Kervegant Chapter XIX Principle Countries Producing Rum

[Something to note in this chapter is the description of boom and bust cycles. Besides the technical hurdles of Arroyo style rums, they may also have not come to be because undulating business cycles prevented the needed sustained research. What these increasingly means is that these sophisticated rums are for us now where the tech is easy and markets for fine products are steadily expanding.]

Kervegant Chapter XIX Principle Countries Producing Rum:

Pages 467-484



It can be said that wherever sugar cane is cultivated, rum is made on a more or less important scale. This is the case in Spain, Madeira, the various islands of the West Indies, the United States (Louisiana), Mexico and various countries of Central America (Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador). Guiana (Demerara, Surinam, French Guiana), Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Argentina (Tucuman), in the French islands of Oceania (Tahiti, New Caledonia), Java (arak ), the Philippines, Formosa, Indochina and English India, Reunion Island in Mauritius, Madagascar, the Comoros Islands, South Africa (Natal), Egypt, Australia (Queensland), etc. Some non-cane producing countries also produce rum from imported molasses (United States: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania).

It is therefore almost impossible to estimate in a precise way the world production of this spirit.

Pairault estimated the average annual manufacture, for the ten-year period 1890 – 1900, as 116,618,500 liters of alcohol at 55 °, broken down as follows:

Many producing countries are not included in the list above (Cuba, Central America, Brazil, Queensland, etc.), the figure given by Pairault is certainly much lower than the reality. The same is true of the one indicated by N. Deerr in 1921: 20 million gallons of alcohol at 75°, i.e. 1,290,000 hl at 55°.

We would be tempted to admit that the quantity of alcohol obtained from cane or by-products of cane sugar manufacture anywhere in the world must not be less than 2,500,000 hectoliters (at 55°) per year.

On the other hand, the number of rum exporting countries is very limited, as this spirit is most often consumed at the place of production. The supply of cane eau-de-vie made on the world market by countries other than the French West Indies, British Guiana, Jamaica. Puerto Rico, Cuba, Reunion, South Africa and Java are insignificant. For the period 1930-39, total exports would be in the order of 500,000 hl (at 55°) annually.

French West Indies


Although it dates from the beginnings of colonization, rum making did not take a real importance in Martinique before 1854. During the first half of the eighteenth century, production generally varied between 1 and 2 million liters, and export between 500,000 and 1 million liters. In 1854, powdery mildew disease caused a rarefaction of grape spirits in France, and export rose to 4,205,000 liters. The phylloxera crisis caused a new surge of exports, which reached 11,600,000 liters in 1882 and 19 million liters in 1892, to remain the following years around 16-17 million liters. Following the destruction of St. Pierre, the main center of the rhum industry, by the eruption of Mount Pelee, exports fell in 1902 to 9 million liters, but rose in 1906 to 11,345,000 liters and in 1913 to 18,823,000 liters.

FIG. 49. – Arrival of canes in an agricultural distillery (Martinique).

During the 1914-18 war, partly because of the need for alcohol both for beverage consumption and for the manufacture of gun powder, and partly because of sugar taxation at a low price, rum production intensified and reached a maximum in 1917, never exceeded since then, of 32,831,000 liters. The annual average of exports during the period 1914-18 was 23,458,000 liters.

The example of Martinique having been followed by the other colonies, the plethora of beverage alcohol provoked a very serious crisis in the metropolitan market, which determined the Government to quota colonial rums (law of December 31, 1922). The endowment of Martinique, initially fixed at 80,000 hectoliters of pure alcohol, was raised, following various adjustments, to 88,915 hl, quantity to which we must add 5% of “creux de route”. Since then, exports have generally varied between 15 and 20 million liters (at 55 °) per year.

[creux de route is loss in transport, but does it imply angel’s share or theft by sailors?]

Rum is made in Martinique, on the one hand, by distilleries attached to sugar factories and working the molasses produced by them; and on the other hand, by agricultural distilleries, which use cane juice as a raw material (1). Of the industrial rhummeries installed in Saint-Pierre since 1881 and who used molasses purchased in the colony or imported from outside, there are now only 2. Their disappearance was caused by the decree of December 29, 1917 prohibiting importation of foreign molasses and rendering these establishments dependent on the country’s sugar factories for raw material purchase.

(1) It is mainly agricultural distilleries that have contributed to the increase in production in recent years. In 1913, they numbered 65 and produced only 7,477,000 liters of rum. Industrial and sugar factory distilleries had an overall production of 14,561,000 liters.

There are 14 factory rhummeries (1939). During the period 1930-39 they produced an average of 11,716,000 liters of rum at 55° per year. Individual productions varied between 240,000 and 2,300,000 liters, depending on the establishment and the year. The most important factory is that of Petit-Bourg. Two factory distilleries (Galion, Bassignac) and an industrial distillery (L. Meyer) produce grand arôme rums: 1,500,000 liters annually. All the molasses rums are in principle destined for export; a tiny amount is consumed on site.

