Located in the southern part of the island, on the outskirts of the Black River Gorges National Park, you find Chamarel, a beautiful Rum Distillery.
The distillery is open for visits and also have a lovely restaurant where it is worth stopping for lunch. You can visit for free if you book a table for lunch. They have guided tours every half an hour or so – both in French and English, maybe also other languages if you ask in advance.
Our guide explained to us that the distillery is one of the only left in Mauritius growing their own sugar cane. The harvest is done by hand and the sugar cane is selected exclusively to produce the rum, they also do not burn the sugar cane. The sugar cane is burned pre-harvest to make the harvesting process easier and thus requiring less labour. The harvest takes places from July to December. After the harvest the sugar cane is transferred to the distillery, where the distillation process can start.
They have several ways to distillate depending on what type of rum they are making. The white rum is distilled in a column made entirely out of copper. This allows the separate the rum during the process – with the ‘head, heart and tail’: the start, middle and end of the distillery process, where the quantity of alcohol and quality are not the same. They also have a double distilled white rum. That follows the same method as in Cognac.
The distilled rum is then kept for 6 months prior to bottling. Part of the white rum will after that be aged and transferred to different types of barrels or casks and kept for different length of time.
A visit to a Rhumerie is not a really visit if you don’t get to taste the stuff as well. At the end of the short but very informative tour, you get a little tasting of different rums. They have a very nice and inviting shop where you can buy their rum, and also other local produce like jams, vanilla, small jewellery and other things. The shop is bit expensive though and if you are going to a supermarket and/or the bazaar there are many things you get there cheaper.
They have aged rums – a VSOP (4 yrs old), a XO (6 yrs old) and a special single barrel from 2008. Then they have premium rum (white, gold, vanilla and spices) and finally they make liqueurs – these are sweeter and have a lower alcohol content than the premium rums. They have different flavours like: coffee, vanilla or coconut.
A very nice restaurant, serving refined local dishes – some sourced from the estate itself. I had palm salad and a ti punch – a rum cocktail. They had several interesting things on the menu included braised pork in beer or deer. They also afternoon apparently if you visit later in the day. Ti Punch is the local cocktail – the one you can always enjoy! – simply made with 2tsp brown sugar crushed with lime wedges, 6cl rum and ice.
Rum is the gift or the souvenir per excellence to bring back to friends and family. If you don’t get a chance to visit, you can get all their products at the supermarkets around the island. They are a bit more expensive than others, but the quality is also superior. If you go on their website, you’ll find information on all their different rums and how to serve them.
The price for the visit alone is Rs300.- The lunch is probably around Rs700-900 for a dish and then you need to add the drinks. But it does give a lovely day out, with good food, a cultural visit and a lovely drive to get there!