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since 1922

Carbet, Martinique French West Indies

Distillerie Carbet Neisson is much like it was in 1922 when the Neisson family began planting cane on Morne Vert. From St. Pierre, take the public bus south along the coast about eight kilometers and get off south of Carbet when the main road curves to the east. A sign points the way to Distillerie Carbet Neisson. A short walk leads to an unpaved road to the right. When you cross the Rivière du Carbet, the distillery is visible to the right, across a field of cane. This is not a big distillery with an air-conditioned visitors center and multi-media presentation, but it's certainly worth your time, especially if you are in the area during the short rhum season, March through June.

The conveyor in front of the mill was quiet the first time I was here in August. A few men were busy maintaining the equipment, and I was lucky to find a man who spoke enough English to help me understand what went on here during the rhum season. On my second visit in June of `94, as I walked through the cane fields, I was elated to see smoke coming from the stack behind the sheet-metal building that houses the boiler, steam engine, and cane mill.

Humming with activity, the distillery was producing rhum while cane was being crushed for juice to be distilled later that week - the final distillation of the season. This is a great opportunity to see an old, single-cylinder steam engine running at about 100 rpm crushing cane. At the same time, next to the copper distillation column, fresh rhum fills the sight glass.

The rhum making process is similar to the other distilleries in the area, except here fermentation is allowed to continue for three days before the wine is distilled. In 1987, the single-copper distillation column was replaced with a new one. The old column, weakened by years of distilling, had begun to leak too much.

The new column, like the old one, is made of many copper sections held together with clamps on the outside so that it can be disassembled for cleaning and maintenance. The expected life of the distillation column is a function of the temperature at which it is operated, the maintenance schedule, and the quality of construction. Some columns, more than fifty years old, are still in use but the maintenance required increases as the columns age.

After distillation, the rhum is stored in large oak vats prior to bottling, or aged in smaller oak barrels. Before the introduction of stainless steel storage tanks, all of the distilleries used oak vats or barrels to store their products. The large vats require considerable maintenance and are prone to leaks, especially if they are not kept full. Barrels, on the other hand, require more labor to fill and empty.

Three products are bottled at this privately-owned distillery. Neisson Rhum Blanc is bottled at both 50% and 55% alcohol by volume and sells for about 44 and 47 francs, respectively. The 50% alcohol rhum is the more popular and accounts for most of the production.

Neisson Rhum Vieux, aged 14 years at the distillery, sells here for about 80 francs. In contrast to some of the other more elaborate visitors centers, the products of this distillery may be tasted in the small business office, west of the production area, which also serves as a retail outlet. The friendly staff doesn't speak a lot of English, but are very helpful and will make your visit something to remember.

Even before I visited this distillery, I had seen the distinctive square bottles of Neisson in the stores, both full on the shelves and empty in the front of the stores, waiting to be recycled. In the restaurants and bars in Carbet, the rectangular bottles, sitting next to pitchers of water and smaller bottles of cane syrup, are a common sight. Most of the connoisseurs that I talked to in Carbet prefer Neisson Rhum Vieux, but they admit they drink Neisson Rhum Blanc because it is more affordable.
There are 6 products in our database distilled by Neisson.
Neisson Élevé Sous Bois
Neisson Élevé Sous Bois
Neisson L'Esprit
Neisson L'Esprit
Neisson L'Esprit
Neisson Rhum Réserve Spéciale

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Last updated August 19, 2011