Martinique Rum Vintage Look HSE

Martinique Rum Tour (a guide that tells you stories)

Close your eyes for a few seconds and picture yourself on a Caribbean Island. What do you see? Let us guess… A stunning blue sky... A white empty beach embraced by an amazing turquoise water… You seating under a coconut tree on a hammock or simply on the sand… And of course a bottle of rum.

Martinique is one of the Caribbean islands that has it all, especially when we speak about rum. The Martinique rum is a mix of hard work, passion, tradition, local pride and knowledge. All having as an end one of the most sophisticate liquor one can taste.

The process of rum fabrication in Martinique is a work of art and a legacy over time. Yes, art and patience transform the rum from being an average drink to being auctioned with thousands of dollars a bottle.

When in Martinique, the best way to discover the history and culture of this wonderful island is to have a tour of the best distilleries.

Our Martinique rum guide has the purpose to introduce you in the atmosphere of the island. And of course, we want this to be just a preview of your next experience. So prepare your imagination and your scents for an amazing virtual tour with us.

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Martinique Rum

But first, a bit of history…Martinique Rum goes hand in hand with the discovery of America

Once America and the New World was discovered, the demand for sugar in Europe has exponentially increased. Why? The Caribbean islands offer the perfect environment and conditions for sugar cane plantation.

Soon, the Caribbean islands became the colonial extensions of the various European powers. Spain, Portugal, France, the British Empire, or Netherlands disputed their influence over the Caribbean Sea. And these colonial powers needed to be fueled with a lot of sugar. 

Unfortunately for the human kind, this lead to the growth of the slavery phenomena. The landlords realized that they can use the fermented sugar can juice or the molasses for producing a strong liquor with the purpose of reviving the slaves.

And that is how the dawns of a new type of alcohol appeared. 

Martinique rum tour sugar canes machine press
Old sugar cane machine press

Martinique Rum

In addition to this, the origin of the rum lies in the French Antilles, connected to an invention highly used in Martinique and Guadeloupe. In 1694, the French priest Jean-Baptiste Labat invented a way of distilling the sugar cane into rum. 

He used an alembic and the standard distillation, known as type Père Labat. This was the trigger for most of the sugar cane plantations to turn into rum distilleries.

Rum a drink for pirate
The pirates do not give up rum even in the afterlife

Martinique Rum

What else you should know before exploring the Martinique Rum Distilleries?

Martinique is known for its excellent rum which is appreciated worldwide. Since the 19th century, the local tradition is to produce Rhum Agricole or Rhum Habitant

Rhum agricole is the French term for rum produced from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. This type of rum is a very unique feature of the French Antilles (including Martinique), indicating a superior quality.

On the opposite side, most of the world’s producers are using molasses (a bioproduct of sugar refining) as raw material for rum making. The final product is defined by the rum experts as “industrial rum”.

Martinique rum tour barrels estate
Barrels ready to look pretty again 🙂

Martinique Rum

Being processed from fresh sugar cane juice, the Martinican rum is more aromatic. No less than 100 kg of sugar cane need to be processed to get 10 litres of rum.

In 1996, the Martinican Rhum Agricole obtained an AOC recognition. The term means “Appellation d’origine contrôlée” (Protected Designation of Origin).

martinique rum tour special glass
Special glass for emphasizing the flavors

Martinique Rum

Types of rum and distilleries – good to know when in Martinique

Regardless if you are in a supermarket or at a distillery, you should know that several types of rum. They have different qualities and prices.

  • The white rum has a clear color. It is not aged and it is consumed directly after distillation. Usually, in the Caribbean (not only in Martinique), the white rum is used for mixing with juices in the so-called Ti’Punch and Planteur.
  • Dark rum (rhum paille, rhum ambré) is agricole rum that has been aged in the barrel for 18 months. It is a younger rum with a golden color and is used mostly in cocktails and for cooking.
  • Old rum (rhum vieux) from Martinique is highly appreciated around the world. It is aged in casks,usually oak barrels, for at least 3 years. The rum gets its dark color and aromas from the wooden barrel.

