Located on the northernmost tip of Martinique at the base of an active volcano, Rhum J.M has a truly unique terroir for its estate-grown sugarcane. The island of Martinique itself carries an AOC Rhum classification, the only such classification of its kind, as the island is recognized as the the world's premier sugarcane growing area. The intense tropical heat and humidity of the island plus the rich volcanic soil of Rhum J.M creates a unique microclimate that yields the highest quality sugarcane and therefore rhums.
In the late 17th century, the famous Pére Labat, the famous Jesuit priest credited with proliferating sugar cultivation in the French West Indies, was the parish priest of Macouba while he operated a sugar refinery at his house on the Roche River, where Rhum J.M comes from today. Antoine Leroux-Préville purchased Father Labat’s estate in 1790 and gave the plantation the name we know it by today, Habitation Fonds-Préville.
In 1845, Antoine Leroux-Préville’s daughters sold the property to Jean-Marie Martin, a merchant from Saint-Pierre and husband of Marie Ferment who was the daughter of one of the island’s most famous sugar planters of the day. Jean-Marie Martin recognized the superior quality of the sugarcane he found on the Fonds-Préville estate and decided to shift the cultivation practices away from producing huge quanities of sugar and to focus on growing sugarcane to create a yield of the finest quality on the island. He built a small distillery on the estate and branded his initials "J.M." on the first oak barrels used to mature his rum. Since then, these two letters have become and remain the emblem of the most prestigious and most superior rum known in Martinique.
In 1914, Gustave Crassous de Médeuil, already owner of the Maison Bellevue, purchased Habitation Fonds-Préville from his brother Ernest. From this day, Maison Bellevue and Fonds-Préville became one entity. Located at the foot of the volcano Mont Pelèe, Habitation Fonds-Préville remains to this day a family farming property, belonging to the heirs of the Crassous de Médeuil. The original passion for making the world’s finest rhum continues on today by abiding to the tradition of quality set forth by Jean-Marie Martin and the Crassous de Médeuil family.
Our sugarcane is 100% cultivated on the precious volcanic slopes of Habitation Bellevue coming down from Mont Pelée. This is truly the most exclusive micro-climate for sugarcane in the world! The rich sugarcane flavors in Rhum J.M are a result from this unique volcanic soil, tropical humidity from the low cloud ceiling, tremendous ventilation from the steady sea breeze onto the mountain side and the excellent drainage on the sloping sugarcane fields. The sugarcane cultivated here is already considered to be from an exclusive crop and is always expected to be of the highest quality on the island. But still only the "best of the bunch" are selected and pressed to obtain the richest sugarcane juice. Once distilled, the raw sugarcane juice becomes rum of noble purity and flavor: "the famous Rhum J.M Blanc'.
Part of this exceptional rhum is placed in oak barrels to age in our cellars neighboring the distillery. The rhums begin to age in "rhum charred" American oak barrels. The secret balance of distillation of aromatic fresh sugarcane juice, the volcanic mineral water used in preparation of the rhum, and the alchemy of our glorious sugarcane distillate with re-charred oak barrels is a recipe only known by the Master Distiller and the Cellar Master, who have been on the property since birth and replaced their parent. It is simply a unique tradition of excellences that gives Rhum J.M its authenticity, power and refinement.
The Rum Process
Because of the intense tropical humidity and protection from the marine layer over the estate, our sugarcane grows in a full 12 month cycle and is harvested in the Spring. Because we harvest only our own sugarcane, we press the sugarcane in less than 1 hour from when it was cut delivering the freshest sugarcane juice for Rhum J.M.
The sugarcane juice naturally ferments slowly into a sugarcane wine (Vin de Canne) of about 5% abv. over the course of about 36-48 hours. We carefully distill the sugarcane wine into Rhum Agricole in a Créole Copper Column at about 70% alcohol so we also retain the natural flavor and aroma of our sugarcane and our terroir.
We rest and condition freshly distilled Rhum Agricole in stainless steel tanks for a minimum of 3 months. The rhum is than either reduced to bottling strength using volcanic mineral water sourced from a spring on our estate, or reduced to 60% abv. to be placed in oak casks for several years of aging in our cellars.