Martinique’s Other Rum Regulation : The Grand Arôme (Le Galion) PGI

Martinique’s appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) is perhaps the best-known regulation in the rum world of rum. Less known is that Guadeloupe, its sister French overseas department also has its own regulations, in the form of a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which I translated into English and summarized here.

If that weren’t obscure enough for French West Indies rhum enthusiasts, there’s a third set of regulations unbeknownst to the great majority of rum geeks: Galion Bay Rum.

Fun fact: There’s exactly one distillery within the scope of the Galion Bay PGI: Le Galion. What’s unusual about Le Galion is that it’s the last remaining distillery on Martinique distilling from molasses and/or cane syrup, rather than cane juice. Once upon a time, Martinique was among the largest Caribbean rum producing islands, and the vast majority of rum it made was from molasses. But by the 1950s, the tide had changed to rhum agricole, with only Le Galion remaining as a sugar factory and non-rhum agricole distillery. At present time, the distillery appears to make around 1.1 million LAA per year.

The Galion Bay PGI is particularly interesting in that it contains the requirements for grand arôme (“large aroma”), a very pungent, flavor-packed rum, perhaps best understood at first as Martinique’s version of high ester Jamaican rum. I covered Le Galion and grand arôme rhum in my Beyond Jamaican Funk story.

Approximately 30 percent of Le Galion’s annual 1.1 million LAA production is grand arôme. Companies like E&A Scheer purchase it for blending purposes and to resell for use as a flavoring ingredient.

We’re about to jump into the deep end below, so if you need an introduction or refresher on rum regulations, including Geographical Indications and AOCs, I suggest first reading my GI Fast Facts. And if you’re curious about my ever-growing archive of GI-related stories, including the Jamaican rum and cachaça regulations, you’ll find them here.

Summary and Commentary

Since the Galion Bay Rum PGI is rather verbose with many forgettable passages, I’ve summarized the interesting elements in this section, along with some commentary. This is followed by the full English language translation of the original, which is in French, naturally.

In a nutshell, the Le Galion distillery makes white, dark and grand arôme rum. The grand arôme rum is made similarly to some high ester Jamaican rums, and there are specific requirements for its production.

The section numbering in this summary section correlates to full translation below. Sections in [] are my comments regarding the preceding passage.

2 Description of the spirit drink

White rum is colorless and has notes of burnt organic matter from cooked cane syrup, but also exotic fruits and cane sugar.

[Commentary: The term used in the original GI text is empyreumatiques, which in English means “having an odor of burnt organic matter as a result of decomposition at high temperatures”]

Dark (brown) rum softens with its time in wood (aging) and is slightly spicy and woody with notes of cooked cane syrup.

Grand arôme rum is characterized by its intense aroma, with notes characteristic of cooked cane syrup and baba au rhum.

2.5 White or dark rums must have volatile substances (other than ethyl and methyl alcohols) of at least 225 gr/hlAA.

[Commentary: The 225 value is consistent with the minimum volatile compound requirements for unaged AOC-compliant and Guadeloupe PGI-compliant rums.]

Grand arôme Rum must have volatile substances (other than ethyl and methyl alcohols) of at least 800 gr/hlAA, and an ester content of at least 500 gr/hlAA.

[Commentary: An ester level of 500 gr/hlAA is certainly very noticeable, but below what most experts would consider a “high ester” rum. Jamaican “high ester” rums like Hampden’s DOK and Long Pond’s TECC are in the 1500-1600 gr/hlAA range.]]

Rum for sale must have a minimum ABV of 40 percent ABV.

3 Definition of geographic area

Growing and harvesting of sugar canes, the creation of molasses or syrup, fermentation, distillation, and aging of the rum must happen within the department of Martinique, i.e. “on the island of Martinique”.

