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Réunionese Rum

Reunion Island, a French overseas department located in the Indian Ocean, boasts a rich and vibrant history in rum production. Known for its diverse cultural heritage and lush, volcanic landscapes, the island has developed a unique approach to rum-making that is deeply intertwined with its history and natural environment.

Rum production in Reunion Island dates back to the 19th century when sugarcane plantations flourished under French colonial rule. The island's tropical climate and fertile volcanic soil create ideal conditions for sugarcane cultivation, which is the foundational crop for rum production. Two primary types of rum are produced on the island: traditional rum (rhum traditionnel) and agricultural rum (rhum agricole).

Traditional rum in Reunion Island is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production. This type of rum is typically richer and sweeter, with a more robust flavour profile. It is distilled in column stills, allowing for a higher alcohol content and a cleaner finish. These rums often undergo ageing in oak barrels, where they develop additional complexity and depth, acquiring notes of vanilla, caramel, and spices.

Rhum agricole, on the other hand, is distilled directly from fresh sugarcane juice rather than molasses. This method, less common globally but prominent in French territories like Reunion Island and Martinique, imparts a distinctively fresh, grassy, and floral character to the rum. Rhum agricole is often appreciated for its terroir-driven qualities, where the flavour is a direct reflection of the island's unique climate and soil.

Reunion Island's rum distilleries, such as Savanna, Rivière du Mât, and Isautier, are known for their craftsmanship and innovation. These distilleries produce a wide range of rums, from white and gold rums to aged and spiced varieties. The aged rums from Reunion Island are particularly notable for their complexity and are often compared to fine cognacs in terms of depth and flavour nuances.

The island’s approach to rum production also includes experimenting with various ageing techniques, such as using different types of barrels (ex-bourbon, ex-cognac, and new oak) and ageing periods. The tropical climate accelerates the ageing process, resulting in rums that develop richness and character more quickly than those aged in cooler climates.

Rum plays a significant cultural role in Reunion Island, often enjoyed in local cocktails, traditional celebrations, and as an accompaniment to the island's diverse cuisine, which is a fusion of French, African, Indian, and Chinese influences. The rum production in Reunion Island is not only a testament to the island's rich agricultural heritage but also a reflection of its cultural melting pot, producing spirits that are as diverse and vibrant as the island itself.

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