The rum of Guadeloupe between history, specificities and distilleries

Brief history of rum in Guadeloupe

The history of Guadeloupean rum is intrinsically linked to colonization and the cultivation of sugar cane.

From eau-de-vie to Rhum

It is with the arrival of the colonists in the Caribbean and the culture of the sugar cane that the adventure of the Guadeloupean rhum begins. Originally the cane was cultivated for the production of sugar. Thanks to a climatic context and a naturally favorable ground, this culture was flourishing.

However, it was not profitable because only a small proportion of the juice from the cane was used. It had, moreover, been noted that with the reigning heat the fermentation of the plant produced an alcoholic drink with a particular flavor, the cane brandy also called guildive. It is around 1667 that this beverage will take the name of rum, according to the first mention in a document of Père Du Tertre.

For the anecdote, history has retained Père Labat as the first distiller of rum in 1694.

From decline to recognition

After centuries of fluctuation, rum production in Guadeloupe has had its ups and downs.

Between the changes of settlers (French, English and then French again), taxes, royal decrees, the preference for beet sugar, competition from neighboring islands and other alcohols, wars ... the rum route has not been a long quiet river!

Between 1944 and today the number of rum distilleries in Guadeloupe has dropped from a hundred to less than ten. After this turbulent history, Guadeloupe rum has finally become an institution on the island, a local specialty and even an undeniable tourist asset. The rum also participates in the realization of punch and cocktails, others It is possible to visit the distilleries and get a more precise idea of the production of Guadeloupean rhum.

Rhum production in Guadeloupe

The rum of Guadeloupe and the West Indies, also called "rhum z'habitant", In Guadeloupe, two types of rhum are manufactured, the agricultural rum of the sugar cane which it is necessary to distinguish from the industrial rum, made from the molasses and more often produced in the countries of Anglo Saxon and Hispanic influence. The soil of Guadeloupe offers the manufacture of the local rum of the original flavors; pineapple, coconut, banana... Of the remainder, the rum is also very used for the creation of the punch, ti punch, mojito, pina colada, and other cocktails eminently present in the French Antilles.

The steps from harvest to aging

To cultivate sugar cane three elements are essential, a good sunshine, a suitable soil and water, lots of water. When the cane is harvested, crushed, the juice is fermented, the wine is distilled and this, until the rum is obtained.

  1. The crushing: the sugar cane is crushed in a crusher, and the juice also called vesou, is recovered and transported to the fermentation tanks

  2. Fermentation: with the help of yeast, the sugar in the juice is transformed into alcohol during maceration

  3. Distillation; after passing through a distillation column, usually continuously, from tray to tray, the alcohol is refined to take on the characteristics of rhum through a process of evaporation

  4. The ageing; according to the type of rhum which one wishes to obtain a part of alcohol is put in ageing, in maturation, up to 50 years for vintage rums.  


Guadeloupe rum, a Protected Geographical Indication

The specificity of Guadeloupe rum (or Guadeloupe rum or Guadeloupe rum), of agricultural type, is its particular perfumed aroma linked to the freshness and the subtlety of the Guadeloupean sugar cane. Since 2015, the rum of the butterfly island benefits from a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), this mention indicates that the rum is produced exclusively from sugar cane and not from molasses. Interesting to know: today only the rhum of Martinique has the French appellation of controlled origin (AOC).

Varieties and appellations of Guadeloupean rums


There is not one rhum but rhums! As seen previously it is necessary to distinguish the agricultural rum from the industrial one. The duration of the ageing before the bottling is also to be considered for the qualification of the alcoholic drink.

The white agricultural rum

The white agricultural rum is a rum which was manufactured 3 months before its bottling. It is stored in stainless steel tanks where spring water is added to it in order to lower the alcohol levels between 40 and 62°. It is called white because its color is translucent.

The agricultural amber rum

The amber rum, or straw, is a rum which spent 18 months in an oak barrel which gives him its gilded coloring and thus its name.

The old agricultural rum

The old agricultural rum can benefit from this naming only if it spent a minimum of 3 years in oak barrels. The more time it spends there, the more it takes value. Some vintage rums benefit from an ageing of several decades (up to 70 years). The tannins of the wood of the barrels will take part not only in the aromas but also in the coloration of the drink.

Appellations and duration of aging of the main rums

Depending on the time spent in the vats, the nature of these vats, stainless steel or wood, and the particular conditions of the year of harvest (rate of sunshine, rainfall, temperatures, etc.), the rum takes on different appellations:

  • White rum: 3 months

  • Rhum Paille : 18 months

  • Very Old Rum (VO) : 3 years

  • Rum Very Special Old Pale : 4 years

  • Extra Old Rum (XO) : 6 years

  • Vintage Rum : from 15 to 70 years

Le rhum arrangé

Have you ever heard of arranged rum? It is a white agricultural or industrial rum in which a fruit, a plant or a spice has been macerated: vanilla, ginger, lychee, cinnamon, mango, etc. It is found in Guadeloupe but it is a specialty of Reunion Island.

Rhum distilleries in Guadeloupe

Originally the rum distilleries were sugar mills. Nowadays, 10 distilleries, sometimes called rhum factories, are still active in Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre and Marie Galante. Many rum factories welcome you to visit their distilleries. Often the name of the rum brand is the name of the distillery.

Damoiseau Distillery

The Damoiseau family owns the distillery of the same name located in the town of Le Moule. It produces a high quality Rhum Agricole. The Damoiseau rum is the leader of the Guadeloupean market with 50% of market share. This rum is also exported to 40 countries in the world.

Bologna Distillery

The Bologne distillery is located in Basse-Terre, at the foot of the Soufrière massif. Several agricultural rums are produced on the estate.

Carrère Montebello Distillery

The Montebello distillery, formerly the Carrère distillery, has been producing Montebello rum in Petit-Bourg since 1930.

Distillery Espérance

The Espérance or Longueteau distillery is located in the heart of the Domaine du Marquisat de Sainte-Marie. It is the oldest distillery in Guadeloupe still in activity.

Longueteau Distillery

The Longueteau rum is produced on the same magnificent domain, that of the Marquisat de Sainte-Marie of Capesterre-Belle-Eau.

Reimonenq Distillery

The Reimonenq distillery is located in the commune of Sainte-Rose. It produces mainly Rhum Agricole, distilled from pure cane juice.

Severin Distillery

The Severin estate is located in Sainte-Rose and offers one of the best Rhum Agricole of Guadeloupe.

Distillery Poisson-Père Labat

The Poisson Père Labat distillery is located on the island of Marie Galante near Grand Bourg and Saint Louis.

Bellevue Distillery

The Bellevue distillery has been producing agricultural rum on the island of Marie Galante since 1821. It has the particularity of producing all the electricity it needs to operate with solar panels.

Bielle Distillery

The Bielle distillery is also located in Marie Galante. It produces white and old rums as well as liqueurs.

Do not hesitate to include a visit to some of these rum distilleries during your stay in Guadeloupe. They will make you travel in time and will allow you to know everything about the production of Guadeloupe rum. To make your trips easier, prefer to rent a car.

Take advantage of this opportunity to find some articles on the culture of Guadeloupe that might interest you :

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