Let’s start this by saying I’m a beer person. I prefer beer to wine or hard liqour. I order beer in nice restaurants, even when I should be drinking a paired glass of lovely wine. I always search for breweries when we travel, but not so much vineyards/wineries or distilleries. So when the concierge at the St. Regis suggested that we go rum tasting, my first response was–thanks, but no thanks. He convinced us it was worth a stop, and–probably as usual–listening to the concierge at the St. Regis is a wise move!
I was picturing a super touristy distillery, with a little too much Margaritaville (we did that once, and it was fun…but…). What we found was a beautiful location, a beautiful property, and a lovely hour of learning about rum. With a little rum-tasting involved (and I mean a little…but more on that later). Nestled in the hills of the village of Chamarel, the Rhumerie de Chamarel offers tours/rum tasting for only $12. They also have a lovely restaurant in a beautiful garden area. We didn’t eat there, but it looked delicious and food with alcohol is always a good idea. We hired a car/driver (which if you partake in the tasting is highly recommended), but there is plenty of parking there if you just want to go have a bite to eat and see the beautiful grounds. The distillery is also eco-friendly.
Since Mauritius is tropical, they grow a tremendous amount of sugar cane which is used to produce the rum at Chamarel. In fact, they are one of the few distilleries that cultivate their own sugarcane to use in their rum. All sugarcane is harvested by hand and arrives at the distillery within 4 hours of being cut. They produce a pretty wide variety of rums, from aged rums to classic rums to rum-based liqueurs. Their classic rums are both classic (white) and gold, and they also make vanilla rum, spiced rum, and a double-distilled variety.
The tasting involves trying 7-8 different types of rum. And they offer nearly a shot of each of them. Yea, right. I made it through the first shot, which was a delightful homemade cocktail of rum, lime, and sugar (SO good), and tasted the double distilled rum before I realized that if I wanted to enjoy the rest of my day, I was not going to make it through all 7 shots. Even DH was asking how he was going to keep trying all the different rums! I skipped the spiced rum completely (not my favorite), but I did try both of their liqueurs (coffee and vanilla) which were delicious. There were about 8 in our tour, and 6 of us were trying to figure out how to handle all the rum–while these 2 little ladies downed each shot with nary a glance. I don’t know where they were from, but they drank DH and I, and the four Germans with us, under the table. We asked the tour guide how many people made it through all 7 shots, and she laughed and just said “a lot”. And then offered to refill our shot glasses with whatever we wanted! I don’t know how people do it.
They have a beautiful gift shop, and shockingly, the prices on their rum are exceedingly reasonable. I guess that is one of the perks of being able to produce your own sugarcane. We purchased a bottle of coffee liqueur which made the journey home with us for only $12. With how expensive things are in Mauritius this was a bit of an unexpected (and pleasant) surprise. And their rums are very good!
The Rhumerie de Chamarel has a lovely website (www.rhumeriedechamarel.com), and if you are visiting the southern part of Mauritius (they are located in the Southwest, very close to the Seven-Colored Earths), I would definitely recommend a visit. The area is lush and gorgeous and even non-drinkers can enjoy the scenery and a few hours away from the beach.