Rum Distillery of Chamarel in Mauritius
Located in the southern part of the island, on the outskirts of the Black River Gorges National Park, you find the Rhumerie de Chamarel, a beautiful Rum Distillery. At 300m above sea level, and at the foot of the island’s highest mountain, Black River Peak, the estate has a gorgeous setting, is eco-friendly and has it’s own micro climate.
The distillery is open for visits and also has a great restaurant where it is worth stopping for lunch. They have guided tours every half an hour or so – we had a tour in English but also heard French and German, maybe the also offer other languages if you ask in advance.
The visit of the Rhumerie de Chamarel
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. In many places the sugar cane is burned pre-harvest to make the harvesting process easier and thus requiring less labour. They use 2 types of sugar cane at the estate and the harvest takes place from July to December. It is at that time that you will have to visit if you want to see the machines in action (if I remember well in the morning). After the harvest the sugar cane is transferred to the distillery, where the distillation process can start. They only make agricultural rum: it means that the rum is made directly from the sugar cane juice. In Mauritius we also have industrial rum – it is when sugar is used to make rum. Obviously agricultural is better and more expensive as well – as with Cognac or other aged alcohols, the older, the better!
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 to 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.
Tasting at Chamarel
A visit to a Rum estate is not a really visit if you don’t get to taste the stuff as well! During the visit, you first get a cocktail: you can choose in between a Mojito or a Ti Punch (the local rum cocktail). Then at the end of the tour, you get to taste quite a few of their normal rums.
They have aged rums – a VSOP (4 yrs old), a XO (6 yrs old) and a special single barrel from 2008. This will evolve with time, as the estate gets older. 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 and higher sugar content. They have different flavours like: coffee, vanilla or coconut.
Lunch at l’Alchimiste – Restaurant at Chamarel
A very nice restaurant, serving refined local dishes – some sourced from the estate itself. I had a palm salad and a Ti Punch. They had several interesting things on the menu included braised pork in beer or deer.
Rum is the gift or the souvenir per excellence to bring back to friends and family when you have been to Mauritius. 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.
Useful information about the distillery of Chamarel
The price for the visit alone is Rs400.- that is as expensive as visits get in Mauritius but the visit is free if you book lunch at l’Alchimiste. The prices have gone up the last year, but they have added an extra cocktail tasting and a more extensive rum tasting at the end of the tour. The lunch dishes start at Rs600 and then you need to add the drinks. So on the expensive side but it does give a lovely day out, with good food, a cultural visit and a beautiful drive to get there!
Other things to do in and around Chamarel
Depending on where you stay on the island it can be a bit of a drive to reach Chamarel, so you might want to coordinate your visit with others around the Black River National Park and Chamarel. It is not an area I have written a lot about on my blog but meanwhile here is a little list:
- Ganga Talao – beautiful Hindu temples, that I have mentioned a few times
- Bois Chéri – the tea plantations
- Seven coloured earth of Chamarel
- Curious Corner of Chamarel – gallery of interactive illusions and art
- Chamarel Waterfall
- La Vallée des Couleurs – Nature Park
- Hike of the Peak of Black River – the highest mountain in Mauritius
- and many others!
Original post from May 2017 – Updated in March 2018