Also, in Martinique, there are 2 types of distilleries depending on their activity. There are the so-called smoking distilleries, still in service and producing rum.

On the opposite side, the non-smoking distilleries, no longer produce rum locally. Their rum is distilled by another active factory and is often aged and bottled on the spot.

Martinique Rum Tour
Every one of us is a pirate now and then

Martinique Rum

A tour of rum distilleries – a different kind of perfect way to explore Martinique

When we marked Martinique on our bucket list, it never crossed our minds to visit so many distilleries. We surely knew we would bring a bottle of the finest Martinican rum, but all we wanted was to discover and relax on the beautiful beaches.

While arriving at the accommodation, our host, Priscilia (who was working at Clement Distillery) introduced us in the atmosphere of the island. She recommended some cool places to discover on this surprising island. 

Among them, some amazing distilleries that we are now about to reveal for you.

Martinique rum map best distilleries
Martinique's best rum distilleries

Martinique Rum

Why do we recommend having a tour of the rum distilleries when in Martinique?

There would be several reasons…

First of all, you (as we did) will discover that Martinique is not only about beach, yachting, scuba diving and snorkeling. The distilleries are spread along the island, some close to the shore and some in the mountainous part of Martinique.

Thus, when driving to the distilleries you will experience amazing landscape changes. In hours, you will travel from the coastal area with its blue water into endless bananas or sugar cane plantations.

Moving towards the mountain side, you will pass through narrow valleys and luxurious tropical forest. Really incredible.

martinique tour rum amazing landscape
Amazing landscape over Martinique

Martinique Rum

Second of all, a rum tour offers to any tourist an amazing opportunity to learn about the creole culture and history. Every distillery has its own story and tradition.

Thirdly, you will have the chance to experience a different but pleasant kind of relaxation. In fact, most of the distilleries are large domains, with mansions and splendid yards and lakes. Some of them can compete with any botanical garden or park.

Last but not least, all the rum distilleries offer tasting sessions. These can ease your decision when you want to buy. But they are also a good opportunity for getting social with other tourists and the locals.

Martinique rum tour punch
Did somebody ask for a punch with a bit of rum?

Martinique Rum

Try our Martinique Spiritourisme tour – a tasty itinerary of some of the best rum distilleries in the world

Wherever you are located in Martinique, a rum distillery is never far away. 

Rarely can you find an environment in such a harmony with a product. Stunning landscapes, warm people, amazing history and traditions… In Martinique they all invite you to immerse yourself in the culture of rum.

The rum making season is February to June, when you will be able to actually see the distilleries operating. Over 10 of them are welcoming visitors, free or on a paid entrance.

Here are our top 5 Martinique rum Distilleries:

1. Rhum J.M

Location: Rhumerie de Fonds Préville – Macouba Martinique
Entrance: free

Martinique Rum Rhum JM Distillery exceptional micro-climate
Rhum JM Distillery hidden in an green tropical oasis

Martinique Rum

We found J.M Distilleries in the very northern part of Martinique, surrounded by sugar cane plantations and a lush nature. It lies at the bottom of River Roche’s valley. 

Rhum J.M Distillery is one of the smallest and oldest rum producers on the island, being established in 1790. Smaller quantities of bottles per year are compensated by the exceptional quality of the rum.

The magic of J.M rum is coming from an exceptional micro-climate. Located at the foot of Mount Pelée and exposed to the tropical sea breezes, the owners are cultivating their sugar cane in a rich and fertile volcanic soil.

Martinique Rum Tour Rhum JM Distillery exceptional nature
Rhum JM Distillery - surrounded by lush nature

Martinique Rum

Due to its unique conditions, Rhum J.M Distillery harvests its own cane for production with a delay of 30 to 60 days comparing to other producers on the island. As a result, J.M rum gets a distinctive flavor, being one of our favorite.

Just as important as the soil, Rum J.M has the exclusive benefit to use pure volcanic spring water rich in minerals sourced from the heart of Mount Pelée. The purity of the water is a key contributor to the quality of Rum J.M.

