Reunion island and rum

Close historical links

The adventure of the museum will take you on a journey through the story of an island, its population and the manufacturing process of one of its products.
The chronological sequence, richly illustrated by historical documents, objects formerly used and comments by people of the island, will enable you to experience at close quarters the history of the island, from the beginning of the period of settlement to this day.

Using various techniques to focus on the links between history, culture, manufacturing processes, the rum industry and the sensory aspect of the drink, the Saga du Rhum focuses on the history of Reunion, presented through the story of rum : a traditional local product, manufactured on this island even before sugar.

The museum also lends itself to shorter visits, through a summary presentation of the main events of the history of the island.

A few dates :

- 1665 : Start of permanent settlement of the island (called Ile Bourbon) and introduction of sugar as a crop by Etienne REGNAULT (1er governor of the island)
- 1704 : First stills for distilling rum brought to Reunion
- Start of 19th century : Rum becomes popular in France : it is sold in cafés.
- 1815 : First modern distillery set up by Charles Panon-Desbassyns and start of sugar-producing period. Sugar production will take up all the sugar-cane harvested. The production of ‘arack’ (‘sugar brandy’, produced by fermenting sugar-cane juice) is virtually limited to production from the residue of sugar manufacture.
- 1832 : Charles ISAUTIER arrives on Reunion Island.
- 1842 : 12 sugar-processing plants and 6 distilleries on the island
- 1845 : Charles ISAUTIER buys the sugar-processing plant of CHATEAUVIEUX and sets up the ISAUTIER distillery.
- 1848 : Abolition of slavery.
- 1865 : Death of Charles ISAUTIER. His widow, Antoinette ORREE, takes over and gives the family rum production an international character.
- 1914 – 1918 : World War I : Increasing demand for rum from the colonies. Manufacture needs to be speeded up : rum is used in the manufacture of explosives, for hospital dressings and for pharmaceutical purposes. Rum is also popular with soldiers.
- 1922 : Setting up of quotas to limit the amount of rum exported by the colonies to mainland France.
- 1928 : 31 distilleries on Reunion, 16 of which are independent of sugar-processing plants.
- 1939 – 1945 : World War II. France is occupied and can no longer receive shipments of rum form overseas colonies. Virtually total blockade for products in and out of Reunion. At the end of the war, only one distillery and 14 sugar-processing plants/distilleries remain in activity.
- 1940 : Only one remaining distillery in activity : that of the Isautier family.
- 1946 : Reunion becomes a French département.
- 1972 : Setting up of GIE (Economic Interest Group) : The market is organised and the rum produced by the 3 distilleries is sold under the name Charrette.
- 1988 : Marketing of the 20cl flat bottle of Charette rum, to counter sales of small individual doses of rum in small shops.
- 2006 : As part of the campaign to reduce alcohol dependency, the degree of alcohol of the 20cl bottle is brought down to 40° (previously 49°)
- 2009 : Three distilleries in operation in Reunion : Savanna, Rivière du Mât and Isautier.

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