Uncommon Attraction: The Rhum Distilleries of Marie-Galante
The wide varieties of rums and the historic distilleries where they’ve been produced for centuries provide as good a pair of reasons to visit the Caribbean as any. Devotees of the noble spirit regularly make pilgrimages to The Birthplace of Rum (Barbados), The Rum Capital of the World (Martinique), Puerto Rico, St. Croix, etc. to revel in the heritage and rich tradition of the region’s most enduring industry.
All of these sun-kissed shores have much to offer anyone who appreciates the rum-maker’s art, but arguably none are more uncommon than the sandy ones pictured above.
This is Marie-Galante. Never heard of it? No worries. I was born and raised a few islands up the island chain and I never knew much about it ’til a few years ago. Even with the little I did learn initially, I never would’ve guessed that they produce any rum here, much less three different brands!
Before we get into the rum, (actually, it’s rhum here), let’s get to know a bit about this off-the-beaten-path paradise…
Marie-Galante is small – just 61 square miles – and seriously round and flat. So seriously round and flat, in fact, that its nickname is “la grande galette” or the big pancake.
The island is part of the archipelago that is Guadeloupe, just 45 minutes by boat and 15 minutes by plane from Pointe-à-Pitre, so its residents are all French citizens. Only about 12,000 people live here, carrying on a lifestyle that’s as close to the Caribbean of 30+ years ago as can be found anywhere.
This would seem a good point to stop and recap the numbers: 61 square miles, 12,000 people and three separate rum distilleries… Whereas it was common back in the day for just about every Caribbean island to boast multiple distilleries, these days most islands count themselves lucky to have just one rum-producer still in business.
Clearly the folks in Marie-Galante are doing something right when it comes to making fine rhum, but guess what? I haven’t come across any of their fine blends in all my travels throughout the French Caribbean, so sadly, I don’t know.
One guy who does, though, is our old friend Ed Hamilton from the Ministry of Rum. According to him, the thing that sets the fine rhums of Marie-Galante apart from the rest is that they’re bottled at 59% alcohol by volume. Compared to the 40-50% ABV of most other rhums, these bad boys pack a hefty punch.
If you’ve ever tried these fine rhums, or visited Marie-Galante, leave a comment below and tell us what we can expect if/when we ever get to visit this truly uncommon destination…