[SOS It would be great to make sure I have all the logic here correct. I’m not sure how factory distillery is different than industrial distillery. I suspect that a factory distillery also has a sugar factory while an industrial distillery may simple use molasses but not refine sugar. That is only based off knowing that Galion, which still exists, refined sugar.]

There are 124 agricultural rhummeries (1939). Their importance is extremely variable: the smallest produce only 10,000 to 15,000 liters of rum a year, and the largest up to 500,000 liters. Their average annual production was, during the period 1930-39, 12,070,000 liters. Four establishments (Société Saint-James) normally use batterie syrup for a raw material: they produce about 1 million liters of rum a year. The others work with vesou crú. Exceptionally, certain agricultural distilleries use, either alone or mixed with cane juice, molasses from the sugar factories, as sometimes they send to the distillery cane juice which, for a reason or another can not be worked into sugar (2). A particular type of raw vesou rum is the cœur de chauffe, obtained by fractional distillation: a few thousand liters is only produced, and entirely consumed on the spot.

(2) During the years 1943 to 1945, because of the weakness of the harvests and the poor condition of the machinery, several factories could not manufacture sugar under normal conditions, have turned most, if not all, of their canes into rum.

[I think Saint James uses the cooked syrup for a few reasons. One is aroma and quality and the other is because they produce some much, they need to stabilize the sugar so it can be used all year. For others, they must have capacity to ferment and distill it all as it gets harvested, very much like grapes. crú is tricky to translate and could imply either freshly harvested of that season or uncooked.]

Cane juice rums feed a large local consumption: 6 million liters on average per year for the period 1930-39, or 24 liters per inhabitant. The balance is exported. The product consumed in the colony is either new eau-de-vie, not colored (grappe blanche), or more rarely aged rum. In 1939 it bore a consumption duty of 315 francs per hectolitre of rum at 55°, which was raised, following successive increases, to 994 francs in 1944. The increase in duties did not, moreover, reduce consumption, which amounted to 6,957,500 liters in 1942, following the cessation of imports of various wines and spirits, which in the normal year reached 25,000 hectoliters of wine and 500 hectoliters of eau-de-vie. As in many other producing countries, rum is Martinique’s “wine of the poor”.

Rums destined for export measure 60-65° in strength and are colored with caramel. They are usually exported as soon as they are made or after only a few months in barrels. However, in recent years some distillers and traders age for 3 or 4 years, cane juice or syrup rum in 250 liter charred oak barrels. The product thus obtained is never colored with caramel. It is delivered directly to the consumer under the brand name of the producer, whereas young rums are generally subjected beforehand to blending by merchants of the Metropolis for the preparation of commercial types. Martinique rums have always been better appreciated than those of the other colonies on the metropolitan market. At the same time, some brands enjoy fairly large premiums: “grand arôme” rums in particular are 15 to 20% more expensive than ordinary rums.

Fig. 50. — Mill with vertical rolls of a small agricultural distillery (Martinique 1922)

Fig. 51. – Agricultural distillery mill with hydraulic wheel (Martinique 1922).

Almost all exports are made to France. Only a few hundred hectoliters are shipped to the French colonies (Guyana, St. Martin, New Caledonia, Tahiti) or foreign countries (United States, Trinidad, etc.).

Here are the productions and exports of the years 1930 to 1939 (in liters of alcohol with 55° G L.):


The development of the rum industry was slower in Guadeloupe than in Martinique. From 1,473,000 liters in 1854, rum exports reached only 3,660,000 liters in 1892. At that time, much of the molasses of the colony was exported to Martinique. Only after the destruction of the industrial distilleries of Saint-Pierre, did the factories of Guadeloupe organized themselves for the transformation of their molasses. In 1903, exports amounted to 5,828,000 liters, to grow considerably during the 1914-18 war. In 1919, they reached the maximum of 19,582,000 liters. Since the quota on colonial rums, they have been 10 to 12 million liters on average annually.

Production conditions are essentially the same as in Martinique. 15 distilleries annexed to sugar factories (the most important of which is that of Darboussier at Pointe-à-Pitre) manufacture molasses rum, destined exclusively for export; and 55 agricultural distilleries (1939) make rum from vesou cru. However, Guadeloupe does not produce a grand arôme rum or syrup rum. On the other hand, fermentations are rapid and conducted in the presence of antiseptics which give a lighter and less aromatic rum than that of Martinique.

The share of agricultural distilleries in overall production is also lower: 35% instead of 50% in Martinique. Local consumption is approximately 4,500,000 liters annually, or 15 liters per inhabitant.

Here are the productions and exports from the 1930 to 1939 (rum at 55 °):

British West Indies


Jamaica, at one time, was at the forefront of the rum exporting countries. In 1823 she shipped 13,398,000 liters of this spirits to England. Exports decreased substantially thereafter, to remain around 7 million liters (at 80°) annually during the eighteenth century. They fell to 4,952,000 liters per year during the five-year period 1910-14. High duties imposed on spirits in England (£ 500 per puncheon) caused a considerable reduction in rum consumption, and from 1926 to 1935 there ensued a very serious crisis in Jamaica, which had to limit its production. A law of 1932 restricted manufacture to 50% of that of the previous three years. In the same year, rum exports were only 824,000 liters.

