We have visited several distilleries in the French West Indies, and we highly recommend a visit even if you do not drink rum. Many of the distilleries have material on life in the Indies from the 18th Century through today. The story is one of conquest and slavery. Before Europeans reached the Indies, the area was settled by several of the aboriginal peoples from North, Central, and South America. The islands were inhabited by the more nearly peaceful Arawaks, but the fierce Caraïbes were killing the men and taking the women and children. When Europeans arrived with metal and gunpowder, the Caraïbes faced defeat and enslavement. Additional slave labor was brought in from Africa to work the sugar cane plantations. When slavery was ended in the French West Indies, through the efforts of Victor Schoelcher, indentured labor was brought in from India, the namesake of the islands.
Eventually the sugar beet became the more efficient means of producing sugar, and the plantations have had to evolve. Some now produce such tropical fruit as bananas and pineapples, while other plantations stayed with cane and began to make rum instead of sugar. We will list other sites with more information on the topic, but we want to mention that "agricultural" rum (rhum agricole) is of considerably higher quality than rum which is produced in most countries as a by- product of the making of sugar (called "industrial" rum). Agricultural rum is made from the first pressings of the cane and is as fine (in our very humble opinion) as cognac. Agricultural rum is aged in casks and has an alcohol content which varies considerably. It is a liquor best consumed neat, perhaps as a digestif after your dinner.
We have the following pages on our site:
Our links to the world of rum offsite include:
Buy Hunter S. Thompson's Rum Diary from Amazon.
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