Martinique Rum Rhum JM Distillery Entrance Tropical Environment
Rhum JM Distillery - here is where the tour starts
Martinique Rum Rhum JM Distillery Courtyard
Rhum JM Distillery Courtyard

Martinique Rum

Rhum J.M – small but classy rum distillery in Martinique

Once you get here, you will get lost exploring the machines, the gardens, the barrel deposit, tasting saloon and many others. Inside the domain, the visitors can also admire the scent garden planted with species which are used to flavor the rum with their rich aromatic scents. 

But what we found particularly awesome was the olfactory workshop. For us, this place turned our visit into a unique sensory experience to discover the bouquet of each of the 7 J.M rums, as well as 7 characteristic olfactory notes to appreciate all the aromatic richness.

Martinique Rum Rhum JM Distillery Old Rum barrels
Rhum JM Distillery - exceptional quality of rum is obtained in oak barrels
Martinique Rum Tour Rhum JM Distillery L'atelier oflactif
Rhum JM Distillery - L'atelier oflactif

Rum J.M is well known all around the globe and consistently wins top honors at the largest international competitions (Paris, Brussels, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco). J.M Aged Rums are especially popular for their smoothness and character.

Martinique Rum Tour Rhum JM Distillery - Shop
Rhum JM Distillery - the shop
Martinique Rum Tour Rhum JM Distillery Shop and bottles
Rhum JM Distillery - waiting to be served

Martinique Rum

2. Saint James Distillery

Location: Q2M2+CP Sainte-Marie, Martinique
Entrance: free

Martinique Rum Tour Saint James Distillery main entrance
Saint James Distillery - the main entrance

Saint-James is the oldest brand of Martinican rum. The distillery was founded in Saint-Pierre in 1765. However, the main market of the distillery were the British colonies in North America. For making it more marketable, the rum took under the name Saint-James. This name was of a prestigious family in the British Empire (nowadays, the United Kingdom).

In 1902, the volcano on Pelée Mountain erupted generating a catastrophic moment in Martinique’s history. The city of Saint-Pierre burned to ashes and there were around 30.000 victims. After this tragic event, the activity of Saint James distillery shifted soon towards 3 new locations. These were Saint-Joseph in 1911, Le Lamentin in 1912, and Case-Pilote in 1929.

A limestone is Saint James Distillery’s history was 1973. The owners moved the production in Sainte-Marie, situated on the east coast of Martinique. First and foremost, the main guest of the inauguration was the Prime Minister of France at that time, Jacques Chirac.

Martinique Rum Tour Saint James Distillery the main house
Saint James Distillery - the mansion reflects the history of Martinique

Martinique Rum

Saint James Distillery celebrates the rum culture

Every year, Saint James is the host of 2 rum festivals in Martinique: the Harvest Festival in June and the Rhum Festival in December.

Even so, if you are in Sainte-Marie, allow yourself a few hours for visiting the impressive domain of Saint James. The entrance to the museum is free and it will be time well spent for sure.

Enter in the picturesque mansion. You will discover a beautiful collection of vintage ads, photos, bottles, and machinery. Also, a stylish bar on the ground floor is open for the free rum tasting sessions.

Martinique Rum Tour Saint James Distillery the mansion
Saint James Distillery - the special collection inside the mansion
Martinique Rum Tour - Saint James Distillery ground floor shop
Saint James Distillery - many options for every taste and pocket

In another building, you will discover the Alembic Museum. The place is a collection of metal machineries, used along the centuries in the rum producing process. Next, you can visit the park and station with its locomotives which once transported the sugar cane and bananas.

Martinique Rum Tour Saint James Distillery Alembic Museum
Saint James Distillery - the Alembic Museum

Martinique Rum

Leaving from the rum distillery site, a small train provides guided tours. The train crosses the heart of the sun-drenched cane plantations. Part of this tour, there is La Salle mansion, where you will find the Atelier du Rhum and the cellars.