Rum is produced in Jamaica by “sugar houses” (Sugar Estates), which at the same time produce sugar, in fairly small quantities (500 to 9000 tons a year, depending on the establishment) and by means of relatively simple tooling. In 1936, there were 39 sugar houses, 29 of which made rum: individual production ranged from 37,000 to 470,000 liters and the overall production was 4,312,000 liters.

Jamaican rums are obtained from musts consisting of a mixture of molasses, cane juice and vinasse in proportions varying with each establishment. They belong to three main types: light (for local consumption), medium-bodied (for export to England and the American continent) and very full-bodied (destined for Germany and Continental Europe).

This last product (german rum) appeared around 1890, following the increase in duties on rums introduced in Germany. In order to justify this spirits despite custom duties, Fincke and Company, Brême and Kingston, and some enterprising planters in northern Jamaica had the idea of making a very fragrant rum, capable of to be blended with a significant amount of neutral alcohol to provide a commercial product capable of competing with German spirits. These grand arôme rums are mostly obtained in the parish of Trelawny. They present from one property to another great organoleptic differences (Cousins).

Local consumption is relatively low: about 2 million liters, or 2 liters per inhabitant per year. Consumer taxes are currently (law of August 2nd, 1938) 10s. 8 d. per gallon-proof (2.59 liters of pure alcohol). The distilleries pay a license fee of £ 5 per still.

In Jamaica, as in all the English colonies, distillers are obliged, under penalty of a considerable fine, to transport all the rum they produce to Government Warehouses. Rums are kept in charred or uncharred white oak puncheons of 500 liters capacity. The duration of the stay in Warehouse is 3 years for products for the English market and 5 years for those exported to Ireland and New Zealand. Australia requires a 5-year storage certificate, if the rum is to be sold under the “old” label, if it is labeled “very old” a 10-year certificate. Rums of all ages can be found in the warehouses, ranging from newly distilled products to eaux-de-vie over 40 years old (1). The practice of artificial aging and addition of sauces are formally prohibited by the regulations in force: only the addition of caramel is allowed.

(1) For example, Myers (Kingston) rums bearing the V.O. label are over 15 years old, while the Mona and V.V.O. marks correspond to products distilled respectively in 1906 and 1896.

In the past, Jamaican producers sold their rums to merchant exporters in Kingston. Since 1933, they sell them through a sales cooperative, the “Jamaica Sugar and Rum Manufacturers”. Exports are made mainly to Great Britain, but quite large quantities are also shipped to Canada, the United States and Germany.

We give below (in liters of rum at about 80°), the total exports made during the years 1930 to 1939, and for 1935 and 1936, exports by country of destination.

Exports by country of destination


Production conditions of rum in Trinidad are about the same as in Demerara. Rum is made by 5 distilleries, attached to sugar factories. Musts are prepared with molasses without vinasse, diluted to a density of 1.060 and a little sulfuric acid and sulphate of ammonia are added. Fermentation takes place spontaneously and lasts from 36 to 54 hours. The rum is distilled at a high strength (85-90 ° G.L) by means of continuous apparatus of the Coffey type. The degree is reduced for export to 40° O.P (80°5 G.L.) and for local consumption at 18° U.P. (47° G. L.). In the latter case, the product is supplemented with various sauces based on fruit juice, etc.

Trinidad rum exports have never been very important. During the last century, they usually varied between 25,000 and 250,000 liters per year. However in 1854 they amounted to 1,296,000 liters. As for local consumption, it reaches about 1,500,000 liters annually, or 5 liters per capita.

We give below the productions and exports of these last years (liters of alcohol with the degree of proof (57° GL):


Barbados was one of the first colonies to make rum: in the 17th century, l’eau des Barbades was particularly popular in England, which supplied all of Europe with it. In the second half of the eighteenth century, however, exports fell to a very low figure: 159,000 liters in 1864, 76,000 liters in 1874, 14,000 liters in 1876. At the end of the century, the colony produced only the rum needed for local consumption. Production and exports of recent years were as follows (in liters of alcohol at 57° G.L):

Exports are made mainly to England, Canada, the United States and the English colonies of the West Indies (Bermuda, Antigua, Grenada, St. Christopher, Trinidad, etc.).

In 1939, there were 4 distilleries, using only molasses as a raw material. Distillation is done at a high degree (92-98° GL), often in the presence of coconut husks, roots, etc., or even lime and soda, in continuous appliances or more rarely in batch stills with rectification columns. They tend to remove aromatic principles of fermentation from the distillate and to form an artificial bouquet by adding sherry sauces, liqueur wines (Madeira), bitter almonds, grapes or other products (Valaer).

[This is a strong statement about Barbados and we should temper it because it only comes from Peter Valaer and the American IRS survey of rums. It seems like many of these writers had very narrow experience never actually visiting many islands distilleries and relying on writing letters. We still have to resolve where the big three chambered still at the West Indies Rum Distillery fits in. Barbados possibly had something like a grand arôme rum powering their blends.]