4 Description of the production process

4.1 Sugarcane must be of species (or hybrids of) Saccharum officinarum and Saccharum spontaneum

4.2 The mash is made from a mixture of molasses, vinasses (residuals from previous distillations) and water. Grand arôme rum requires more depleted molasses, with a purity of 45% or less (total sugar (Pol%) / dry matter (Brix) of molasses).

[Commentary: In English, vinasse is also referred to as dunder, particularly by Jamaican distillers today.]

4.3 Fermentation of white and dark rums is by batch in open vats. The resulting wash must be 7.5 percent ABV or less.

Grand arôme rum is fermented at least seven days (168 hours) in open wooden vats in the presence of native ferments, with a final ABV of 5.5 percent or less.

[Commentary: This is similar to how high ester Jamaican rum is made. There is no mention of other fermentation compounds such as muck or cane acid.]

4.4 Distillation is in a column still. The stripping column must have at least 15 plates. The rectification column must be made of copper and have between five and nine trays.

Rums cannot be higher than 90 percent ABV.

4.5 White and grand arôme rum cannot be aged. Dark rums must be aged at least six months.

5 The Geographic Environment

[Commentary: Much of this section omitted because it applies to all Martinique rhum, not just Galion Bay rum. What appears below (mostly) relate to Galion Bay rum.]

5.2 (Human factors) The development of blending depleted molasses and vinasse allows making grand arôme” rum. Producers continue with fermentation activity year-round to maintain the specific fermentation flora within the distillery.

[Commentary: This is expected, as fermentation relies on airborne yeast, which are kept in good supply by open air fermentation.]

5.3 (Historical elements) In the second half of the 19th century, the decline of sugar prices forces the move to large scale central plants, of which the Galion was the 3rd created on Martinique.

During this time, “Grand arôme” rum was born. It uses vinasse as part of the mash “recipe”, and open-air fermentation to increase the rum’s aroma and flavor.

The name “Galion Bay Rum” refers to the Galion River, which once supplied drinking water to Spanish galleons. Le Galion sugar factory was erected in 1862 near this river, on the site of Habitation Grands Fonds.

5.4 (Organoleptic features) White rum is colorless and has notes of cooked cane syrup, exotic fruits, and cane sugar.

Dark rum is light to dark amber in color, softened by its time in casks. It has notes of cooked cane syrup and is spicy and slightly woody.

Grand arôme Rum is known for its high esters and high aromatic intensity, evoking cooked cane syrup and rum baba. It can be used in small quantities in rum blends and also used for culinary purposes. It is recognized worldwide for its use in cooking.

8 Labelling rules

The geographical indication “Rhum de sucrerie de la Baie du Galion” or “Rhum de la Baie du Galion” must include the words “Blanc” or “Brun” for rums meeting the production requirements given above.

The geographical indication “Rhum de sucrerie de la Baie du Galion” or “Rhum de la Baie du Galion”, supplemented with a white label, may include the words “Grand arôme” for rums meeting the production requirements given above.

Full English Language Translation of the Galion Bay Rum Protected Geographical Indication

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Charges of the geographical indication “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” approved by the January relating to the geographical indication “Galion Bay Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum,” JORF of January 28, 2015, amended by the decree of February 12, 2015 amending the decree of January 22, 2015 relating to the geographical indication “Rum of the Bay of Galion” or “Rhum Bay of Galion”, JORF of February 18, 2015

SPECIFICATIONS

GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION

“Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum”

Part I Technical Sheet

1.         Name and category of spirit drink with geographical indication

The geographical indication “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” is recorded in Appendix III of Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 of the European Parliament and the Council of 15 January 2008 in the category of spirit drinks “rum” Appendix II, point 1.

It is a traditional rum as defined in Point 1 (f) of Schedule II of regulation (EC) No. 110/2008.

2.         Description of the spirit drink

Depending on the conditions of development, several types of products are distinguished:

2.1               White rum;

2.2               Brown rum;

2.3               Grand arôme rum.

2.4      Organoleptic features

White:

White rum is colorless and has empyreumatic notes of cooked cane syrup (heated cane juice) but also exotic fruits and cane sugar.

