Rhum Clement

Rhum Clement

Inextricably woven into the history of agricole rum production in Martinique, Rhum Clément’s origins can be traced to Homère Clément’s 1887 purchase of the 43-hectare Domaine de L’Acajou in Le François, Martinique. Clément, a Martinique-born doctor and politician, is believed to be the first Black person to receive a doctorate in medicine in France, after which he returned to Martinique. A Radical-Socialist, Clément was mayor of Le François and is credited as the “Father of Rhum Agricole” for his innovations within the rum industry. 

In an all-too-familiar story, the overproduction of sugarcane and the rise of industrialized beet sugar directly contributed to the collapse of the sugarcane plantation economies of nearly every colonized Caribbean nation in the late 1800s, Martinique included. After the eruption of Mt. Pelée in 1902, which killed nearly 30,000 people and further ravaged the struggling island, Clément served in the French National Assembly as Mayor Deputy of Martinique. It was during this time he managed to rescue the Martinique economy, in part by overhauling and revitalizing rum production island wide.

Historically, most of the rum produced in Martinique was molasses-based. Because sugarcane cost more to grow than it could be sold for, and beet sugar was cheaper than processed sugarcane, Clément urged rum distillers to transition from molasses rum production to the less common cane-juice-based agricole style, cutting out costly sugarcane processing and directly utilizing a thriving crop that would have otherwise gone to waste. This campaign proved successful and by 1960, Martinique produced more rhum agricole than molasses rum. In fact, Martinique is the only French department to do so.

After Homère Clément’s death in 1923, the distillery remained family owned and operated; the Rhum Clément brand was created in 1940. With export markets established throughout Europe and the Americas, Rhum Clément was sold in 1986 to Groupe Bernard Hayot, which owns the Spiribam portfolio and its brands Rhum J.M and St. Lucia Distillers.

Today, Rhum Clément’s AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole is distilled at the legendary Fonds-Préville Distillery—colloquially known as the Rhum J.M Distillery—and conditioned, aged, blended, and bottled at the original Domaine de L’Acajou estate (renamed Habitation Clément in 1986), which also functions as a highly popular museum showcasing the history of both the brand and Martinique rhum agricole.