Drinks World Asia recently caught up with Mickael Derunes, the man from Mauritius — an island filled with sugarcane plantations and white-sanded coves, where drinking and producing top quality rum is literally just another day at the beach.
Drinks World: Tell us a little about Maurituis?
Mickael Derunes: Mauritius is quite small, you can travel around the island in approximately two hours, but what’s nice about Mauritius is it’s a multicultural place, populated with people from all over the world. The landscape is quite diverse with large mountains and beautiful white sand beaches— it’s a real tourist hot spot.
In personality Mauritius is a very friendly island, cosy and relaxed and filled with very rich land ideal for sugar cane plantations, which is why the island makes some of the best rums in the world.
I have been living in Mauritius for the past 30 years. I have travelled all over the world, and I may be bias when saying this, but Mauritius one of the best islands on the map. I’m very happy and proud to call it my home.
Drinks World: How does the island influence the rum?
MD: Throughout Mauritius, sugarcane fields are the dominant crops, they extend over 90 per cent of cultivated land surface across the country. It’s a pleasure driving to work everyday through the sugarcane fields.
At New Grove we grow our very sugarcane. We have our own sugar factory, so we make our own sugar; therefore we have our own molasses. This allows us to use our only fresh molasses for the fermentation process in our own distillery. On site we also have our own ageing cellar and bottling factory.
To age our rum we import French oak barrels from France and use ex-cognac barrels. Very few rum brands today age rum in ex-cognac barrels, so we are proud to use these barrels as part of our process.
We have complete control over our final product and are involved closely in everything that goes into in our rum— the whole process from growing, milling, distilling, ageing and bottling.
Drinks World: How do you describe the rum?
MD: Everything about the rum itself and what we wanted to communicate at New Grove is written on the bottle. It’s all natural, which means that we don’t add to the natively grown sugar or include any additives in the rum. We try to stay 100 per cent natural straight from the cask— that’s why our rum is quite dry compared to other new rums today, which are sweeter. We wanted to stay true to the cognac and whisky style. This is the same for our white rum, which is distilled at 94 per cent, diluted slowly and not aged.
Drinks World: How big is the make? How much do you bottle each year?
MD: It depends on the demand, we have around 1200 barrels, each about 275-300 litres. We sell about 100,000 bottles a year – although last year we were exporting bottles to Europe, which significantly increased sales.
Drinks World: What share of that was Mauritian rum?
MD: This is a specific type of rum; it’s a premium rum. In Mauritius locals drink a lot of entry-level rum which is the big volumes.
We have another brand that we do about 2 million bottles per year, but it is a first prize product and New Grove is not there yet. We are planning to be at this level in 3 – 5 years and do 1 million bottles per year, but this takes time.
Building a rum brand in itself takes time, you can’t rush the ageing process for darker rums, which is why we try and sell as much as possible of the New Grove Plantation, our white rum.
Drinks World: Tell me about taking Mauritian rum to the world and talk in the context of not New Grove. What it feels like as a Mauritian to take rum to the world because it’s a challenge, I mean the world is dominated by Caribbean rum?
MD: First of all, rum is a fun spirit and is really becoming recognised worldwide. Rum is great in cocktails, added to your favourite mixer or just to enjoy straight up over ice or neat.
At New Grove we’ve brought together people who really care about the rum from the distillation, the aging process, and through to the packaging. We’ve been awarded medals every year in the international competitions and there we are competing against the biggest brands in the world.
We’ve just received a gold medal for Plantation and our 5 Year Old recently in Madrid, and shortly after we earned another a gold medal for both of these products again at the Rum Festival in Paris.
When you see your brand and you feel that your product can compete at the highest level plus you have a passion for the spirit, you just want to travel around the world and sell your rum and the island it’s made on.
We want to sell the whole package, the one where you can drink beautiful rum on one of the most beautiful islands in the world.