Local consumption, which at the end of the last century reached 2,500,000 liters (according to Pairault), is currently about 1 million liters per year, or 5 liters per capita. Consumption taxes are 5% plus a 10% surcharge per gallon of rum to the degree of proof.

[Theses taxes that he mentions drove a decent amount of short distance inter-island rum running.]

Saint Lucia, Dominica, Granada, etc …

At the time of the sugar plantations, various islands of the Lesser Antilles (St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent, Grenada, St. Christopher, Antigua, Montserrat) each produced a certain amount of rum, some of which was exported. We have already indicated (Chapter I) the exports made by these colonies in 1825 and in 1876.

At present rum production has disappeared from these islands or is confined to satisfying the low needs of local consumption. There is no exception except for Saint Lucia, which has produced in recent years (in liters):

[Kervegant is not going into depth on the Dominican Republic, but we do know anecdotally they currently have a distillery making an exceptional pot still rum that goes into the blend for Ron de Barrilito in Puerto Rico.

West Indies and Greater Antilles

Virgin Islands.

The former Danish colonies of St. Croix and St. Thomas, ceded to the United States in 1917, formerly produced large quantities of rum. From 1777 to 1807, exports reached an annual average of 3,752,000 liters of rum with a maximum of 16,288,000 liters in 1789. They declined during the nineteenth century: still 4,194,000 liters in 1840, they fell in the vicinity 950,000 liters from 1863 and 300,000 liters by the end of the century. From 1898 to 1920, the annual average of exports was 252,000 liters. According to Pairault, local consumption reached at the end of the nineteenth century 548,000 liters of rum (at 55°).

After the establishment of prohibition in the United States, rum production ceased completely, only to resume in 1934.

At present, there are four distilleries in Saint-Croix, using raw cane juice as raw material; and at St. Thomas 3 rhummeries, which work molasses imported from Puerto Rico. The most important establishment is the Virgin Islands Company (St. Croix), a company founded and administered by the United States Government. In 1943 it produced 1,708,000 liters of rum sold under the name of “Government House Rum”.

Exports from the Virgin Islands, made exclusively to the United States, were the following from 1934 to 1939 (in liters-tax):

They continued to increase during the war years, reaching 10,055,000 liters in 1944.

St. Croix rum is distilled to a low degree (65-75°) in continuous or batch apparatus. It is most often aged as is, without the addition of foreign ingredients, in charred oak barrels. At St. Thomas, the product, obtained by a short fermentation (36 hours), is on the contrary generally distilled to a very high degree, in continuous apparatus, and sometimes supplemented with caramel or fruit juice.


Like the US Virgin Islands, the booming industry of Puerto Rico did not begin to develop until 1935. At the time of Spanish rule, the colony produced only small quantities of rum: In 1873, exports reached only 145,000 liters. After the abolition of prohibition in the United States, exports resumed, but they were initially constituted only by blends of neutral spirits with rums imported from Jamaica, Martinique and Cuba, or by rums artificially obtained by adding rum essences and various aromatic ingredients to neutral alcohol.

[I have never seen acknowledgement before that Puerto Rico bought Jamaican grand arôme rums to support their blends.]

In 1935, the first rhummeries began installation. In 1936, the number was 17, and there were 43 “rectifiers”, which blended rums and prepared them for sale.

Puerto Rico rums are mostly obtained from final molasses (blackstrap), rarely from cane juice. Distillation is made at a rather high level (usually 70 to 80°). The product is subject to artificial aging and various sauces before sale.

We give here (in liters of rum at 50°) the quantities produced and those exported from 1935 to 1939. Exports are made almost exclusively to the United States:

Since 1939, production has followed an upward curve and in 1944 it has been possible to export 24,048,000 liters of rum at 50°.


In 1936, according to Leonard, there were 69 distilleries in Cuba, capable of producing some 100 million liters of rum annually, but having actually manufactured only 20 million liters, most of which was consumed on the spot. Exports are very variable from one year to the next, were the following from 1930 to 1939 (in liters):

[One thing that may explain this difference of capacity to rum production is that Cuba also produced a lot of fuel ethanol.]

Exports are made mainly to the United States, which explains their growth from 1935. They have taken a great importance in recent years, reaching, in 1943, 15,557,000 taxed liters and, in 1944, 21,737,000 taxed liters. Small quantities are also sent to Canada, the British West Indies, England, Germany, and so on. Bacardi rum has a worldwide reputation for preparing cocktails.

In the past, exports have also shown great variability. Nothing some years, they reached at other times several millions of liters. Thus in 1844, they were 6,326 barrels, of which 4,171 were shipped to Germany, 3,247 to England and 880 to Spain and the Mediterranean countries. By 1873, however, the quantities exported were only a few barrels. By 1910, the production of molasses rum was about 4,500,000 liters.

Consumption taxes are 0.20 pesos per liter of spirits, when the strength does not exceed 50° G.L.


