Putting the "H" in "Rhum"

Throughout the 19th century, sugarcane was the dominant agricultural product of Martinique, an island highly regarded for its terroir and thus, appropriately originally named “Madinina” – the island of flowers. The once soaring sugar economy plunged heavily due to over production in South America, and the growing availability in Europe of much cheaper beet sugar, eventually driving sugar factories of Martinique into bankruptcy. One of the most famous that fell to bankruptcy, Domaine de l’ Acajou, is now one of the most popular destinations in Martinique. Habitation Clement, known as the mecca for Rhum Agricole, is visited by more than 125,000 people each year to learn how Rhum Agricole came to be, and the culture that has reared this spirit into one of the most distinctive styles of rum in the world.

The surviving distilleries made other products from sugarcane. An obvious option was to make rum directly from fresh sugarcane juice and not from molasses, avoiding the sugar production process all together. Rhum J.M was an early pioneer to make only Rhum Agricole in Martinique. And why not? With vast hectares of lush sugarcane growing on the slopes of Mt. Pelée, Rhum J.M moved to crafting rhum directly from sugarcane juice, long before the rest of the island’s distilleries made this necessary transition. Rhum J.M thus has been for generations the crown jewel of Martinique rhum for the world’s most serious spirit enthusiasts.

It is not a mistake to draw parallels between Rhum Agricole and the other distinctive jewels of French spirituous tradition such as Calvados, Armagnac or Cognac. Rhum Agricole shares the same ethos as the brandies of its mother country. It is due to the success of aged French eau de vie’s, as well as the void of French spirits during WWII, that gave momentum and solidified Rhum Agricole’s place as one of the world’s most sought after fine spirits today. Today, the Rhum Agricole distilleries of the French Caribbean carry on the tradition, producing distinctive world-class spirits that speak of its unique place and held to the highest standards and restrictions of any rum producing region in the world.


Spiribam’s Rhum Wheel

This Rhum Wheel serves as a helpful guide illustrating the various styles of rum and their origins found across the globe. Note all the different flavors and levels of complexity from mild, sweet, bold, and spiced.

Solera:
To replace lost rum by angel’s share with new and younger rums (process followed by sherry)

Ouillage:
To replace lost rum by angel’s share with rhum from the same age
(process followed by French wine and brandy)

AOC:
Accreditation for Martinique Rhum Agricole that adheres to specific standards of quality
including harvest of sugarcane, distillation, and aging

Navy Style:
Reference to proof strength of rum historically rationed to the British Royal Navy

Spiced:
Style of rum created to improve quality by flavoring with indigenous spices of the British Islands

Demerara:
Style of rum produced in guyana from demerara sugar sometimes distilled in coffee stills


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Who is Edward Hamilton?

As the author of the Ministry of Rum website and several books on my favorite spirit, I’ve been researching the rums of the Caribbean for more than 15 years. After working around the world building yachts, sailing and working on Southeastern Asian oil rigs, I set sail for the Caribbean from Florida in the mid 80s without a firm itinerary but like thousands of others before me I set sail with an eye to adventure and discovery.

It was a full moon party in the small island of Culebra in 1993 when my destiny was cast. As I raised my glass of rum to the full moon rising on the horizon to the east I was blinded by the moon’s light reflected by the prism in the bottom of my glass. As I lowered the glass from my lips I realized that although I loved the rum I was drinking I knew little about how it was made or what made the myriad of rums that I had been enjoying so enjoyable.

A few days later I set sail to head south through the islands toward Trinidad where I would spend the approaching hurricane season. Over the course of the next two years I compiled the text of Rums of the Eastern Caribbean. That was followed two years later by another edition of that book and a contract with a Chicago publisher for The Complete Guide to Rum which was later translated to German.

It was about that time that the internet became more than science fiction for most people who didn’t live on boats. The Ministry of Rum was first published on the internet in 1995 as a simple list of islands and their rums. The next website generation was designed by a friend who added a database so visitors could search for their favorites.

In 2005, I began the daunting task of learning PHP and mysql to build the website that has become the most credible source of information about sugar cane spirits on the internet.

Today I’m working hard as a sugar cane spirits importer and consultant to the industry I love. In addition to several sugar cane spirits festivals held around the country, I also work with a number of importers training their brand ambassadors on the intricacies of sugar cane production and the process of taking this tall grass and making it into the bottled spirits we enjoy.

If you have more questions, feel free to send me an email using the link at the bottom of this page.

Visit Ed Hamilton’s Ministry of Rum

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