Brussels, 23 October 2021
After two consecutive editions in Brussels due to the pandemic, Spirits Selection is back on the road! The French overseas department Guadeloupe will be hosting the 23rd competition, offering a unique opportunity for the West Indies’ archipelago to showcase its time-honoured expertise in distilling sugar cane.
An archipelago in the Leeward Islands
Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Guadeloupe is a chain of islands in the French West Indies. Grande-Terre, Basse-Terre, Marie-Galante and Les Saintes all conjure up images of white sandy beaches and coconut trees. For its first overseas event since the outbreak of Covid-19, Spirits Selection will travel to one of the bastions of French rum production, particularly renowned for its agricultural rums, but also for its so-called ‘traditional’ rums.
Intricately interwoven into the history of the archipelago, nearly 13,200 hectares of Guadeloupian farmland are set aside for growing sugar cane. Although most of it is bound for the sugar industry, there are no fewer than ten distilleries producing rum on the island.
As rum enthusiasts will be well aware, they are distilled from pure, fresh sugar cane juice – or ‘vesou’ – which enhances the hallmark aromatic bouquet of Guadeloupe sugar cane and has earned them the geographical indication ‘Rhum Agricole’ or ‘Agricultural rum’, certifying the authentic quality of the products. Traditional rums are produced from molasses, a by-product of the islands’ sugar production.
A travelling competition
Since its inception in 1999, Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles has committed to awarding the finest spirits in their category, never losing sight of the fact that the best judge will always be the consumer. The decision to organise a travelling competition therefore stems from the opportunity it offers to showcase spirits produced in our host regions, and also to enhance awareness of the competition and award-winning spirits overseas.
Organisation of the 23rd competition is supported by the Guadeloupe regional council and will coincide with the 17th Route du Rhum, the prestigious transatlantic yacht race held once every four years. A delegation led by Ary Chalus, chairman of the regional council, travelled from Pointe-à-Pitre to Brussels on October 23 to announce the news.
“Guadeloupe rums spearhead economic development, acting as a driving force for creating many direct and indirect jobs in all sectors, particularly the tourist industry where rum serves as a beacon”, said Ary Chalus.
“Traditionally, Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles has always been a tremendous showcase for agricultural rums. This year alone, over 100 agricultural rums have been entered in the competition, not to mention the spirits drinks made from agricultural rum. This is therefore an ideal opportunity for the competition to discover the secrets of their production and for judges to find out more about their specific features”, pointed out competition director, Thierry Heins.
Guadeloupians and rum
Annual rum production in Guadeloupe totals approximately 80,000 hectolitres of pure alcohol, equating to a staggering 8 million litres, divided between some 43% of agricultural rum and a balance of traditional rums stemming from the sugar industry. However, estimates show that nearly 65% of volumes are drunk locally. As 70% of the rum industry in Guadeloupe is in the hands of small family-run production units, the sugar cane is cut and crushed with utmost freshness, lending agricultural rums a very varied and perfumed array of aromatics stemming from the subtle flavours of Guadeloupian sugar cane.
“The Guadeloupe regional council supports the sugar cane, sugar and rum industries, through investments in modernisation of production equipment, assistance in restoring heritage and also by promoting the industry in export markets, both for goods and tourism. By making a commitment to developing spirits tourism, the Guadeloupe regional council is sending out a strong signal to industry members. We believe in the quality of our rums and we are working to create authentic tourism experiences”, added Ary Chalus.
“2022 will be the year of rum! You can add several events to your diaries – a rum festival, Spirits Selection in June and in November the 17th Route du Rhum, the single-handed transatlantic yacht race that leaves Saint-Malo bound for Guadeloupe”.
The chairman of the regional council concluded by inviting Spirits Selection judges and producers from Guadeloupe to meet up in June 2022 for the next event.
The competition will take place from 20 to 23 June 2022 in Pointe-à-Pitre.
About the competition
Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is an international touring competition where spirits are entered by producers to be tasted and judged by a panel of experts. Our experienced judges come from around the world to taste competing spirits with a single-minded purpose, and that is to select spirits of irreproachable quality with no biases stemming from the label or a category’s prestige. The competition is one of the leading events of its kind worldwide.
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