Habitation Saint-Etienne (HSE) is a distillery located in the town of Gros Morne. Open daily from 9h to 17h, the visit and tasting are free.
Join the A1 motorway from Fort-de-France and take the exit towards Saint-Joseph (N4). You can also from the South or East of the island, join the N4 by taking the N1. You will have to cross in particular the commune of Saint-Joseph if you opt for the first solution to reach there. The road is quite hilly and made many turns to reach the Habitation Saint-Etienne.
Take the path and go down to the car park where you can already see fairly lush vegetation around the car park.
You can make a first tour of the cellars allowing you to observe, the distillation column or the ovens that were used to make HSE rum at the end of the 19th century.
All around the cellars and if you continue your way past the parking, you will observe a green vegetation omnipresent, this is the botanical garden of the house. Beautiful flowers, majestic trees and sculptures of artists are present on the estate.
The Vision of the Vanquished (Artist: Victor ANICET, 2014)
A little history…….
In the 19th century, many rum distilleries were mainly sugarhouses. They distilled their rum from the molasses resulting from the manufacture of sugar. The rise of the invention of the steam engine and its adoption in sugarhouses will intensify and concentrate sugar production in large factories. The isolated dwellings will then concentrate exclusively on the manufacture of agricultural rum, improved by the adoption of the European imported tray column replacing the still. After 1960, the closure of most sugarhouses put an end to the production of industrial rum. The agricultural rum takes place with these flavors and its terror, making it rum recognized throughout the world. Starting from the nine still steaming distilleries, Habitation Saint-Etienne remained an artisanal distillery.
Habitation Saint-Etienne was built on the basis of a candy. The domain of this sugar factory named “La Maugée” extended at the beginning of the XIXth century on more than 400 hectares, of the commune of Gros-Morne to the commune of Saint-Joseph.
In 1882, the sugar refinery was bought by Amédée Aubéry, a young industrial captain who became one of the emblematic figures of Martinique’s economy. It transforms the sugar refinery into an agricultural distillery and modernizes it. The river Lézarde through a channel stone that crossed the creole garden provided the hydraulic energy used.
In 1909, the property passes into the hands of the Simonnet family, which will develop the distillery business until its decline in the late 80s. Yves and José Hayot who relaunch the brand HSE buy the estate in 1994. HSE rums are certified AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) that certifies the quality, character and authenticity of rums from Martinique. It is both the expression of a specificity intimately linked to our terror and the recognition of a unique ancestral know-how.
Following its purchase, they restore and enhance the architectural heritage of the dwelling, inscribed since, the additional inventory of historical monuments. The distillery is one of the last and most beautiful witnesses of the mastery and aesthetics of industrial architecture of the late nineteenth century in Martinique.
Today the rum is no longer distilled on the Saint-Etienne estate but at Habitation Simon, located in the commune of François. However, you can observe that HSE rums are still aging in the different cellars of the estate.
After a short visit, head to the shop for a tasting. Exhibitions, concerts, conferences, live shows are regularly hosted on the estate (Les Foudres HSE). During the visit to the shop, I had the opportunity to observe works of art while I tasted old rum.
Do not hesitate to taste old rum, extra-old or special editions (including the Black Sheriff) that are bottles courted. I leave you the pleasure of discovering them. You can also complement your shopping with glasses, t-shirts of the brand “HSE”. Do not hesitate to go on their website to learn about the different rum made by this house.
Ø Circulation in Martinique: During the weeks you will encounter many traffic jams from 7 a.m. to 9. 30 a.m. in the industrial and commercial areas. Especially mornings driving from south (Rivière Salée, N5) to the North (Fort-de-France, A1), but also East (Robert , N1) going North , you will find the same traffic jams every evening on the other side from 5 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. Tip, think of the way and time you want to travel in order not to lose time.
Ø Free Visit and tasting:
– Interest : 4 / 5, it is a habitation with a botanic garden. Knowing that rum is no longer produce there, you will not be able to see how rum is produced. The shop is not very big and the tasting and sale of rum is done in the shop.
Ø Opening hours: every day from 9 am to 5 pm.
Others: At about 20 minutes drive, you can go to the Coeur Bouliki area or either go in direction of Trinité or the Robert and have a swim there.
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OLIVIER Damien, your humble guide