Brown:

The brown rum softens with its undergrowth passage and has notes of drum syrup, notes of spices and slightly woody.

Grand arôme:

Grand arôme rum is characterized by a high aromatic intensity with characteristic notes of cooked cane syrup (heated cane juice) and rum baba.

2.5       Key physical and chemical characteristics

White or brown rums have a total amount of volatile substances other than ethyl and methyl alcohols greater than or equal to 225 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol.

Grand arôme Rum has a minimum content of volatile substances other than ethyl and methyl alcohols equal to or greater than 800 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol and an ester content equal to or greater than 500 ranges per hectolitre of pure alcohol.

The minimum volume alcohol content of rums on market is 40%.

3.       Definition of geographic area

The production of plant material for plantations, the production and harvesting of sugar canes, the extraction and storage of products from the manufacture of cane sugar (molasses or syrups), the fermentation of the mash and its distillation, the maturation or rearing of rums, and storage are provided in the geographical area.

The geographical area consists of the territory of the department of Martinique.

4.       Description of the method of obtaining

4.1      Sugar canes

Sugarcane varieties belong to or hybridized species Saccharum officinarum and Saccharum spontaneum.

They are the subject of acclimatization, multiplication, and selection work in the geographical area for a minimum of 3 years. Transgenic sugar cane varieties are prohibited.

4.2       The production of mash

The sugar canes are harvested between January 1 and August 30 and pressed by horizontal mills, the extraction of the juice combines mechanical pressure and imbibition of the canes.

The mash for fermentation is made up of dilution with water from the molasses or syrups from the different stages of the transformation of cane juice into sugar.

The mash for the production of “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” with the words “Grand arôme” is made from a mixture of molasses, vinasses (residuals from previous distillations) and water. The manufacture of the “Grand arôme” requires more depleted molasses, which are characterized by a purity of 45% or less (total sugar (Pol%) / dry matter (Brix) of molasses).

4.3      Fermentation of mash

Fermentation is carried out in an open and discontinuous vat.

Fermented mashes have a volume alcohol content of 7.5% or less.

The mashes for the production of “Grand arôme” rum are fermented for more than 168 hours in open wooden vats and in the presence of native ferments and have a volume alcohol content of 5.5% or less.

4.4       Distillation

The distillation of the fermented mash, commonly referred to as “wine” carried out according to the traditional principle, is the continuous multi-layered distillation with reflux (distillation by column comprising an area of exhaustion and a concentration zone in which are installed trays ensuring contact between the liquid and gas flows that pass through them against the current).

The main features of the facilities are:

                            the heating of the fermented mash is carried out by direct injection of steam or by a boiler in which, the steam heats the vinasses via a tubular exchanger;

                              The column is composed:

o a depletion zone of at least 15 trays in which the liquid to be distilled will be depleted of alcohol, which will pass in the steam phase;

o then a concentration zone of vapors entirely made of copper with 5 to 9 trays in which the vapors will be enriched with alcohol.

The demotion is carried out by one or more wine heaters or water condensers.

Unwanted compounds (heads and tails) can be removed from residues or into the atmosphere by degassing “wine” in the depletion zone.

Extraction processes on the liquid phase being distilled to modify the partial concentration of the distillate into certain compounds (rectification) are prohibited.

Rums have a volume alcohol content of less than 90% to 20oC in the daily collector and a sum of volatile substances other than ethyl and methyl alcohols greater than or equal to 225 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol.

4.5      Aging

White rum and grand arôme rum do not undergo any aging.

Rums for the production of brown rum are aged in oak wood for a minimum of 6 months after being put under wood, made without interruption, except for the manipulations necessary for the development of the products.

4.6       The finish

Finishing methods are permitted so that their effect on rum darkening is less than 2% flight. The obscuration, in particular related to the extraction of wood or the adaptation of colouring by the addition of caramel, expressed in % vol is obtained by the difference between the actual volume alcohol content and the raw volume alcohol content.

