Reunion: five rums that you absolutely have to taste

“There are real nuggets on this island in the Indian Ocean”. Fabien Humbert, journalist and author of the book “Rhum” (Hachette editions), took the time to taste Reunion Island rumsunderestimated white or amber wines that can be unearthed at low prices at wine merchants.

Why is Réunion rum not well known?

Firstly, in the minds of amateurs, Réunion rum rhymes with Arranged rum. Then, the Réunion rum producers themselves have a slight inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West Indian producers of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the “Bordeaux and Burgundy of rum”. Difficult in these conditions to highlight its production and to make itself known on the market.

Finally, Réunion rum is 98% made from molasses, a co-product of sugar that will be fermented and then distilled to produce rum. Molasses sometimes repels rum purists, accused of being less aromatic than pure cane juice rums (agricultural rum) which release more herbaceous aromas.

The move upmarket of Réunion rums

Distillers have recently made trade-offs that have allowed their rums to move upmarket. They no longer add flavorings, neither sugar nor caramel, thus highlighting the purity of the rum.

They will also use almost exclusively French oak barrels, in particular ex barrels of cognac. It’s a real leap in quality, knowing that more than 90% of rums are aged in old barrels of bourbon. This choice brings a real complexity, which does not mark the old rum too much.

Two good white rums from Reunion Island

Among the rare agricultural rums from Reunion is the Solstice cuvée produced by the small La Part des Anges distillery. It is an enchanting rum that can be found at rare wine merchants in mainland France.

The Savanna Distillery it produces an original white rum, of the same level of quality as a rum from the French West Indies. The Grand Aroma cuvée, made from molasses, contains vinasse (unused liquid must, residue from the distillation). After fermentation, the rum thus delivers salty aromas of olive jars. It is a very interesting niche product also in cocktails.

  • Can we find parcel or vintage white rum in Reunion?
    In the West Indies, the Tereos company has a virtual monopoly on sugar cane. The distillers thus have no control over their raw material and cannot create fragmented or vintage white rum. Old rums, on the other hand, manage to put more emphasis on the terroir aspect.

Reunion old rums

The people of Reunion realized, twenty years ago, that they could produce more qualitative rum. They called in oenologists.

The Isautier distillery called on Matthieu Cosse, from the Cosse Maisonneuve estate, who helped them rethink their range. Isautier produces rums which could appeal to wine lovers, complex, straight, without excess sugar, with controlled woody aromas.

Another distillery, Mast River, hired oenologist Christian Vergier. The 1886 cuvée is a blend of old and very old rums, especially from the 2000s. Rivière du Mât rums are aged with the Cognac method known as dynamic aging. This generates round rums, sweet without excess, intended for neophytes who would like to get out of the spectrum of too sweet aromas of Latin American rums.

The Savanna distillery has surrounded itself with Thierry Grondin, doctor in organic chemistry. The Le Must cuvée contains traditional rum from Reunion, which is blended with white rum from the Grand Arôme cuvée (produced with vinasse, as described above). The whole is interesting since we perceive in the mouth woody, round and vanilla aromas specific to old rums, with the aromas of olive jar of white rum. Savanna has the particularity of coming out of UFOs, which makes it a distillery particularly followed by rum geeks.

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Reunion: five rums that you absolutely have to taste

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