Our first stop in Martinique was Rhumerie du Simon, producers of some of the island’s finest agricole. Here’s a look inside.
Soon after arriving in Martinique we were shuttled across the island, over rolling hills and finally to a stretch of sugarcane fields that led to the entrance of Rhumerie du Simon. This would be our first glimpse of local rhum agricole production and to say that anticipation was high would be an understatement.
As we entered the property and dodged giant trucks carrying cut sugarcane, we spotted the rest of the International Rum Council team along with our hosts, Jessica Marie of the Martinique Promotion Bureau and Ben Jones from Clement and Rhum JM.
Our tour began with a few details about the property. In operation since 1862, Le Simon produces some of the island’s finest agricole. They’ve become known as the most technologically advanced distillery on the island but maintain a strong connection to the time honored technique of making rhum. Today they supply two of Martinique’s most respected brands with product, Clement and HSE.
Like all distilleries in Martinique, rhum production at Le Simon starts with sugarcane, and lots of it. Transport trucks enter the property, are weighed and then dump giant loads of mostly machine cut cane. It is then fed into a crushing system that is far more sophisticated than any I’ve seen.
An initial pressing extracts much of the liquid, but the cane stalks are crushed again, watered down and crushed some more to ensure that every last drop of precious juice is released.
The leftover material is known as bagasse and resembles saw dust when the process is complete. It is burned in a nearby furnace and used to heat the large column stills on the property.
Once the liquid is extracted, Belgian baker’s yeast is added and the batch is allowed to ferment for 24 to 36 hours. There are 30 fermentation tanks on the property that are filled and drained every few days.
Le Simon uses 4 traditional column stills for distillation, two of which were moved to the property from other local distilleries that no longer produce rum. After distillation, the ABV is verified and the final product is tested for quality. It is then transported off site to Clement and HSE where it is aged, blended and bottled.
The production method at Rhumerie du Simon is very streamlined and efficient. Their team members are highly skilled and almost make the finely tuned process of making great rhum look easy. But with anything of quality, it’s all in the details.
While many fine spirits aficionados may not be aware of this distillery by name alone, they certainly know Clement XO, HSE Sherry Cask and many other fine products that come from here. So, next time your sipping a fine agricole with this lineage, be sure to remember the distillery where it was born – Rhumerie du Simon, Martinique!