5.       Elements corroborating the link with the geographic environment

5.1      Natural factors

The geographical area extends over the entire island of Martinique where the tropical climate is under the influence of trade winds and very hot sea currents from Ecuador. The year is divided between a wet and warm season between June and December and a drier season between January and May, in both cases average temperatures remain above 20oC.

 

Located on the eastern edge of the Caribbean plate, the island is formed from an ancient outer island arch, with broad limestone covering, and a recent, mostly volcanic internal island arc. The western part of the island (Pelee Mountain, Diamond, Pitons du Carbet) corresponds to the recent volcanic activity of the internal arc, while the eastern part (the neareth of the Caravelle, the Francis, the peninsula of St. Anne) is the manifestation of the older volcanism of the outer arc and associates volcanic formations with sedimentary formations that are more than 10 million years old. This duality gives Martinique a great diversity of eventful reliefs with many dreary.

 

This volcanic geology has developed in particular iron-lithic soils, recent soils on ash and pumice, rusty brown halloysite soils, vertisols and non-hydromorphic alluvial soils with good agronomic potential.

5.2    Human factors

Since its introduction in 1640, the producers of Martinique canes have been able to select and acclimatize the varieties most suited to their pedoclimatic conditions. From these canes for the manufacture of sugar, the sweets develop a production of molasses rum.

Since the 17th century, when molasses provided by sugar refining was fermented and then distilled using summary devices consisting of a boiler connected to a coil placed in a barrel of cold water, producers have constantly perfected distillation techniques to achieve continuous multi-layered distillation within columns with precisely calculated dimensions. At the same time, wood aging know-how has developed.

In addition to the production of less depleted molasses rum, the development of the blending of more depleted molasses and vinasses allows producing the “Grand arôme” [translation: great aroma] for which the producers maintain the fermentation activity all year round in order to maintain the specific fermentary flora within the winery. This production also requires the long fermentation and control of low-alcohol mashes.

The originality of Bay of Galion rum was recognized by an appellation of origin in 1997. Its production is historically linked to the Galion sugar factory which is the last in operation on the island. During the decade 2000, this production mobilized about 1300 ha of cane for an average volume of 13,000 hectoliters of pure alcohol per year of rum including 3050 hectoliters of pure alcohol of “Grand arôme”.

5.3    Historical elements, anteriority and reputation

The cultivation of sugar cane began in the West Indies around 1620 with the variety known as The Creole Cane. Martinique became one of the “sugar granaries” of France under the impetus of Portuguese and Dutch emigrants who had taken refuge from Brazil. Many homes settled on the island to produce cane and produce sugar. The molasses supplied by the refining of sugar is used to make the first tafias which will become the rum of sweets with the taste of “empyreume”. [i.e. burned].

 

In the second half of the 19th century, the decline in the global cost of sugar linked to technological innovations will no longer allow a strong profitability of sugar houses, which will give way to the Central Plants, of which the Galion is the 3rd created in Martinique by Eugene Eustache.

It was at this time that the rare “Grand arôme” was born, characterized by the use of vinasse, in order to increase its aromatic potential and whose seeding of fermentations was carried out by the native flora contained in the wood of the vats.

At the same time, several technological innovations will revolutionize the production of rum in Martinique. The arrival of the first steam engines increased the grinding capacity of the canes. At the same time, the continuously distilling columns adapted from materials used in the metropolis for the production of beet alcohol, known as Creole columns, are gradually replacing discontinuous distillation appliances in Martinique. In addition, bare-fired heating disappears in favor of the use of steam from the exhaust of steam engines that produce from the bagasse, the energy needed to grind the cane in each distillery.

The export of rum to the metropolis, first banned and then strictly supervised, was gradually liberalized, until the total exemption from customs duties in 1854, which propelled Martinique as the world’s leading producer of rum in the last decade of the19th century with more than 220,000 hl at 55% ABV.