Martinique Rum Tour - Saint James Distillery visitor plan
Saint James Distillery - Visiting Plan

Even if you do not take the tour, make sure you do not miss visiting the Cave à Millésimes. This cellar is the very special place where rare and old bottles wait for the right buyer. How old are they? Some of them are since 1885.

Martinique Rum Tour - Saint James Distillery cave à Millésimes
Saint James Distillery - cave à Millésimes hosting out of age rums

Martinique Rum

3. L’Habitation Clément

Location: Domaine de l’Acajou, Le François 97240, Martinique
Entrance: paid.

Habitation Clement rum distillery Martinique Palm Cove
Habitation Clement Martinique Palm Cove

L’Habitation Clément is a vast agricultural domain of 160 hectares. You find it in the village of François, in the South-East of Martinique.

Formerly called Domaine de l’Acajou, L’Habitation Clément’s origins are in the 18th century. In 1887 doctor Homère Clément bought the domain. It will last until the 1st World War for the owner to found the distillery.

By far L’Habitation Clément is the most visited rum distillery in Martinique. Every year, more than 100.000 visitors are taking a journey back in time through the history of the Creole and rum culture.

Habitation Clement Martinique Barrels
Habitation Clement Martinique Barrels
Habitation Clement Martinique 15 year old rum
One of the old rums available for tasting ar Clement

When we visited the distillery, the domain was quite crowded. In Martinique, L’Habitation Clément is surely the most advertised in magazines, billboards, and commercials.

But once we got inside, we discovered a surprising 16 hectares of lush botanic gardens gravitating around the main house. The heart of L’Habitation Clément’s history, in 1996 the creole house was ranked in the category of the historical monuments of Martinique.

In short, the touristic activity inside L’Habitation Clément is created around two concepts. One is the world of rum, based around the antique distillery. And second is the Creole life, focused on the main home.

Let us talk about the L’Habitation Clément’s highlights – the most known rum distillery in Martinique

The main house: located on a hill having a panoramic view of the surroundings. A significant moment for this house was in 1991 when it hosted the Franco-American summit. The main actors were the French President François Mitterrand and US President George Bush Senior who met after the first Gulf War.

Habitation Clement rum distillery Martinique Main House
Habitation Clement - Main House

The Old Distillery is now transformed into a rum information centre. In fact, the building has several levels connected by footbridges. This place is an impressive collection of industrial machines. Nonetheless, it is an excellent place to learn about rum’s producing process.

Habitation Clement rum distillery Martinique Old Distillery
Habitation Clement - Old Distillery

The four cellars are hosting well-selected wooden barrels in which the rum is getting old. Organized into pyramids of barrels, more than 2 million litres of rum are enriching their character and flavours. After they stayed enough, the cellar masters are assembling the rums into special or vintage editions.

Habitation Clement rum distillery Martinique Cellars
Habitation Clement - Cellars Pyramid - Arrangement of the barrels

The gardens were definitely our favourites. To sum up, the park is a collection of more than 300 tropical plants. Among them, the palm groves are dominating the edge of a beautiful lake. 

Spread across the green meadows, you can admire old pieces of industrial machineries blended with contemporaneous forms of visual expressions (coloured metal sculptures).

Habitation Clement rum distillery Martinique Garden
Habitation Clement Garden

As always, a tour is much more pleasant when it ends in the liquor shop. Here, you can taste a various and fine range of Clement rum but also their special fruity liqueurs.

Habitation Clement rum distillery Martinique Rum Selections vintage old
Habitation Clement - pick a tasty souvenir
Habitation Clement rum distillery Martinique Shop
Habitation Clement Selections available for buying

Martinique Rum

4. Rhum HSE Habitation St-Etienne

Location: Habitation Saint-Etienne, Gros-Morne 97213, Martinique
Entrance: free

Martinique Rum HSE Habitation palm grove
HSE Habitation palm grove, bamboos, and tropical flowers all together
Martinique Rum HSE Habitation Map
HSE Habitation - the map of the rum estate

It is time to enter the heart of Martinique. We drive through narrow roads in luxurious greenery. Our driving speed is significantly decreasing. And not because of the road’s difficulty but we cannot decide where to stop to take the most breath-taking photo. 