The manufacture of sugar and rum was very prosperous in Haiti at the time of French colonization. In 1774, the French part of Santo Domingo had 650 sugar houses producing 59,100 metric tons of white or ground sugar, 88,408 metric tons of raw sugar, 58,000 metric tons of molasses and 10,000 barrels of tafia. Ducœurjoly reported the existence in 1789 of 793 sugar houses and 182 guildiveries.

At present, there are only two small sugar mills and one large plant owned by a US company, the “Haytian American Sugar Co.”, which has a distillery attached to it, which uses molasses and battery syrup as raw materials.

[There is a lot to unpack here with the history of HASCO. I am aware of the bateys and slave like conditions of Haitians working in the D.R. sugar fields. What complicated this story is its my understanding that currently clairin producers use batterie syrup. Does it come from the D.R. and is it a product of a sugar hosue? or am I mistaken and my information is a relic from pre-1987? It is worth reading this brief NYTimes piece.]

Rum is produced in a host of small agricultural distilleries (1), which generally work with batterie syrup, rarely raw cane juice. In these plants, it is often carried out according to very archaic methods: composition of the must in two stages, distillation with re-passing. The fermented must is first distilled, by means of a batch apparatus, so as to have an alcoholic liquid at 44-55° G. L., called clairin or, if less than 50°, tafia. This product is sold as is, or redistilled to a high degree, brought back with water to 50°, colored with caramel and aged in barrels to form the rum. At the time of the release for consumption, this rum is generally 45°. It is renowned for its excellent quality.

(1) According to E. Baker (in litteris), the number of stills in operation, variable from one year to another, would be 400 to 500. It amounted for the year 1943-44 to 488, totaling 500 boiler points. The boiler point is the capacity of an appliance whose boiler can receive 225 liters of must per heating. The 3 most important distilleries, totaling 25 to 30 boiler points, used cane juice and all the others the battery syrup.

[The first things to note is that these rums were surveyed in the late 1980’s by Fahrasmane to have many schizosaccharomyces pombe ferments. Re-passing is also simply two stage pot still distillation. I would not doubt these could be some of the most remarkable rums in the Caribbean.]

Production, according to Baker, varies between 8 and 10 million liters annually.

Exports, which are made to the United States and neighboring islands (Bahamas, Cuba), are low: they have reached in recent years (in liters):

Local consumption is important. At the end of the last century, Pairault estimated it at 34,472,000 liters of alcohol at 55° per year, or 23 liters per capita. This figure, however, seems excessive: according to Baker, consumption of clairin and rum can currently be estimated at about 4 liters per inhabitant.

As a unique fact, there is no official control of production, nor consumption: the distillers pay a fixed fee and then manufacture as they wish. This fee is 100 gourdes per boiler point per month, for stills distilling musts of vesou or syrup; and 150 gourdes for those distilling molasses musts. For rum, it is 0.25 gourdes per liter of capacity of the apparatus and per month of operation. There is no consumption tax.

Dominican Republic.

Rum production in Santo Domingo is small: about 1 million liters annually. Rum is a by-product of sugar production, with production of 400 to 450,000 tonnes per year. Only some of the residual molasses are used on site by the distilleries; the balance is exported to the United States. Besides the rum itself, industrial alcohol (500,000 to 1,000,000 liters) and some liqueurs are produced. Exports of rum are almost nil (a few thousand liters a year, destined for the other islands of the West Indies).

Here is the production in recent years (in liters):

Continental American

United States.

The rum industry of the United States dates back to the early days of colonization. By the end of the 18th century, there were 63 rum distilleries in Massachusetts (New England), and in 1791, more than 26 million liters of molasses were imported from the West Indies for the manufacture of this spirit. From 1900 to 1913, the average annual production was 8,046,000 liters. It reached 11,454,000 liters in 1914 and remained a little below this figure in 1915, 1916 and 1917 (annual average: 10,944,000 liters). From 1919 to 1934 (Prohibition era), the production of rum fell to an average of 3,515,000 liters per annum, rising to a normal level from 1935. In the following years production (in liters) :

[The second figure here represents an amount of the first that was denatured likely all for the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry bought very significant amounts of rum. Felton & Son’s in Boston had permission (setup by Harris Eastman Sawyer many years prior) to denature their rum only at the last minute which allowed them to amass giant stocks aged during prohibition.]

In 1937, there were 3 rhummeries in the state of Massachusetts, 2 in Louisiana, 2 in Pennsylvania and 1 in Kentucky. The rums are made only from final cane sugar molasses, obtained locally (Louisiana) or more often imported from outside. These are generally relatively strong products, distilled below 80° G.L., requiring aging before being delivered for consumption. Louisiana, however, produces very light rums of the Cuba type, distilled at around 95°.

In addition distilleries producing rum, in the United States, there are powerful facilities producing cane molasses, industrial alcohol. The New Orleans distillery, for example, can handle 50,000 gallons of molasses (189,250 liters) daily; it is equipped for the preparation of absolute alcohol and that of dry ice. Annual molasses alcohol production ranged from 150,000 to 200 million gallons between 1923 and 1935.

