Rhum Agricole is both a distinctive production methodology and, more recently, an AOC (Appellation of Origin) protected product when produced according to strict criteria in the French protectorates of Martinique and Guadalupe. Primarily the distinction is the use of fresh cane juice instead of molasses or other refined sugar products and column distillation. The results are generally dryer and more aromatic Rums of elegance and refinement.
HSE’s blanco is reputedly the only rhum/rum in the world which is progressively reduced from the 70% distillate down to 50% alcohol over a period of two years, partly via evaporation. Others typically reduce immediately after distillation, and then bottle shortly after or within a few months. The former technique allows the rhum to ‘rest’ and develop far longer than any other white rum, preserving the delicate aroma and mouth-feel.
Saint-Etienne was built on the foundations of "La Maugée", a sugar refinery whose land extended at the beginning of the 19th century over more than 400 hectares, from Gros-Morne to Saint-Joseph. The architectural ensemble, made up of the mansion, dominating the distillery and the old workers' huts, testifies to the housing system specific to Martinique.
In 1882, Saint-Etienne was bought by Amédée Aubéry, a young captain of industry who would become one of the emblematic figures of the Martinican economy. He transformed the sugar refinery into an agricultural distillery and embarked on the modernization of infrastructure. He enlarged the factory and provided it with a magnificent façade punctuated by 28 windows with arched arches which provide optimal ventilation to the building. Railways are installed on the site of the distillery: draft animals pull wagons that transport the sugar cane. The hydraulic energy is provided by the Lézarde river thanks to a stone canal which crosses the Creole garden.
In 1909, the property passed into the hands of the Simonnet family, who would develop the activity of the distillery until its decline at the end of the 1980s. The estate was bought in 1994 by Yves and José Hayot, who relaunched the Saint- brand. Etienne and undertake the restoration and enhancement of the architectural heritage of the dwelling. Now listed in the supplementary inventory of historical monuments, the distillery is one of the last and most beautiful witnesses of the mastery and aesthetics of industrial architecture at the end of the 19th century in Martinique. Its restoration is currently being completed.