Pirates may have been the inventors of the first rum back during the golden age of piracy from 1650 to 1720, when some of the most infamous ‘freebooters’ like Blackbeard and Anne Bonny raided French, Dutch and British boats carrying sugar cane, gold and other treasures.
The pirates from the islands of Jamaica and Barbados raided the ships transporting Peru’s gold back to Europe. The cargo often also included sugar cane and molasses, which the pirates learned was used to make the delicious liquid they so loved.
Sugar cane was refined and boiled to produce molasses, which was then fermented with yeast to make alcohol. Once distilled, the concoction was stored in oak barrels until the pirates were ready for a drink.
Today, however, rum is distilled using much more advanced techniques and technology, and one company who has perfected the art of distilling delicious rum was started by a father and his two sons who used their backyard swimming pool as an interim cooling tower for their makeshift condenser.
Bernard was only 21 years old when he embarked on his rum-making journey with his father.
Richard owned a golf business in South Africa and was working in London when his brother Bernard called him with the idea to move back to Seychelles and open a rum distillery.
The D’Offay brothers, have however come a long way since first opening Trois Frères Distillery in Seychelles in February 2002, the only rum distillery on the islands.
Taking us on a tour of the distillery during a recent media visit to Seychelles, hosted by Tourism Seychelles and Air Seychelles, Retha D’Offay, Richard’s wife is a bubbly South African originally from Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.
Retha’s enthusiasm about her family’s business and the history of how it all started is evident in the passionate way she speaks about the birth of their rum business and all the milestones they have reached over the years.
So how did they choose the name for their rum?
Retha says they chose the name ‘TakaMaka’ because the brothers wanted a Seychelle name for their rum – but also something that would be memorable. She adds that ‘TakaMaka’ is the name of an indigenous tree on the island, and it was also the name of one of the first slaves who arrived in Seychelles.
The property the distillery calls home today has a very rich history.
Built by the Jorre de St. Jorre family in 1792, La Plaine St André was a plantation estate set amongst exotic gardens. At the peak of its agricultural legacy, it covered 60 acres of land – cultivating spices, livestock and cinnamon as well as housing copra production.
In 2008, TakaMaka won a 100-year lease for the property. It was previously a museum but as the upkeep of property became too expensive, a suitable leaser had to be found.
Despite the renovations that had to be done to turn the property into a distillery, Retha says they kept the original foundations of the property.
How TakaMaka rum is made
The brothers have more than 23 different styles of rum spread across 200 casks.
They use a combination of both new and first fill American, French and Czeck oak barrels as well as second and third-use bourbon, sherry and port barrels.
Their molasses-based rum is mainly aged in American ex-bourbon barrels and most of their aged Agricole rum is rested in new French oak through their Radoux programme (using French oak across a variety of sizes and different charring).
The casks are stored in four different environments across the property to create different tastes.
The brothers have also been exploring ways to add different flavours to their rum, which led them to a technology called hydrodynamic cavitation (a mechanical process that brings about chemical reactions and molecular changes in liquid that would otherwise happen over time). This technology allows you to create a different flavour of rum in as little as eight hours. This same technique is also used by wineries to age wine.
ALSO SEE: BarQGrill, the secret gem of Boksburg
The end result?
Dark Spice is the international rum of Seychelles, and when ordering a rum and coke on the island, this is what you will be served.
A local ice cream company soak their raisins in the dark rum to make their rum and raisin ice cream. And I could taste why – just the rum itself smells exactly like rum and raisin ice cream.
One of my favourite rums was the Takamaka Zannannan, a pineapple rum that pairs beautifully with fruit juice or coconut water. You can also use it to make pina coladas.
Takamaka Rum Zenn was the first rum made using the hydrodynamic cavitation technology. Wooden chunks from American bourbon barrels were pressed into the rum to give it a whiskey taste.
TakaMaka Overproof 69 literally took my breath away. This rum contains 69% alcohol, and is definitely only for the brave. I was told that this rum is great for making flaming Lamborghini’s.
The premium range of rums, the St André Series, was crafted to showcase the rich heritage and Creole traditions of Seychelles while at the same time pushing the boundaries of conventional rum making.