[This large plant may have been associated with Dr. William L. Owen who was Louisiana based, but consulted on many islands. He may have advocated with large column still investment in Cuba capable of making fuel ethanol. He specialized in other aspects of chemical production from sugar byproductions, such as acetone production, very much like Arroyo’s early career. There are papers where he comments on Arroyo’s processes, but they haven’t been retrieved yet.]

English Guiana (Demerara).

Rum has long been one of the main export products of British Guiana. In 1823 the quantities exported amounted to about 7 million liters. From 1854 until the end of the nineteenth century, they fluctuated around 11 million and a half liters at 80° C. During the five-year period 1897-1901, they reached an annual average of 18,442,000 liters of rum at degree of proof (57°). Here are the productions and exports of recent years (in liters of alcohol at 57°):

Exports are made mainly to Great Britain and the English colonies (mainly Canada). They also send a few thousand hectoliters to foreign countries (Germany, etc.).

In English Guiana, everywhere the rhummerie is an annex of the sugar factories and does not exist as an independent industry (1). The only raw material used is final molasses, which is diluted with water so as to obtain a low density (1.060) and fast fermentation (36 to 48 h). Distillation is to a degree high (84-85°, and sometimes up to 92° GL), in intermittent or continuous units, usually built on site with the country’s woods. In 1914, there were, according to Harrisson, 27 rhummeries equipped with discontinuous stills and 9 with Coffey type appliances. The number of sugar factories is now reduced to 20.

[This is a very fascinating note about the use of wooden stills. Currently it is known that a few pot stills with wooden boilers operate. I heard the anecdote that the copper head of the big pot still which makes El Dorado’s rums needs to be replaced and has been in service since 1957. The copper was extra thick and may cost a few hundred thousand to restore it to the original specifications. Keep in mind, this is just a cap above a wooden boiler.]

(1) At most, a small amount of contraband rum is made in the woods, and generally from sugar that is dissolved in water, and is known as bush rum.

Dutch Guiana.

The manufacture of rum is also in Dutch Guiana an annex of the the sugar house. The working methods employed do not differ substantially from those used in Demerara. Only batch appliances are used for distillation, arranged so as to produce high-strength rums (Pairault). It is exported at 81° G.L., mainly for Curaçao.

[I’ve never heard this note, but Curaçao is also a Dutch creation so it seems plausible. The island of Curaçao possibly had no distillery.]

Rum making has never been very important in Suriname. In 1845 export was only 151,000 liters. At the end of the 19th century, it reached 528,000 liters and local consumption was 150,000 liters, according to Pairault.

[At the WIRSPA conference in Jamaica (October, 2018), Surinam sent a delegation of brilliant female scientists who were about to start a rum distillery. It will be exciting to see what happens there.]

Here are the productions and exports of the last years (in liters of rum at 50°):

French Guiana.

The rum industry is of little importance in French Guiana. From the beginnings of the nineteenth century to 1865, production varied according to the years from 100,000 to 300,000 liters of rum a year, and exports did not exceed 100,000 liters. The maximum of production was reached in 1868, with 906,000 liters. Cane cultivation almost disappeared after 1880, and the rum making was reduced to a few thousand liters a year. It resumed in 1886, thanks to importation of foreign molasses, to reach 261,000 liters from 1891 to 1895. High duties hit the molasses coming from abroad, and production became almost nil (534 liters in 1896).

During the quota of colonial rum entry into the metropolis, French Guiana benefited from a quota of 140 hl of pure alcohol being increased to 2,500 hl in 1934, and the manufacture of rum gained some importance. At present, there are a dozen distilleries in the colony, which use molasses and cane juice as raw material. Here are the productions and exports of recent years (in liters of alcohol at 55°):

The local consumption of Guiana is about 300,000 liters of rum per year, or 10 liters per inhabitant.


Venezuela produces significant amounts of molasses and cane juice rum. Taquet estimated the manufacture in 1889 to be 14,817,000 kg, of which 17,000 was exported and the rest consumed in the country. The ordinary eau-de-vie is at 20 ° Cartier (53 ° G.L.) and the eau-de-vie doubles at 30° Cartier (79 ° G.L).

[I don’t completely understand the logic of the last sentence. I think they were a country that use a weight/volume % measure for ethanol as opposed to the more common volume/volume measure.]


In Brazil, the spirits consumed also come generally from cane. From the beginning of colonization, the Portuguese made rum in this country, but the product was deemed inferior (Savary des Brulons). Even today, there are many small distilleries in the Brazilian countryside that use syrups from sugar cane processing waters, batterie syrup or green cane juice as raw materials.

At the same time, many sugar factories have ancillary distilleries (about 175 out of 335), which produce spirits or industrial alcohol, from molasses. In recent years, large central distilleries have been established, such as Santa Theresinha, Cabo Pernambuco, etc., which can produce up to 600 hl of alcohol per day. Equipped in a very modern way, often with French appliances, these various establishments manufacture mostly anhydrous alcohol for the carburation (513,000 hl in 1940).


