Le Galion S.A.E.M. (Martinique)

since 1861

Martinique French West Indies

Before Martinique was colonized by the French, Spanish galleons called at Galion Bay to take on fresh water. By the end of the eighteenth century, sugar cane dominated the landscape and the Le Galion plantation, owned by the prominent DuBuc family, included land from Trinité to Tartane and Galion.

In 1861, Eugène Eustache borrowed 1.2 million francs to finance the purchase of equipment for the Galion Sugar Factory. With a domain of 2,344 hectares around the Baie du Galion, Eustache grew all of the cane necessary to feed his sugar factory. The prosperity of the sugar industry was unparalleled anywhere in the islands. While advances in equipment increased both the quantity and quality of production, new factories took on huge debts in order to participate in record profits. During the second half of the nineteenth century, twenty-one sugar factories were operating on the island.

Speculation on the world market and competition from the European sugar beet industry led to over production and a predictable collapse. While the industry was suffering a hangover from the boom party, a severe hurricane ravaged the island in 1891, followed by a drought in 1895, and the destruction in St. Pierre in 1902. Only a third of the 21 sugar factories survived to participate in the next boom. World War I brought with it a huge increase in the demand for alcohol to be used in explosives. To support the war effort, sugar cane was processed directly into high-purity alcohol, instead of sugar and molasses. Following the closure of the competition and the subsequent collapse of the industry’s manufacturing capacity, Galion’s profits multiplied.

After the war, France was faced with trying to salvage the industry that had served her. The sugar beet industry, destroyed during the war, contributed to an increased demand for sugar from cane. But the island’s main industry was immersed in politics, and quotas were instituted for the production of alcohol and sugar. In the 1920s, the production of sugar and alcohol finally stabilized. Many small distilleries closed due to competition while others prospered in the artificially-controlled market. Quotas are still part of the rhum and sugar businesses and are credited with saving some distilleries and destroying others. While Europe and the US concentrated their resources on problems at home during the world depression of the 1930s, the island economies were again particularly hard hit. Between 1930 and 1937, the number of small distilleries fell from 155 to 120, and then to only 25 in 1939.

Since World War II, several mergers and acquisitions have resulted in the Société Anonyme d’Economie Mixte, which now controls Le Galion, the only sugar factory still operating in Martinique. In addition to sugar, nearly three million liters of rhum industriel are produced here annually. Two of the Le Galion products are available in Martinique, but the bulk of the production is exported to France. Rhum Traditionnel Le Galion is distilled from fermented molasses in a continuous-distillation still. Bottled at 50% and 55% alcohol by volume this is the only molasses-based alcohol sold in Martinique. At about 25 francs a liter, this is less expensive than the white rhum agricole produced in Martinique.

The second product produced here, Grand Arome Le Galion, is unique to Martinique. Molasses and vinasse, from a previous distillation, are fermented for ten days, in a very secret process. Aged in oak barrels, this is the premium product from LeGalion and is bottled at 40% alcohol by volume in 35 and 70cl bottles.

Unfortunately, there is not a public tour at the Le Galion distillery at this time. It may, however, be possible to see the sugar processing operation during the cane season in the future.
There are 2 products in our database distilled by Le Galion S.A.E.M. (Martinique).
Le Galion Grand Arome
Le Galion Rhum Traditionnel de la Martinique

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Last updated March 14, 2009