After the war of 1914-1918, rum, the only alcoholic beverage whose production was not hampered by the fighting, was widely consumed in the metropolis and distilleries developed their production tools to meet demand. Martinique, which in about fifteen years has recovered from the destruction of Saint Peter by the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelee, remains the main supplier of rum to the metropolis. But at the end of hostilities, the needs are not the same and overproduction is rampant. From this crisis, will emerge a regulatory environment that will strongly guide the characters of rum.

Faced with falling prices, producers distill high-quality, less expensive spirits to produce and transport than other rums. Under pressure from other French regions producing spirits, the authorities in 1922 restricted the entry into the metropolis of rums from the French West Indies exempt from the tax on foreign spirits. On the other hand, the importation of high-alcohol rum is prohibited in order to protect the metropolitan industrial alcohol production industry, which reorganized after the destruction of the war. In 1938, rum was defined by analytical standards, including a minimum amount of “non-alcoholic” elements to verify that spirits were not distilled at a high alcohol content. These parameters, maximum degree of distillation and minimum content of volatile substances have remained elements of the product definition since, even today, the regulation, whether national or Community, derives from the 1938 text.

The name “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” refers to the Galion River, which served as a place to supply drinking water, at its mouth, to the Spanish galleons. Near this river, the Galion sugar factory was erected in 1862 on the site of  Habitation Grands Fonds which was already known at the end of the 18th century, since it refined as early as 1784 the raw sugar of the vast majority of sugar houses in the region. In addition to the production of sugar, the factory developed the production of molasses rum and from the end of the 19th century launched a “Grand Arôme” rum whose production has never ceased until today. Since the widespread closure of the last Central Plants (1974), Galion’s sugar mills have been responsible for the production of the entirety of the island’s sugar rum, averaging 12 to 15,000 hectoliters of pure alcohol. While some of the Galion rum is still consumed on the island, the vast majority is exported mainly to the metropolis.

5.4    Organoleptic features

White rum is colorless and has empyreumatic notes of cooked cane syrup but also exotic fruits and cane sugar.

Brown rum has a light to dark amber colour. Slightly softened by its undergrowth passage, it often expresses notes of drum syrup, as well as notes of spices and slightly woody.

The Grand arôme Rum is characterized by its high esters, combined with a high aromatic intensity that can evoke characteristic notes of cooked cane syrup and rum baba. Used in very small quantities, it can be integrated into rum blends and for culinary use. Its high aromatic power is sufficient in very small doses to obtain products marked without the final constraint of being alcoholic (pastry rum, …). Very specifically, it is recognized worldwide for its cooking qualities.

5.5    Causal

The tropical climatic conditions of the geographical area are favourable to the cultivation of cane, which requires temperatures above 20oC. The wet and warm season (between June and December) is favourable for cane growth, while the drier season (between January and May) induces moderate water stress conducive to sugar accumulation during maturation. The agronomic quality of soils whose drainage is most often improved by the steep slopes of the relief reinforces the favourable nature of the climate for obtaining canes rich in sugars.

The island’s historical specialization in the joint production of sugar and rum, including low-degree fermentation and column distillation skills adapted to low-degree “wines” that have developed in the regulatory context of traditional rums, explain the originality of the “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum”.

White rum benefits from the quality of the canes and the limited depletion of molasses, which by preserving unsweetened organic elements of the cane, brings it a good aromatic complexity, with empyreumatic notes inherited from the production of sugar by heating. This complexity intensifies for brown rum with the time in wood where the know-how of aging combines with the strong evaporating power of the air by bringing notes of wood and spices.

In addition to the quality of the molasses, the analytical and aromatic characteristics of the “Grand arôme” are related to its long process of alcoholic and secondary fermentations favourable to esterification, as well as the use of depleted molasses mixed with vinasse (residuals from previous distillations) and the use of native sourdough (natural microorganism of the environment) kept alive by fermentations carried out throughout the year.

