By Everett Potter
There are many compelling reasons to visit the French island of Martinique, including its black- and white-sand beaches, delicious Creole cuisine and magical rainforests, but chief among them, for me, is its fine rum.
Martinique boasts a number of excellent distilleries that produce rhum agricole, which means that the alcohol is made from freshly crushed sugarcane, rather than the molasses that most rum distillers use. The white rums, which tend to be floral and fruity, are great in punches. And the rhums vieux, matured in oak casks, can be sipped neat and are full of tropical flavors like coffee, cocoa, nutmeg and cloves.
So if you make the trip, check out these four distilleries for a tour and, of course, a tasting.
HABITATION CLÉMENT, LE FRANÇOIS
Located on one of the island’s most beautiful plantations, you can see the original Clément distillery, visit the family’s historic home (pictured above) and wander the grounds that are now a botanical garden. You’ll want to linger in the modern tasting room with a glass of the Rhum Clément 10 Ans d’Age. You can also stop by its sister brand Rhum J.M on the other side of the island.
DISTILLERIE DEPAZ, SAINT-PIERRE
The Depaz estate sits at the base of the volcanic Mount Pelée and dates back to 1651. (It was completely destroyed by an eruption in 1902 and then rebuilt by the lone surviving family member.) The distillery’s stellar views over the Caribbean are as agreeable as its signature Blue Cane Amber Rhum.
HABITATION SAINT-ETIENNE, GROS-MORNE
Situated on the property of a 19th-century sugar refinery, the Saint-Etienne estate is centered around a traditional plantation house. While alcohol is no longer distilled here, the rum is aged on the premises. Try the HSE Single Cask, which has delightful cognac notes.
MUSÉE DU RHUM SAINT-JAMES, SAINTE-MARIE
Saint James has been producing liquor since 1765, and it is today home to a rum museum. You’ll find exhibitions of antique signage, bottles and equipment. A separate building houses giant vintage copper stills. Sample the Saint James Hors d’Age, a blend of spirits that are up to 10 years old.
Visit Martinique.org for more information