One thing is certain. If you come from the east side of the island, the road to HSE Habitation is an incredible experience inside Martinique’s tropical forests. And once you get there, you will find a place not crowded at all, leaving you the chance to enjoy it even more.

The history of HSE Habitation St-Etienne goes back in 1882. It is the year when Amédée Aubéry, a young captain and soon to become a powerful landowner in Martinique buys “La Maugée”. This was a sugar cane refinery covering over 400 hectares from Gros Morne to Saint Joseph. 

Soon after, Amédée Aubéry transformed the sugar refinery into a rum distillery. He expanded the factory and built a beautiful façade with curved ventilation windows. Nowadays, the architectural innovations offer a particular charm to the building.

Martinique Rum Tour HSE Habitation Historic Monuments of Martinique
HSE Habitation is one of Historic Monuments of Martinique
Martinique Rum Rhum HSE Habitation St-Etienne Architecture
Rhum HSE Habitation - façade with curved ventilation windows

Rhum HSE Habitation – history, art and…rum

The constructions reflect a typical farm in Martinique. Today, this domain is one of the last and one of the finest examples of Martinique’s heritage. Visitors can admire the beautiful architectural structures of the main mansion. 

In the near proximity, there are also the old workers’ barracks. Due to its unique architectural style, Rhum HSE Habitation gained a place in the inventory of Martinique’s Historical Monuments.

Once we contemplated the building, we continued our tour inside HSE Habitation by relaxing in an delightful garden. On a side there is small lake margined by palm trees that emphasize the freshness and the purity of this unspoiled area.

Martinique Rum Tour HSE Habitation beautiful garden
HSE Habitation - a perfect place to free your mind and step into the rum's world
Martinique Rum Tour HSE Habitation Garden
HSE Habitation - Explore the gardens and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place

The ideal place to end the journey at HSE Habitation is getting back to the main mansion where a special place is waiting for its visitors.
Here, the so-called “Les Foudres HSE” is an exhibition place dedicated to different aesthetic disciplines. Visual artists, photographers, writers, poets, and musicians have the chance to make their art alive in the eyes of the tourists.

Martinique Rum HSE Habitation exhibition
Les Foudres HSE - the perfect place for art and rum tasing
Martinique Rum HSE Habitation Rum Selections
HSE Habitation Shop - a wide range of rums are available for sell

It also the place where visitors learn, scent and taste HSE’s exceptional range of rums. Such a cool place to get social with other tourists or just to find out more about Martinique from the HSE’s staff. 

Of course, in the end you can buy your favorites ones.

Martinique Rum HSE Habitation - vintage rum
HSE Habitation - pick your favorite one after you had a tasting session

Martinique Rum

5. Trois Rivières

Location: D7, Sainte-Luce 97228, Martinique
Entrance: paid

Martinique Rum Trois Rivieres main entrance
Trois Rivieres - the entrance into the visiting area

While exploring the breathtaking Southern beaches of Martinique we had a detour to Trois Rivières Plantation. The domain is easily recognizable by an imposing windmill built in the middle of the property. Without a doubt, you can figure out that the mill is also the emblem of Trois Rivières’s blue label.

Trois Rivières gets its name from the three rivers: Bois d’Inde, Oman and St. Pierre. These rivers are the borders of the original estate which was first established in 1660.

Until 1905, the functionality of the domain is resumed only on sugar cane plantation and sugar production. This was the year when Amédée Aubéry (the same guy that owns HSE Habitation) is buying Trois Rivières. Having already the know-how, he switches the activity from the sugar production into rum manufacturing. Aubéry invests also in modernizing the site.

Martinique Rum Trois Rivieres garden
Trois Rivieres - the garden
Martinique Rum Trois Rivieres windmill and shop
Trois Rivieres - the windmill standing aside to the tasting saloon

Today, the Trois Rivières domain is made of 700 hectares of sugar cane facing the sun in the far South of Martinique. 

