Shillingford Estates Ltd

Dominica

Whether you arrive in Roseau or Portsmouth it is a nice bus ride to the Shillingford Estate. Only a few of the bus drivers I have met know of the Shillingford Estate but everyone knows the sugar factory. There is no sugar made here but this distillery is still known as the sugar factory.

The first time I visited the estate I arrived by water. A mile or so south of Nero a small river empties into the ocean. The distillery chimney was out of sight, but there was no doubt the flowering sugar cane and coconut palms, heavy with fruit, were part of an estate. A little further south, a small cove offered a little protection from the swell so Tafia was anchored close to shore, in front of the Castaways hotel.

Rowing with the current and swell was easy in anticipation of seeing a distillery of such renown in the Caribbean. As I approached the sand bar that guards the shallow river, I tried to time my entrance between the breaking waves. When the stern of my small boat rose, I pulled harder on the oars but wasn’t able to stay afloat in the foaming surf.

I certainly wasn’t the first sailor to capsize while trying to get to this distillery, but I didn’t mind. The cool, fresh water was relief from the hot, August afternoon sun. And as I gathered my oars, another wave broke into my capsized dinghy.

Rowing upstream against the slow river current, it was hard to believe that I hadn’t been transported back in time during my baptism in the water. Everything around me seemed to be from another age. When the river became too shallow to row, I dragged the light dinghy up the beach and covered it with palm fronds to hide it from any curious passerby. A little further up the river bed, a bridge passed overhead, and the distillery buildings came into sight.

I was lucky to meet Mr. Ken George, the distiller, just as he was preparing to leave for the day. Most of the day’s work had been completed, but three men were still busy crushing cane in the water-powered mill. After being crushed, the spent cane is used for fertilizer on the estate. Coconut husks and pieces of wood are burned in the boiler firebox.

To keep the mixture of juice and yeast from getting too hot, while it ferments for five days, cool water from the river passes through a coil in each of the fermentation tanks. Next, Mr. George showed me the sight glass, adjacent to the still. Even late in the afternoon, the single copper distillation column was still quite warm from the day’s work.

Behind the distillery I met one of only a few coopers still making barrels in the islands. Instead of discarding old barrels, the wooden staves are cut up and made into smaller barrels that hold three to four imperial gallons. These barrels can be bought at the distillery, certainly one of the treasures I found in my research.

Three different rums are bottled at this distillery. Some Macoucherie Rum is aged one-and-a-half years and is referred to locally as “red” rum. West Coast Rum is a new label that is replacing Soca which is also being sold. Both rums are unaged and appeal to the local taste for “hot” rum. The most popular rum produced here, Macoucherie Spiced is a blend of rum, the bark of the Bois Bande tree, and spices. Reputed to be an aphrodisiac, this liquor was hailed as a wonder drink by all of the men gathered under the almond tree at the Portsmouth town jetty. The comments from the women were not as forthcoming, but their unanimous consensus was that this rum did not significantly improve the sexual abilities of either men or women. With a clearly split verdict, you will have to decide for yourself. Macoucherie roughly translates: Come into my bed.
There are 2 products in our database distilled by Shillingford Estates Ltd.
Machoucherie Bois Bande
Machoucherie Rum

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Last updated October 11, 2008