How Takamaka Rum is made
Trios Freres Distillery is the first commercial producer of rum in the Seychelles. Rum was brought to the islands by the British Navy in the mid-16th century but until the d'Offay family started distilling, no rum was produced in the country although 'baka' a locally made fermented cane juice beverage is sold in what are known as 'baka houses.'
Availability of locally grown sugar cane is limited as land suitable for crops is legally reserved for food production in the Seychelles and as there is no local sugar processing industry so no locally available molasses. Hence, the first rums distilled at Trios Freres were from fermented sugarcane juice produced from sugar cane grown on the island to make baka. Although made from sugar cane juice, the d'Offay family are not permitted to call their rums, "rhum Agricole," as this term is restricted to rums produced on the French Caribbean islands. The fermentation, distillation and aging techniques used at Trios Freres are also different to those used in Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Local sugar cane is sourced from four different regions of Mahé where is it organically cultivated by a cooperative of three dozen local farmers. Due to the island's granitic soil, Mahé sugar cane has a distinctive flavour which contributes to the style of Takamaka rums. The rums also benefit from the use of water drawn from a natural spring.
The local sugar cane is crushed on-site at the distillery and its juice is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Distillation of the fermented sugar cane juice takes place in a 1,000-litre wash still with traditional copper and condenser, and a 450-litre hybrid spirit still with a copper pot still topped by an eight-bubble plate rectifying column and a condenser that allows for an advanced rum separation.
Late in 2020, the d'Offay family converted their former restaurant kitchen at La Plaine St André into a molasses distillery and installed a new continuous column still, the first such still in the Seychelles.
Due to there not being a sugar processing industry in the Seychelles, so no molasses is produced on the island, the family worked on establishing connections with the best molasses producers in their region and now imports grade A molasses from the rich soils of the Indian Ocean.
The molasses are diluted with spring water from the estate before the start of three and a half days fermentation process. The wash is then distilled in the new multi-column plant.
The family also work with the highly regarded Richard Seale from Foursquare distillery in Barbados who supplies eight-year-old Bajan rum which is used as an important component in some of the Takamaka blends.
Takamaka rums are matured in new French and American oak casks with medium and Medium+ toast across a variety of sizes, as well as ex-bourbon barrels and ex-port casks. Thanks to a collaboration with Tonnellerie Radoux, they are continually analysing how cane rum develops in different cask types in the tropical climate of the Seychelles.
The cane rums are mainly matured in new French oak and then ex-ruby port casks, exclusively at La Plaine St Andre, some 60 meters from the Indian Ocean, and are laid in the cellar of the Grand Kaz (main house) within its stone foundations that date back to 1792. For the molasses rums, ex-bourbon barrels are favoured with a period of around three years in the tropical climate producing the desired vanilla, butterscotch and deep fruity notes in the rum.
The family have increased the volume of rum held in cask from 15,000 litres back in 2019 to over 40,000 litres in 2022 and with the building of a new warehouse their objective is to age 100.000 litres.
The family has also adopted Hydrodynamic Cavitation technology developed by the Californian and Australian wine industries to produce what they call 'Pressed Rum', a technology they started to investigate in 2019. This uses a mechanical process to force chemical reactions and molecular changes in the rum that would otherwise only happen over months or years using traditional barrel aging.
Oak staves have long been infused in inert vats of wine as an accepted alternative to oak aging. Hydrodynamic Cavitation originated in the California wine industry and uses pressure to force changes in liquids at a molecular level that replicates some of the effects of aging. The rum, along with small pieces of oak, called 'fines', is passed through a piece of equipment called a Shockwave Xtractor. This produces powerful shockwaves using cavitation, similar to ultrasound, to increase the extraction of flavoured from the wood by the rum while also accelerating chemical reactions associated with traditional aging. Even when rum is "pressed" without oak present, the folk at Takamaka say there is a discernible impact on its character in just 30 minutes.
Given savings in cost and carbon footprint associated with shipping empty barrels for aging to the Seychelles, which lies 1,000 miles off the coast of Africa, along with the quick nature of 'Pressed Rum' compared to traditional barrel-aging, the benefits to Takamaka are obvious. On top of these, the speed of this technological alternative allows for experimentation with different styles of oak with results in days rather than months or years.
Importantly, this technology just uses no chemicals, flavouring, colouring or other additions to the rum. It's simply pressure and tiny fragments of wood, hence Takamaka's use of the term "Pressed Rum."
Many Takamaka rums are a blend between sugar cane juice rums and molasses rums. Their rums are made more unusual by experiments with different styles of oak and the use of Pressed Rums in some of their blends.