HSE, the magic of vintages and barrels

In the 19th century, Habitation Saint-Etienne was one of Martinique’s main sugar mills. Like many others, it was converted into an agricole rum distillery at the end of the same century, and ceased production in 1988.

its very particular Creole column still was discovered in 1996 at the Simon distillery, owned by the Hayot family, who had bought the Saint-Etienne brand and its production means. Nevertheless, after distillation, the spirit is transported to Habitation Saint-Etienne to be casked. After all, José Hayot, its current owner, seeks to maintain the authenticity of his company to a maximum. And the plantation itself, which is a real monument to the island’s past, has been carefully restored to not just to house a shop, but above all, a place to host cultural meetings and exchanges.

Of course, this renovation also includes its rum. The HSE brand, with its choice of small and chunky bottles, has gradually put together a range of agricole rums designed to stand out from the competition by the finesse of their mostly fruity aromas. However, more importantly, HSE is engaged in some rare and innovative experiments in Martinique, such as white rum vintage cuvées slowly diluted over two years before bottling, a very old VSOP, an extra old XO and some other old vintages. Also note the Black Sheriff, a rum aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels giving it accents of American whiskey.

The first cuvée’s success on the island was such that there was absolutely none left for metropolitan France, which had to wait a few months before a new cuvée was ready! Moreover, it’s within this chapter of special maturations that HSE has developed its reputation in the universe of rum.


Under the heading of “World Cask Finishes”, the range includes old rums that undergo complementary aging or refining in a second type of barrel: old casks that have been used to aged peaty malt whisky from the Isle of Islay in Scotland or Andalusian sherry in the first instance, and more recently, Highland malt whisky, Oloroso sherry, Fino and Pedro Ximenez and even Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes wine.

These cuvées are vintages and of course only available in limited quantities. It took much experimentation to find the right balance and the right durations for these finishes, so that the marriage between the rum and cask was harmonious without one dominating the other. This innovative and almost novel approach in Martinique is still based on a Caribbean tradition, because the region, which doesn’t produce any casks locally, has always employed pre-used barrels (bourbon, cognac, Bordeaux, etc.) but no one had harnessed them in this way. All HSE’s know-how is demonstrated here, allowing rum to access new aromatic dimensions, for the greatest joy of enthusiasts!



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