The rums of Martinique, an island and French overseas department in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, are known around the world for their high standard of quality. The vast majority of the rum produced on Martinique is sugar-cane run, known as rhum agricole in French. Martinique has a reputation internationally of having, with Guadeloupe and Reunion, the other French overseas departments the first in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, and the second in the Indian Ocean, the highest quality sugar-cane rum in the world; all three islands are the global reference for rum quality.
The story of Martinique rum starts in 1640 with the introduction of sugar cane on the small island of Martinique. Originally brought to the island primarily to produce sugar, it was quickly realized that the syrupy residues left over could be fermented to create an alcohol that was then called tafia or guildive (the latter is commonly thought to be derived from “kill devil”).
There’s a reason Martinique’s rum has such an excellent reputation around the world: the climate and geography of the island make it an almost perfect location for growing the sugar cane used in making the rum. Sugar can requires lots of sun, heat and water – and Martinique has plenty of all three. Not just that, but Martinique’s rich soils combined with a particularly favorable climate for sugar cane make it one of the best places in the world for sugar-cane rum.
Only 3% of the world’s rums are sugar-cane based, and Martinique is the only rum-producing region in the world to have protected designation of origin status.
The White rums produced on the island are known for their clarity and accessibility. They have a strong aromatic finesse, which presents notes of fruits (lemon, passion fruit), flowers (sugar cane, orange flowers) and spices (cinnamon and nutmeg).
Martinique has about 12 distilleries present on the island making sugar-cane rum – several of the rum labels on the island have been there for hundreds of years.
Rum is also an important part of culture on Martinique, to the point that each specific time that you drink rum has its own name.
Here’s a list of some of the common names:
Before breakfast, the first glass of the day is called “décollage” (take off)
10 am: didico
11 am: ti’lagout
Just before noon: CRS (citron-rum-sucre: lemon, rum, sugar) which is also called ti’punch
During lunch: ti’sèk (pure white rum)
3 pm: l’heure du Christ (the hour of Christ)
5 pm: ti’pape
Before going to bed: La partante. The last one before you leave.