6.       Possible requirements to be met under EU and/or national provisions

7.       Applicant’s name and address

Defence and Management Organization of the Overseas Departments under geographical indications

7 Madrid Street

75008 BET

Cirt. dom@wanadoo.  0143871265

8.       Possible geographical indications or additional labelling rules

          Additional mentions:

The geographical indication “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” is necessarily supplemented with the words “White” or “Brown” for rums meeting the production requirements set for these references to I-2.2 and I-4 in this specifications.

The geographical indication “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum,” supplemented by the white label, may be supplemented with the “Grand arôme” for rums meeting the production requirements set for these references to I-2.2 and I-4 in this specification.

          Presentation conditions:

Rums for which the geographical indication “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” will be claimed, will not be available to the public, shipped or put up for sale without any related statements, labels, invoices and any trade documents, as well as movement titles, the above geographical indication and the additional references being recorded in apparent terms.

Part II Declaratory Obligations and Record Keeping

I ) Declaratory bonds

Operators make the following statements:

          Statement of Claim

This summary statement is forwarded to the defense and management agency each year no later than February 10 of the year following the distillation period.

It summarizes the volumes and volumes of pure alcohol of rums in geographical indication “Galion Bay Sugar Factory Rum” or “Galion Bay Rum” developed from their distillation, if any, according to the complementary mention to which they belong: white, brown, Grand arôme.

It indicates the volumes that may be downgraded in any of these categories during the year.

II ) Keeping records

Operators provide the following data for control operations, in the form of a paper register or computer files:

          Receipt register

This register includes, among other things: the date and time of receipt of molasses or syrups with the net weight and the name of the supplier (if different from the producer of the sweet material).

          Fermentation register

This register includes: vat number, date and time of tanking, volume of molasses or syrups implemented.

          Distillation register

This register includes: date and time of start and end of distillation, references of distilled vats, volume alcohol content or differential density of distilled vats, quantity and volume alcohol content of the rums obtained (in the daily collector).

          Wood-putting or aging registry

This register includes: rum distillation dates and place, chai address, wood-burning date, capacity of the dwellings used, volume and volume of the rum at wooding.

          Monthly register of rums in and out

This register includes, among other things, entries, exits and the initial and final pure alcohol stocks of each additional mention. Each distribution of the quantities engaged by additional mention (white, brown, grand arôme) is the subject of a specific line for the inscription of movements.

Registers and declarations provided for by general regulations, including the Monthly Summary Statement in Customs (DRM), the annual inventory or the material accounting books, can be used for the presentation of this data.

Part III Key points to check

KEY POINTS TO CONTROL

EVALUATION METHODS

Location of operators

Documentary review

TAV max at distillation

Documentary review

Minimum undergrowth aging time

Documentary review

Product analytics

Analytical review of the product before being put to consumption

Organoleptic characteristics of the product

Organoleptic review of the product before being put to consumption

 

References to control structures

National Institute of Origin and Quality (I.N.A.O.)

12 Henri Rol-Tanguy Street

TSA 30003

93555 – MONTREUIL-UNDERWOOD CEDEX

Tel: (33) (0)1.73.30.38.00

Fax: (33) (0)1.73.30.38.04

Email: info@inao.gouv.fr

Compliance with this specifications is carried out by a third-party body offering guarantees of competence, impartiality and independence under the authority of the INAO on the basis of an approved inspection plan.

The inspection plan recalls the self-checks carried out by operators on their own activities and the internal controls carried out under the responsibility of the defense and management body. It indicates external controls carried out by the third-party organism as well as analytical and organoleptic examinations.

All the checks are carried out by survey.

3 thoughts on “Martinique’s Other Rum Regulation : The Grand Arôme (Le Galion) PGI

Add yours

  1. I’m curious to know how different the stillage from Galion is from batch distillations (ex : Jamaican). I’m guessing the steam involved in a continuous distillation might result in stillage that is fairly diluted.

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