Sooner or later, during your holidays at any hotel in Reunion Island, you will have the opportunity to get a taste of rum or have a drink that will be sure to contain some. Ever since its invention in the sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean Islands in the 17th century, the distillation of rum slowly propagated among the colonies with the migration of the crews.
Just like sugar cane, the production of rum is closely linked to the history of French colonies like Reunion Island. The first stills, the machines used to distill sugarcane juice to obtain rum, were introduced in Reunion Island in 1704. In 1815, Charles Desbassayns built the most sophisticated sugar cane mill of the island in the region of Chaudron. Ever since that time, the inhabitants produce rum from a by-product of the local sugar industry: molasses.
How rum is produced in Reunion Island
Rum is produced by either the distillation of sugar cane juice to obtain agricultural rum or by the distillation of fermented molasses to obtain industrial rum. The product can then be stored for eighteen months inside oak barrels to obtain gold rum or can be stored in stainless steel tanks for three months to obtain white rum. Before bottling, the products are diluted with water to reduce their alcohol content.
The distilleries of Reunion Island
Nowadays, only three rum distilleries remain operational in Reunion Island: the Savanna distillery, the Rivière du Mat distillery and the Isautier distillery. All three produce the most famous brand of the island: Rhum Charrette. The other well-known brands of these distilleries are: Savanna rums, which is a brand that consists of more than 12 different rums, the Rivière du Mât, Isautier, Chatel, Varangues and Belle-Vue rums.
During your holidays in Reunion Island, you will have the opportunity to visit those distilleries, as they often organize tours of their factories where you can learn everything about the history and the production methods of rum. There is also a museum dedicated to rum in Reunion Island: “La Saga du Rhum”.
Rum is consumed in several ways in Reunion Island: it can be drunk as-is or can be mixed in cocktails like TI-Punch, Cuba Libre, Daiquiris, Pina-Coladas or Mojitos. The inhabitants of Reunion Island also make “Rhum Arrangé”, where fruits, plants, spices of herbs are left to macerate in the rum for some time before its consumption. Most distilleries in Reunion Island sell “Rhum Arrangé” and punches.