The sugar cane fields stretch along the waterfront. Their roots go in clay and rocky soil, rich in magnesium. As a result, the harvested sugar cane has a higher sugar content which will enrich and refine the flavor of the rums.

Trois Rivières is especially famous for the quality of their aged Agricole Rhums and their rare vintage varieties.

Martinique Rum Trois Rivieres picturesque Shop
Trois Rivieres colorful indoor marked by the distillery's blue label
Martinique Rum Trois Rivieres Shop
Trois Rivieres Shop

Martinique Rum

Some considerations about rum classification in Martinique (and not only 🙂 )

Understanding the classifications will not only help you select your suitable rum but will also impress your friends when socializing.

As a starting point, we should state that Martinique has a tradition in aging the rum in oak barrels


One of the reasons is that the wood absorbs the unpleasant residues of the distillation process such as sulfur. 

Secondly, the more a rum stays in a wooden barrel before stepping into a bottle, the more it gains new flavors and colors (extracted from the wood essence). While it rests into the oak barrel, the rum is evaporating every year (the angel’s share) but its smoothness gets more refined.

Martinique Rum Tour
Chair waiting for the carpenter to complete its art

Martinique Rum

So, let’s proceed with the rum classifications from the lowest to the best quality:

Rhum Paille ou Ambré:

Is considered to be a starter when speaking about rum aging. It must be kept in barrels at least 18 months.

Rum VS:

VS Very Special Rum (or other expressions such as “Very Superior, “Trois Étoiles” (Three Stars): Aged in barrels for least 2 years. However, if you’re dealing with a rum made of a mixture of other types of rums (of different ages), the rule of 2 years aging applies to the youngest rum.

Rum VO:

VO Rum (Very Old) or Vieux Rhum: at least 3 years spent in barrels. In this case, we can also refer to the rum as “Old”.

martinique rum tour cellar dark barrels
The cellars - the place where the best rums are born
martinique barrels aging
Barrels are as important as the manufacturing process


VSOP Rum (Very Superior Old Pale): aged in barrels for at least 4 years. Other names used for this category include: “Very Superior Old Pale” and “Réserve”, or, as specified by the AOC Martinique, “Très Vieux”, “Réserve Spéciale” or “Cuvée Spéciale”.

Rum XO:

XO Rum (Extra Old) or Out of Age (Hors d’âge). Rums in this category are those that have aged in barrels for at least 6 years. In the case of the AOC Martinique, the producers are also using terms like “Grande Réserve”.

Exceptional vintage rum:

Here we are talking about extremely old rums, the most exceptional being surely the vintages. Besides the age, for a rum to be exceptional, it must meet other 2 strict criteria. 

First, the rum cannot be a mixture of several rums aged over different years. Secondly, the sugar cane must be harvested in an exceptional year from the quality point of view. Depending on the natural conditions, the harvesting year can differ. As a consequence, the year of rum’s creation is important as well. 

These rums are exceptionally tasty and they come with extraordinary prices. The most expensive we saw on our trip was 1.550 EUR a 750 ml bottle from the 1950s.

Habitation Clement Martinique Vintage Rums
Vintage Rums at Habitation Clement Martinique

Martinique Rum

Key takeaways of a Martinique rum tour

First of all, our advice is to do it. Let yourself carried away to the closest rum distillery. Chances of disliking it are extremely small.

Focus on the road. You will be able to observe Martinique’s nature better than you could have imagined when planning your holiday.

Enjoy the destination: Take your time and visit as much as you like. If you have curiosities, just ask the staff. 

Taste several rum specialties and decide what you like. If you are not convinced, do not rush buying it directly at the rum’s shop. Just take a photo of the selected bottle and its price. You will definitely find it later on, even cheaper, in a supermarket like Carrefour or Super U. 

Relax in the beautiful gardens and get social with other tourists. Last but not least, take some cool photos to remember the beautiful and full-of-flavor time spent in Martinique.

If you find this advice useful, use the share buttons to spread our blog post with your friends on your social media platform. 

À votre santé!

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