an international rum festival on the island in 2013, to coincide with his own UK RumFest, which returns for its 10th year on the 22nd and 23rd of October 2016. Burrell made an appearance on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch last weekend, and used the screen time to plug some of the fantastic Mauritian booze. He served a feel-good cocktail of Green Island Spiced Gold blended with pumpkin puree and lemon juice to guests including Made in Chelsea’s Mark and Binky, and Tameka Empson, of EastEnders and Strictly Come Dancing fame.
The Riu Creole in Le Morne is a great base to start your hunt for Mauritian rum. From here, you can take a 20-minute drive up into the hills to find the Rhumerie de Chamarel – one of Mauritius’ finest distilleries. The candy-coloured buildings of the distillery lie in a natural valley, and are surrounded by a carpet of jade-green sugarcane fields. Take a tour of the grounds and sample the goods, before deciding on a bottle to take home. And, on the way back, you can call in at a couple of Chamarel’s other highlights – the scenic Chamarel Waterfalls, and the famous Seven Coloured Earths. Plus, if you knock back one too many samplers on your day out, the Riu Creole’s sea-view pool and tranquil spa will help clear your head.
Ready for rum?
Take a look at our holidays to Mauritius here, and click here to find out why the island is big with adventure-lovers.
Author: Lee Dasilva
The Hotel Riu Creole is on a chalk-white beach, and boasts three restaurants and a luxury spa.
With its lagoon-side setting and small, sandy beach, TUI BLUE Lagoon Mauritius is a real tropical hideaway.
An infinity pool, thatched beach huts and an adults-only tag make the Ambre Resort and Spa one of the best hotels on Mauritius’ east coast.
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