The production of potable alcohol (consisting mainly of aguardiente de cana) was, in 1939, 972,685 hl, of which 196,295 hl produced by the State of São Paulo, 137,054 hl by that of Rio and 91,471 hl by that of Rio Grande do Sul. The daily production capacity of the 145 distilleries producing potable alcohol is 513,575 liters of brandy (1).

(1) Ministerio das relacoes exteriores – Brasil 1940-41, Rio-de-Janeiro

The consumption of cane eau-de-vie in Brazil is considerable. The national alcohol is a kind of tafia called cachaça. Rio de Janeiro alone consumed it, in the year 1885, 675 hl per day, according to Jacquet.

Exports of rum were at one time very important. From 1840 to 1863 they reached an annual average of 8,760,000 liters. In 1889, however, they had fallen to 1,500,000. They are now almost exclusively to other countries in South America and are very low because of the poor quality of the product.

[I have a feeling the poor quality is just quality product being overly stretched with neutral spirit to make it unremarkable.]

Argentina – Peru – Mexico, etc …

In Argentina, production of alcohol from cane molasses increased from 13,254,000 liters in 1912 to 33,520,000 liters in 1924, of which 90% was manufactured in the province of Tucuman. The latter province produced only 13 million liters in 1930 and 8 million in 1932. Part of this alcohol is used for beverage consumption in the country and the other for industrial uses.

In Peru, where there were 31 sugar factories in 1924, most of them with subsidiary distilleries, the production of rum has been around 2,500,000 liters a year since 1918. In addition, 4 to 6 million industrial spirits are produced from cane molasses. The popular alcoholic drink is the chicha, made with corn and which the Indians of the Cordillere make a great consumption.

[We know there is currently a Peruvian distillery making spectacular pot still rum, but the plant also makes vast amounts of continuous column spirit. This plant was also recently rebuilt after years of neglect.]

In Mexico, the national alcohol is mezcal, obtained by distillation of the fermented juice (pulque) of Agave mexicana. However, the manufacture of cane eau-de-vie reached a high figure: in 1885, Taquet indicated an annual production of 21,493 hl of molasses eau-de-vie.

Other countries of Central America (Guatemala Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica) and South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay) produce rums to a greater or lesser extent from vesou, syrup or cane molasses, sometimes excellent, as in El Salvador and Colombia. Often cane or molasses eau-de-vie, alone or flavored with anise (anisado), is the national alcoholic beverage (Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, El Salvador). It is usually absorbed entirely on site; rarely are small quantities exported (Paraguay, Uruguay, British Honduras).

[Interesting that Kervegant singles out El Salvador and Colombia as having excellent rums. It would be great to find the names of these productions.]

In some of these countries, grape eau-de-vie (Chile, Bolivia), maize (Ecuador, chile, Peru) are also produced, and cane or corn alcohols produce a variety of liqueurs.

Oceania and Far East

Tahiti and New Caledonia.

The French colonies of Tahiti and New Caledonia produce small quantities of molasses rum (Tahiti) or cane juice (New Caledonia), mostly used for local consumption. New Caledonia exports some 1,000 to 2,000 liters of rum to the mainland, but imports larger amounts. Tahitian exports to France have been, in recent years, 10,000 to 20,000 liters per year, except in 1932, when they reached 33,000 liters. Towards the end of the last century (1884-88), they were about 70,000 liters annually.

Queensland (Australie).

The cultivation of sugar cane was introduced in Queensland in 1866. By 1880, the colony produced 1,083,000 liters of rum and exported 420,000 liters. In 1901, the production was 779,000 liters of proof eau-de-vie. At present, of the 75 million liters of molasses produced by sugar manufacture, around 20 million are used each year by the distilleries. Most of the alcohol produced is used for beverage consumption, and the balance for industrial uses (carburation, etc.).

The production of rum has been the following in recent years (in liters of alcohol at 57°):

There are currently 3 distilleries producing rum. These only work molasses and are independent of sugar factories.

Exports of rum are only a few thousand liters a year, and imports are about the same order of magnitude.

Netherlands Indies.

The main indigenous spirits of the Sunda Islands (Java, Sumatra, Borneo) is arak, obtained either from rice or from cane molasses (arak from Batavia). This product is made by the Chinese, in distilleries installed in a very primitive way. Arak from Batavia is exported to Europe (Netherlands and Scandinavian countries). From 1,738,000 liters in 1919, the quantities exported were 600 to 700,000 liters in the years that followed.

In addition, large quantities of molasses from Java sugar factories are used in large modern distilleries for the production of industrial alcohol.


The Philippine islands produce a large quantity of alcohol from molasses derived from the manufacture of sugar: 43,285,000 liters of pure alcohol in 1937, but a small amount is reserved for beverage consumption. In the years 1930 to 1933, rum production reached only a few thousand liters. In 1934, following prohibition in the United States, it amounted to 474,000 liters (alcohol at 50°).

[My understanding is that the Philippines currently has some of the most consumed spirits brands in the world.]


