Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ti Punch

Rhum JM

Another rum distillery we visited in Martinique was Rhum JM.  Located on the very northern end of the island, Rhum JM does not see as many visitors as the other distilleries.

Rhum JM’s operation did not seem as advanced, nor its capacity as large as some of the other distilleries on the island such as St. James, which we also visited.

When we arrived the first thing we noticed was the smell.  Whatever they were pumping into that pond was bad, really bad.  We hurried into their air conditioned and smell proof museum/tasting room.  All of the signage on the displays was in French and tours were not available.  So, that only left tasting.

In French with limited English, our hostess recommended we try the national drink of Martinique, a Ti Punch, pronounced “tea pauncchh.”  Ti Punch is short for “Petit Punch,” meaning a “small punch.”  Because the drink is strongly alcoholic, I question whether they are talking about its size or effect.

“Chacun prepare sa proper”
(Each prepares his own death)

Traditionally, instead of serving a mixed drink the bartender or host will place out the ingredients, and everyone will prepare the drink to his or her own taste.  Let’s begin.

Pour a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of cane syrup into a small tumbler.  Sugar can be used, but the syrup makes for a better drink.

Two ounces of rhum agricole are added to the glass.  Rhum agricole is rum made from squeezed sugar cane instead of molasses.  White rum is traditional, but many of us less indoctrinated prefer rum that has been aged a little.  White rum can be a bit rough around the edges.

Roll a fresh lime around on a hard surface to release the juice, cut in half and squeeze into the glass.

Next, using your “Bois Lele,” a multipronged swizzle stick, mix the ingredients.  Using a spoon is not acceptable.

Traditionally, Ti Punch is consumed neat (sans ice), but we Americans have to have ice in everything.

This posting dedicated to Rahel, a true Ti Punch aficionado.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jardin de Balata

Our guidebook said, “If a visitor was only going to make one day trip, this should be it.”

The guidebook was referring to the Jardin de Balata, a private botanical garden located 6 miles northeast of Fort de France, Martinique.

After paying the admission fee (16 Euros), you are free to roam the 6.5 acre garden.

It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to walk the prescribed route on the well maintained paths.

Horticulturist Jean-Philippe Thoze began the garden in 1982.

It was opened to the public in 1986.

The park is situated on former farmland with views of the Pitons du Carbet.

The park contains about 3,000 varieties of tropical plants from around the world.

The different varieties were labeled in both Latin and French.

Sorry, no English, but we did occasionally recognized a plant name.

Royal Palm Tree

The collection includes about 300 types of palm trees.

Many were quite unusual.

This palm tree grew large seed pods.

Then blew the seeds all over the manicured grounds.

Also enjoying the park were several different species of birds.  Most like the humming birds near the parks entry were too fast to photograph.

Other creatures did not mind posing.

Some creatures were caught doing what they do best.

For the more adventurous, there was a suspension bridge walkway.

It provided spectacular views of the park.

Even though the signs were in French, it is apparent you are not to bounces the suspension bridge and scare your husband, Pollie.

I am sure this damn thing is not OSHA approved.

More pictures:

Bamboo Stand
The guidebook was correct.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Road Trip

Volkswagen Up a.k.a. Street Legal Go-cart

While anchored of Fort De France, Martinique, we rented a car at the local Budget office.  Martinique is a good place to explore.  It is a rather large island, the roads are in good shape, there is signage, they drive on the left, and they are not too crazy.

Using an older Lonely Planet guidebook, our first stop (of course) was a butterfly farm on the northwest side of the island.

Unfortunately it was closed on Mondays.  A piece of information that was missing from our guidebook. 

Our next stop was Rhum Depaz distillery.  It was open.

We now have visited so many distilleries, they let me give the tours.  Here is where the sugar cane is grown that is used to make the rum.  Each year at Depaz 250 hectares of cane is harvested over a 5 month period.

The 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee that wiped out St. Pierre, also took the original Depaz plantation and distillery.  By 1932, the surviving member of the family had rebuilt and was back in production.  The water used in making Depaz rum is filtered through the volcanic rock deposited by the 1902 eruption making it the finest water for rum production.

Sorry but, the Depaz family plantation home is not part of the tour.

The cane is hauled to the crusher in wagons pulled by tractors.  In this case a John Deer, reminding me of my days in Kansas.

Rhum Depaz is an equal opportunity tractor buyer.  A Volvo tractor?  Does the driver have to wear Birkenstocks?

Here is a brand that I am not familiar with.  It is probably made by Peugeot.  But, I digress, back to the tour.

In 1932 the crusher was water powered.

Today, these large boilers power most of the equipment at Rhum Depaz.

Depaz does not have their fermentation tanks on display.  Too bad, that is Pollie’s favorite part.  She likes the smell.

The distillation process is however on display and quite impressive.  25000 liters of rum are produced each day at Rhum Depaz.

Rhum Depaz incorporates a state of the art quality control system on their distillation to ensure a consistent product.

Here one of my colleagues double checks the product to ensure Rhum Depaz’s high quality.

The rum is then placed in charred oak barrels for aging.  With my employee discount, we purchased a bottle that was aged for 12 years.

Thank you for taking the Depaz Distillery tour.  Please stop at the tasting room to sample Rhum Depaz.  Now I have to get back to work.