Maderia house - Madeira Rum industry

8 Compelling Reasons Why You Need to Try Madeira Rum

In this interview, DrinksWorld gets the scoop from Harold Vieira, co-founder Harold and Hansa, specialists in Madeiran Rum. 

Mention rum and you’ll most likely start thinking of brands named after the Cuban capital, a Welsh privateer or even coconut-infused rum liqueur. 

But rum has so much more to offer than this. Nestled in the Atlantic Ocean is a small, windy Portuguese island called Madeira, and it boasts a whole host of premium quality rums just waiting to be discovered by you.

You probably haven’t heard much about them, so let us give you eight great reasons to try this one-of-a-kind rum.

1. The Complex Flavour 

madeira rum

Madeira Rum is highly-renowned for its smoothness, richness and complexity—owing to its ingredients and production. Notes of dried fruits, caramel and vanilla sing in harmony to the tune of bolder oak tones, making for a truly exceptional and unique product. 

As a result, Madeira Rums have been recognised by the drinks community for their quality. Many rums from the island have won top awards and accolades across international spirit competitions over the years. 

Just this reason alone should have you racing to find a bottle to try yourself! 

2. The World-Renowned Ingredients 

madeira rum

All rum comes from sugarcane. But not all sugarcane is created equally. 

Madeira sugarcane is considered one of the best in the world and will only be harvested if it has a minimum of 15º Brix sugar levels.

It has very distinct characteristics thanks to the unique microclimate, volcanic soil, altitude and oceanic influences. All of this contributes to the cane’s distinct nuanced flavour profile, rich in aromatic compounds and complexity. 

There are three types of sugarcane grown on the Island; POJ 2725 (Purple cane), NCO 310 (Green cane) and Yuba (Canica) which are endemic to the Island.

Thanks to the careful production process, Madeira Rum is able to hold onto the flavours of the exceptionally high-quality cane, creating a truly wonderful product! 

3. The Premium Label 

Madeira only produces Agricole rums—that is, rums made by distilling fresh sugarcane juice. Globally, however, over 90% of rums are made with molasses, which is the by-product of refined sugar, making it much cheaper for the producer. 

With Agricole rum, no sugarcane juice is diverted to making sugar. Therefore, with Agricole rum, the consumer gets the full essence of the sugarcane in the final product.

They sit in the premium rum category because they are rarer and offer a much more complex flavour profile than molasses-based rums. With Agricole rums, you experience subtle notes of the sugarcane itself, which is not found in molasses rums. And when aged, Agricoles take on more layers of flavouring depending on the barrel or casks in which they have been aged. 

Aged Agricole rums from Madeira in particular, are unlike any others found across the world. The high-quality varieties of sugarcane grown on the island contribute to the refreshing tones of true Madeiran rum. As rum enthusiasts seek to widen their repertoire and palette away from the generic, and sometimes excessively sweet, molasses-based rums, Agricole rums are set to have their own modern-day revolution. 

4. The Quality Maturation Process  

An important part of the production of Madeira Rum is the maturation. All Madeira Rums are aged in French oak barrels, helping to impart deep, rich notes into the flavour profile. However, the most premium Madeira Rums like to use oak casks previously used for Madeira Wine to age in, keeping the island at the centre of its excellence. 

By using these casks, the spirit is able to harness sweet, brandy-like flavours, which are totally unique to rum from Madeira—a special treat for those lucky enough to tipple it. 

5. It’s Protected and Certified 

Madeira Rum is a protected product under the Geographic Indication certification. The Institute of Wine, Embroidery and Craftsmanship of Madeira classifies the rum as so, which preserves and maintains the quality and essence of what Madeira Rum is internationally recognised for. 

Drinking Madeira rum doesn’t just mean a great-tasting drink, it’s also a homage to the history, skill and love of an island’s people. 

6. The Rich History 

Once Madeira was officially discovered in 1419, the rum journey began. Sugarcane was brought from Sicily to be cultivated on a mass scale. The island’s geographical location, warm climate, abundance of water and fertile volcanic soil meant that the crop flourished and so to did the island’s prosperity, as it became its main industry. 

The 15th Century saw sugar in high demand and Madeiran was seen to be of the highest quality. It’s at this point that the islanders started to produce rum with their copious amounts of sugarcane. 

However, the industry suffered consecutive blows with cheaper Brazilian sugar and sugarcane disease in subsequent centuries. By the late 20th Century, production had decreased by 95% from its peak, as sugarcane fields were replaced by vineyards. 

Now, it’s back on the rise and Madeirans take great pride in their product, hoping to share it throughout the world. 

7. The Traditional Production 

madeira rum

Madeira Rum is steeped in tradition. The first stage of the rum-making process is harvesting the sugarcane. In order to preserve the quality, all harvesting is done by hand, meaning care and attention to detail are paramount. Madeira’s sloped terrain also means this technique is best used even today. 

The 21st century saw a revival of the sugar and rum industries on the island, thanks to government support and a drive by the local population to renew their traditional skills and heritage. For that reason, small-scale farmers continue to harvest sugarcane by hand without the use of large-scale machinery. Madeirans take great pride in knowing that sugarcane continues to be harvested in this traditional way, and it’s believed this corresponds to an exceptional product.

Once the sugarcane is harvested and pressed, it heads towards the final stage: distillation. 

Here, Madeira Rum is distilled in copper stills—as is tradition. This results in small-batch rums with a unique flavour. It can be distilled in column stills for larger, consistent quantities, however. 

8. And it’s All Helped By a Volcano

Madeira is home to fertile volcanic soils, which help the native sugarcane species thrive on the island. The fertile volcanic soils that bless the island, as well as the warm climate, mean native sugarcane species thrive and Madeirans can enjoy the fruits of their hand-chopped labour. 

Discover it for yourself from Harold & Hansa and raise a glass!

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