After a first trip near Saint-Pierre, it is time to head south…
Habitation Saint-Étienne (HSE)
“Habitation Saint-Étienne” (HSE) is located north of Fort-de-France, near the city of Gros-Morne. For those who have visited the distillery Clément (more details in a future article), this place is a lot smaller but very similar. No entry fees here though, and maybe more “authenticity”.
Nowadays, rum distillation is no longer done in this place and has been re-located at distillerie Simon in Le François. Aging process however is still achieved here, in old looking buildings. Incidentally, they are considered as “French national heritage”. Unfortunately, it seems that the main one, a big colonial style house, cannot be visited and is moreover hard to photograph since you need to cross a private area to reach it (guarded by a dog!). Instead, you can still take pictures of smaller houses nearby…
As for Clément, a nice garden, labelled “jardin remarquable” (“Remarkable Garden”) by French authorities, embellishes the place. Modern art sculptures can be seen here, as well as many flowers and plant species. Below, “Atoumo” is traditionally used as a medicine for… literally everything (sic), but mainly headache, intestinal problems and cold.
As always, you can buy rum at the factory shop. An art gallery is located just nearby and complement what you can see in the garden and on some HSE bottles.
A few words about one of the brand specificities; HSE took the concept of rum aging in other alcohol casks to the next level! No less than six “special finishes” are produced (wine, porto, bourbon, sherry, whisky…). For this reason, and even if HSE is located in quite a remote area, I advise you to visit this place!
On the old road between Fort-de-France and Le Lamentin, La Favorite is one of the last distilleries, with Neisson, that can be called a “family business” in Martinique. The brand symbol is a very nice castle located nearby, owned now by the French army (and that cannot be visited, as expected).
As for Neisson, each and every step of rum production takes place at the factory. La Favorite is the last distillery to be powered by steam generators. The whole facility possesses a distinct retro look, and can be visited freely. I did not have the chance to see it running, but it is said to be stunning.
Two distinct columns are used: one mainly made of steel, the other made of copper. Each one gives a particular white rum, respectively called “L’Authentique” and “Cœur de Canne”. They taste really different; only the last one is used to make old rum.
The area where the rum ages looks like an old cellar and adds to the unique feel when you visit the factory. As you can see below, low light -friendly gear is advised!
A brand new shop has opened recently, where you can taste and buy La Favorite rums. The product line is maybe not as wide as the one from HSE (it IS a small factory), but the company makes a very popular high quality old rum called “La Flibuste”.
The third part will come soon!