Thursday, January 10, 2013

Habitation Clement

No, Habitation Clement is not a golf course, even though its grounds are better manicured than most.  It is a sugar plantation and distillery.

Beyond the manicured area are acres of sugar cane and banana trees.

The plantation, Mahogany, was purchased by Homer Clement (born in Trinidad in 1852) in 1887 following the sugar crisis of 1880.  Homer Clement, a physician and politician, did not start producing Rhum Clement until 1917.  After Homer’s death in 1923 his son Charles Clement (1901 – 1973) continued operations and modernized the distillery.

Animal powered cane crusher

The distillery process for Rhum Clement has been moved into modern facilities, but the original equipment has been preserved and is on display throughout the grounds of Habitation Clement.

An impressive part of the display was the steam powered cane crusher that replaced the animal powered crusher.

After the pressure from the steam was used to power equipment, the heat from the steam was used in the distillation process.

Originally, cane from the fields was brought to the distillery via steam powered rail tractors.  Evidently, the cane must be quickly processed after harvest so as to retain the sugar content.

After World War II, the Marshall Plan introduced le GMC to replace the rail tractors.

The aging process in oak barrels was the only part of the process that was on the tour.  By Martinique standards, “old rum” must stay in the barrels at least 3 years.  Rhum Clement is aged for 3, 8 and 10 years.  The smell of alcohol in these buildings is very strong.  About 8% of the volume of the barrel is lost each year to evaporation through the oak and is replaced with rum of the same age. 

Today, the property is a heritage site and part of the Clement Foundation that supports contemporary art exhibits.  In 1991 the site was chosen to host the Presidents Francois Mitterrand and George Bush following the Gulf War.

And, they make some really good rum.

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