Wanna Kill Devil? Drink Rum!

Our ode to rum. This post is not a history lesson in rum, because no-one REALLY knows EXACTLY when rum was first produced nor where the name originated from. Is it pirate juice, or rumfustian, romani, kill-devil, demon water, medicine or something else, or was it first created in the east, or west, maybe somewhere south, or to fend off the cold on the north pole? Really very complicated stuff, that’s why for us it’s simple. We love it. Loooove! We drink it. Neat. Well, as neat as possible, or until one little sip starts killing all those devils gathered in your throat 😬. A very complex and high-spirited (pun intended) liquid in a glass. RUM. 😍 That’s why we were quite excited to visit a distillery or two in Mauritius to try some homely spirits. Okay, so we’re also avid collectors…enough said.

Distillerie de Labourdonnais (formerly known as Rhumerie des Mascareignes)

One word. Magnificent! Impressive! Amazeballs! So who’s counting…eh!? We were there in June, winter time in Mauritius, when sugar cane harvesting starts, and also the time when probably most of the distilleries are not in full production. We were lucky to have a chat with the charming and very knowledgable Master Distiller of Labourdonnais, Mr. Dassa, who explained how they produce their rum. We really appreciate the time he took to answer our questions too. Let’s just say we were so impressed that we had to declare our extra bottles at the customs of our local airport. 🤗 Why buy only one? 😜 We also sat down at the rum tasting bar to sample a few of their flavoured and classic rums. We loved the one with lemongrass, what else, but to be honest, they all tasted good. Yes, we sipped all of them! After that we sat down to eat at the restaurant right next door where we had the most delicious fresh salmon. We went back to eat there a few days later for a buffet of local food. Hmmm…

The Chateau de Labourdonnais

On the large and impressive grounds is a large nineteenth century mansion/chateau that has been restored to its full glory of years gone by. This is how the better half lived in the late 1850’s. As soon as you step through the door it’s like going back in time, the wooden floors and polished furniture, the murals on the walls and the glassware. The mansion is smaller than it looks, and some rooms have modern arty stuff on display (for sale) but both verandas, upstairs and downstairs, encircling the whole house are huge. From here one has a wide view the well maintained gardens with many old and imposing trees. It was very peaceful when we visited, but also busy due to some preparations for an event. We took the time to sit down and watch the videos about the history, the renovation of the property and also about the distillery. There is an entrance fee to visit the Chateau. The price includes the rum tasting. To visit the restaurant and gift shop no entrance fee is charged.

Labourdonnais Gardens and Orchards

There is a vanilla plantation, an orchard with many tropical fruit trees like passion fruit, mango, guavas, and lots of plants and trees. Some trees are very old, like more than one hundred years old, old. Wow! We meandered through the gardens and were delightfully surprised to find a few very big tortoises lazing in the sun. We were accompanied by a butterfly or two and many happy chirping birds. It was worth the visit!

As we walked towards our car we were met by this magnificent rainbow, the fourth one so far. An awesome end to a fantastic day!

Labourdonnais Gardens and Orchards

 

La Rhumerie de Chamarel

This was the furthest we travelled from our hotel in the north of the country and it was also the most adventurous, especially on the way back. This rum distillery lies south west of Mauritius and it took us about two hours to get there. The scenery was lovely though the weather was not so nice, with more bouts of rain than sunshine, and windy. It was also a bit confusing to find the distillery and we thought we were lost when it appeared as we were driving up the hilly road. The La Rhumerie de Chamarel seems to sit on top of a hill surrounded by acres of sugar cane fields which they cultivate themselves. From July they start harvesting, by hand, and the sugar cane is delivered to the distillery within four hours. We had a guided tour, in English, which is included in the entrance fee, together with a rum tasting. The tour was very short, just about twenty minutes. Unfortunately the rum producing plant was shut down, but we did get to see all the equipment they use. There was also a little video for more information if needed.

After a short walk from the main gate you arrive at this imposing entrance (below). The whole area inside is not big, sometimes overcrowded, but the stone buildings are nice.

There are about four rum tasting stations where each group gathers/stands around to sip from nine varieties of their agricole rums. The coconut one was delicious! We wanted to sample some of their special varieties, like the VO (very old) and single barrel, so had to pay an extra fee for this pleasure. Was it worth it? No comment. We bought their coffee…

Before leaving we had the most delumptious meal at their restaurant. Wow, the portions were generous and the highlight was dessert, Chamarel Gold Rum Baba. The best baba to papa and mama ever! A “doughnut” swimming in rum with fresh cream and home-made vanilla ice cream hugging it can get some hormones out of retirement. Shoo! After that glorious attack on our taste buds, we took a walk in the garden outside, then headed on the looooong road back home…but first with two more stopovers…

 

Sucre – The Sugar Thing

The main thing you notice when driving around Mauritius is that, as far as the eye can see, the landscape is densely green. A green jungle filled with lots and lots of sugar cane using up about eighty five percent of arable land on the island. Left, right, front and back, there they are, with white flowery feather-like tops dancing in the wind. It is winter and there can be a lot of wind. Can be…whoo-oosh! The flowers are beautiful and only appear at this time of the year because they’re ready to be harvested. Yep, that’s nature for you. You struggle to grow up, then just when you all sweet and pretty, you get the chop. Sugar cane is actually a type of grass, just fatter and juicier. The island is known for its sugar industry, and also for its rum. That’s where we tumbled in, right into the rum door…uhm…many rum doors 😝 but more about that later. Below left, sugar cane by day and right by sunset.

At first we wanted to learn more about this delicious plant, so we visited the Sugar Museum in Pamplemousses, called the “L’Aventure du Sucre”. This is definitely a MUST DO MUST SEE. There’s a guided tour where you will learn about the history of the island, hear interesting details about the sugar industry and get to nipple on a few rums. Jumping for joy…oops! There’s also a restaurant to ease those hunger pangs. Before the tour we took a walk around the grounds (pics below) and then had some lunch where we chose to eat the Mauritian food on offer. It was very tasty.

The tour, as mentioned, was very interesting. Amazing is also that nothing of the plant is thrown away. They use every bit of it, for juice, sugar, fertilizer, rum, bio ethanol and the fibres, the so called “bagasse” are burnt to generate at least sixty percent of the electricity needed to power up the whole island. Here you can also taste some of the many varieties of sugar produced (see glass bottles). Don’t mind the pink cow…

A rum tasting can be done after the tour as an optional event for an extra price. All the rums and liqueurs on offer for the tasting including those for sale are made by the Grays Distilling Ltd distillery and marketed under the brand name “New Grove”. We would have liked to do a distillery tour but it was not possible from their side. The tasting includes only rums from the standard range with very little poured into a small glass. The more exclusive single and double cask bottlings are not offered and cannot be purchased at the shop either. Other than rum and liqueurs there are also sugar goodies, souvenirs, textiles and some arts and crafts that can be bought if you wish.

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We also loved the paintings on the walls on some of their buildings.

We ended off our day with a “not-really-there” sunset at our resort that was still pretty, and lots of dancing afterwards. Yep, we did the twist again 🎶

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