A Taste of the Caribbean’s Hidden Sugarcane Mecca, Marie-Galante

guadeloupe tourism openMarie Galante, Guadeloupe.

It’s a quiet land of waving cane fields and serene beaches, ti’ punch and accras, shaped like a pancake and flat like one, too. 

And the casual observer might mistake this merely for a serene Caribbean paradise. 

But Marie Galante is something else. 

You see, there are three rum distilleries in Marie-Galante, an island in the Guadeloupe archipelago that has just 12,000 people, making it home to more rum distilleries per capita than any other place in the world. 

caribbean rum mecca
Habitation Bellevue in Marie-Galante.

It’s an island rum lovers always seem to speak about in italics, as close to holy ground as there is in the rum world, the sort of place where you do your regular rum shopping right at the distillery.

Pere Labat is another of the island’s prized rums, distilled at the Poisson distillery.

Because all three distilleries: Poisson, Bellevue and Bielle, all produce almost sacred rum, sought-after, yearned-for and beloved by lovers of cane spirits across the globe.

But given its station in the Caribbean (and Guadeloupe rum’s still up-hill battle for awareness), rum from Marie-Galante is not that easy to find, though you can sometimes find Marie-Galante’s output in places like Saint Martin and St Barth. 

The cane fields of Marie-Galante.

So when we came upon a bottle of Bellevue in Orient Bay, Saint Martin, naturally it found its way home with us. 

And then we opened it, a bottle of Bellevue 1821, from the venerable Habitation Bellevue, which dates back to 1821 and has turned its birthdate into its newest collection of rums, with six and 10-year-old varieties. 

So what’s it like?

The moment the cork escapes the bottle, it smells like Guadeloupe. 

There’s that unmistakable, distinct marzipan aroma that is the hallmark note of the archipelago’s cane spirits.

And then you smell again. A hint of smoke, some vanilla, some burnt orange. 

And then you taste it. 

So what is it like?

The 1821 six-year rum has a light amber color. 

The rum starts out simply, with some vanilla and white pepper. 

Then the overture truly begins, with creme brûlée and spice and vanilla — and then the timpanis start to tap, and you discover citrus peel and powdered sugar; then there’s dried apricot and a cascade of smoky cane stalk; and the wind section and the strings and the brass all come together and you’re in a perfect rum symphony, a rum so good it forces you to mix metaphors. 

And then the 1812 concludes with a cadenza, a confectioner’s glaze at the very end of the finish. 

It’s almost unfathomable that this is a mere six year old rum, a tribute to tropical aging, yes, but more importantly to the wonder of the soil and the terroir in Marie-Galante

Plainly, the Bellevue 1821 six year 1821 is spectacular stuff.

Because there’s a reason Marie Galante is the rum world’s great hidden rum Mecca, the little island rum lovers speak about in hushed tones, like some lost city paved in sugarcane and gold. 

Rum Journal Review: 96 points