Our Martinique rum tour continues with a stop at one of the most well known distilleries on the island, Depaz.
Our tour of Martinique distilleries started once again bright and early as we navigated the rum bus through the busy streets of Fort de France and then up the island’s picturesque west coast to St. Pierre. On the agenda was a look at Depaz, one of the most respected distilleries on the island and one of its most popular tourist attractions.
A bottle of Rhum Depaz can be difficult to find in the US, so when we arrived at their state of the art facility I had no idea what to expect. We were greeted by Eric Lecoeur, GM at the distillery, and our tour quickly began with a history lesson about the brand.
The beautiful Depaz Estate sits at the base of Martinique’s tallest mountain, Mount Pelee. The origins of the property date all the way back to 1650 when Martinique’s first govenor built the original chateau. It was later acquired by the Depaz family and a sugar manufacturing plant and distillery were constructed. In 1903 a devastating volcanic blast from Mount Pelee killed nearly everyone in the town of St. Pierre and leveled every structure including the estate. In 1917, Victor Depaz returned to Martinique to rebuild the chateau, distillery and the good name of the brand.
Blue Cane, which is known as the best, most flavorful variety of sugarcane, was planted on the property. The stubborn crop grew well in the fertile volcanic soil and distinct micro-climate of northwest Martinique. The quality of the rhum was quickly revered as among the best on the island and gained the Depaz brand a much deserved reputation once again.
Today, Depaz distills their signature brand of rhum agricole as well as a line for Dillon, another admired local brand. Blue Cane remains a big factor in their signature flavor profile and more than a thousand hectares of the specialty sugarcane is planted on Depaz land. It is harvested in the spring when its sugar content is highest, then crushed to extract the juice and allowed to ferment for 48 hours until the wash is roughly 6%abv.
The distillery is equipped with three column stills, two for the Depaz line of rhums and one exclusively for the Dillon brand. Once it is distilled, the rhum is aged in French oak barrels, blended and bottled on premises. Unfortunately, a fire in 1988 destroyed all of their aged rhum stock, but they have already assembled an impressive collection of nearly 5000 barrels that are resting in rebuilt aging warehouses.
Rhums by Depaz are very well known throughout the world and are widely available in Europe. Unfortunately, many of their high end offerings are only distributed in Martinique and France. They are definitely worth seeking out, so if you happen to see a bottle on the shelf of your local liquor shop, be sure to snatch it up. If you want to score one of their more interesting offerings, you’ll just have to pay them a visit in Martinique.