Rum production, which at recent date, occupies only a small place compared to that of rice alcohol, the national alcoholic drink of Indochina natives. Rum is made by 2 industrial distilleries and 3 distilleries attached to sugar factories, only from molasses.

Export of this spirit began in 1919, when it was 648,000 liters

Here are the exports of recent years (in liters of alcohol 55°);

Exports are made almost exclusively to France; very small quantities are directed to China.



The first rum distillery was installed in Reunion around 1816. Production reached 355,000 liters in 1833 and 995,000 liters in 1835, to remain around 600,000 liters per year on average until 1852, when it exceeded 1 million liters. During the second half of the nineteenth century, it remained, with quite significant upward and downward alternatives (3,819,000 in 1862, 886,000 in 1871) to around 2 million liters annually.

Exports were considerably hampered in the beginning by the remoteness of the metropolis and by the difficulties of transport. Until 1884, shipments to France reached only a few thousand liters a year. Those carried out abroad (Continental Africa) or to neighboring French colonies (Madagascar) were slightly larger, but rarely exceeded 100,000 liters of rum a year and often did not reach them. As for consumption, from about 500,000 in 1848, it gradually rose to 1,500,000 liters a year.

It was not until 1884, when they were 426,000 liters, that exports to the metropolis began to take on real importance. They rose to 1,248,000 liters in 1891 and, after having remained almost stationary for some time, to 4,059,000 liters in 1910. We give below the productions and exports of recent years (in rum at 55°) :

Molasses is used as raw material, and in some agricultural distilleries, exceptionally, green cane juice is sometimes mixed with molasses. There were, in 1939, 13 distilleries attached to sugar factories. 5 industrial distilleries working molasses and 1 agricultural distillery working green cane juice. The latter also produced, with the cane eau-de-vie, fairly large quantities of liqueurs, flavored with the fruits of the country (combava, jamrose, lychee, bibasse, etc.).

Local consumption amounts to about 1,100,000 liters of rum a year, or 6 liters per inhabitant.


Before 1895, rum production was the second largest industry in Mauritius, exporting about 2,500,000 liters (at 50° GL) annually to Madagascar. 720,000 liters (at 79°) to England, 500,000 liters (40°) to East Africa and 40,000 liters (at 79° and 90°) to Seychelles and Aden. Between 1878 and 1895, global exports varied between 2,500,000 and 4,000,000 liters, depending on the year.

After the French conquest of Madagascar, Mauritius rum was hit with high import duties, which stopped exports to the big island. Freight difficulties significantly reduce the importance of shipments in the London and East Africa markets. So that the annual average of exports fell to around 200,000 liters in the early twentieth century, with, moreover, variations of great amplitude depending on the year.

At the same time, excise duties so increased (from 0.96 in 1885 to 1.67 rupees in 1905), that local consumption, went down from 1,842,000 liters in 1883 to 700-800,000 liters per year during the period 1904-1912. It is currently 550,000 liters on average. In addition, approximately 450,000 liters are used for domestic and industrial purposes.

The number of distilleries is now reduced from 37 in 1878 to 2 or 3, using only cane molasses as raw material.

Rum production is conducted in a rather rudimentary manner and the product obtained is of inferior quality. The composition of musts, prepared without the addition of vinasse or sulfuric acid, generally takes place in several stages, and fermentation, obtained by means of spontaneous yeasts, usually lasting 36 hours, but sometimes much more. Distillation is done at 30° Cartier (79° GL), in continuous units with a similar resemblance to the Savalle column. The yield is low, generally 60 liters at 79° for 180 liters of molasses, i.e. 33% of the total alcohol contained in molasses, according to de Sornay.

Madagascar, Nossi-Bé and Comoros Islands.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Comoros (Mayotte, Anjouan) and Nossi-Bé produced small quantities of rum. Around 1880, Mayotte made, from residual molasses, 100,000 liters of rum a year, and Nossi-Bé 200 to 300,000 liters of Vesou or syrup eau-de-vie. However, it was only after the 1914-18 war that the rum industry began to take on real importance in Madagascar and its dependencies. Exports, from 80,000 liters in 1919, rose to 450,000 liters in 1922 and 1,225,000 liters in 1924. In recent years, they were the following (in liters of alcohol at 55°):

Exports are mainly to France. Local consumption amounts to 2 million liters on average annually (in alcohol at 55 °). Consumption taxes are 25 francs per liter of pure alcohol.

In the Comoros Islands and Nossi-Bé only molasses rums are produced; in Madagascar, both rums of molasses and vesou are produced. There are currently 6 distilleries working molasses and 12 rhummeries using cane juice as raw material.

In addition to rum, Madagascar makes an alcoholic drink from cane juice called betsa-betsa, which is consumed locally. Production is around 16 million liters annually.

South Africa.

The South African Union manufactures a certain amount of molasses rums, which are exported almost entirely to Great Britain. Excise duties reach the very high rate of 30 s. for Natal and 35 s. for other states, per proof gallon.

1 thought on “Kervegant Chapter XIX Principle Countries Producing Rum

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