Mauritius isn’t one of the first places that springs to mind when I think of rum. But that said, of late I have been aware of the exposure of a number of rums that have their origins there and that number is growing rapidly. Sitting to the East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has no indigenous population. It was first visited by the Portuguese in 1507 but their stay was short-lived. In 1598, whilst on a voyage to the Spice Islands, a number of ships from the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course and landed on the island. They named it Mauritius in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau. A permanent settlement was established by the Dutch in 1638, and it was the Dutch that first introduced sugarcane to Mauritius along with deer in 1639, but the climatic conditions and frequency of cyclones due to the islands micro-climates forced them to abandon the island in 1710. In 1715, France took control of Mauritius, renaming it Ile de France. It was this French rule that first saw the island develop a prosperous economy centered around sugar production. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British Navy sought to gain control of the island. Despite Napoleons only victory over the British Navy at the Battle of Grand Port (20th-27th August 1810), the French surrendered to a British invasion 3 months later at Cap Malheureux. Mauritius became independent in 1968, became a republic in 1992, and it is estimated that currently, around 90% of the cultivated land on Mauritius contains sugarcane.
Mauritius is one of the few countries whose rum production includes both traditional and agricultural rum. The definitions here being that the traditional rum (Rum) is distilled using molasses and the agricultural rum (Rhum Agricole) is distilled using fermented sugar cane juice. There are currently only around six rum / rhum producers on the island but the amount of companies that purchase these distilled products to age, bottle or infuse is said to number in excess of 50.
I own four expressions from Mauritius, Green Island Superior Light, Green Island Spiced Gold, Tilambic 151 Overproof and St. Aubin Rhum Agricole. In this blog post I will be covering both Green Island expressions.
Green Island source their rums from three distilleries on the island, two that produce molasses based rums and one that produces rhum agricole.
Green Island Superior Light is a molasses based rum that has been in production since the 1960’s and its packaging has changed very little in that time. It is a blend of 3 and 5-year-old rums that have been aged in oak casks and then charcoal filtered to remove the colour that it gains from the casks.
Green Island Spiced Gold uses the Superior Light as its starting point with spices then being added. There is no official information on the spices added with the recipe remaining ‘a secret’ but hopefully my notes below will be able to flush out the spices that I think are used.
Here’s how I think they stand up….
Tasting Notes – Green Island Superior Light
In the glass: The rum is crystal clear with a few alcohol vapours bursting from the glass so I let it sit for a while. There is an initial sweetness reminiscent of the smell of cola bottle jelly sweets with fresh sugarcane following. There is star anise and the rum has a creamy aroma. It’s also a lot more vegetal than I was expecting.
In the mouth: Instant sweet entry and very smooth initially. There is a little peppery fire on the mid palate and a little heat on the finish. There is more star anise lingering around along with the cola bottle aroma at the back of my throat working its way up to my nose again. It’s a little like Cachaça. The sweet entry rounds to a dry medium length finish with a little zing of pepper. I’d also say that there was a little perry on entry which continues through to the finish. It’s a very pleasant white rum. It lends itself, I find, to a daiquiri as the dryness of the rum compliments the sugar syrup and the citrus of the lime. It doesn’t get lost in a mixed drink for sure.
Tasting Notes – Green Island Spiced Gold
In the glass: The rum is a dark straw colour and carries an amazing vanilla sweetness that fights to get out of the glass. It smells creamy and sweet and there is a hint of cherry cola and cinnamon. It’s the vanilla that dominates however.
In the mouth: That instant sweetness on the nose carries through to the mouth and initially the vanilla is the first out of the blocks. Heavy vanilla. This calms as the rum dries out in your mouth and lets the spice come through. That pepper is still present but this time it’s accompanied by ginger and cloves and a good dose of cinnamon. The finish is dry and the ginger sticks around to make it slightly longer than the superior light. It cuts right through the sweetness and keeps it in check. This rum, for me, gets lost when mixed with coke but a spiced daiquiri is very pleasant and when mixed with ginger beer and apple juice, the vanilla and ginger really work well together.
All in all, this is a very pleasant and appealing range of rums. The base qualities of the Superior Light carry through into the Spiced Gold and the almost fragrant nature of both rums makes it a pleasure to drink them. Mixed is my preferred route to go with these rums but that leaves me wanting to try an aged rum from Mauritius, as if there is this much flavour being gained from the islands sugarcane, just imagine the possibilities of leaving rums like these to mature in oak for a while. Exciting rums from a country that is growing in stature as a rum producing location and one to keep an eye on for sure.
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