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FOUNDED

         1770

OWNED BY

GBH / Groupe Bernard Hayot

MUNICIPALITY

Le François

REASONS TO GO

The manor house

The distillery-turned-museum

The rum cellar

The 16-hectare botanical gardens boasting 300 different plant species  

The gift shop and tasting room

 

 

TOGETHER WITH THE BEAUTIFUL BALATA GARDENS, THE HABITATION CLÉMENT IS CERTAINLY
THE MOST VISITED SPOT IN MARTINIQUE.

FIND OUT WHY

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My very first visit to Habitation Clément dates back to 1989. At the time, it was the kind of place you came across by (lucky) happenstance, or because you were with with a friend who was from the area. 
As with most plantations, the main house was set back from the road and there was no particular signage at the foot of the long, unpaved driveway lined with giant coconut trees that led up to it.

That walkway is still there today, but now it’s clearly marked with a big sign that says, “Habitation Clément”.
There’s no longer any doubt—visitors are welcome here.

 

 

CHOSE YOUR OWN VISIT

The entry fee for adults is €13. Once inside, you’re free to wander at your own pace.
Give yourself at least two hours to see everything.

 
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There is something for everyone:

  • Want to discover the tropical flora of Martinique? Take a walk through the lush 16-hectare botanical gardens, classified a “Remarkable Garden” by the French Ministry of Culture
  • A fan of the arts? The Clément Foundation showcases the work of local Carribbean artists, as well as outdoor sculptures like Jeppe Hein’s Dimensional Mirror Labyrinth or Daniel Buren’s suncatcher.
  • Local history and culture more your thing? Explore the historical manor, which dates back to 1820 and is furnished in authentic colonial style.
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AND OF COURSE, THERE’S THE RUM...

No visit would be complete without a stop at the gift shop, where you can pay your entrance fee, pick up a few books and souvenirs, and browse and sample the impressive variety of rums for sale.

The plantation is surrounded by sugarcane fields, but you won’t find any grinding facilities or fermentation tanks here. The old distillery has been converted into a museum where you can learn all about how rum is produced.

Rhum Clément is no longer produced on site. Instead, it’s processed at the Simon distillery, one of seven still operating in the area, located about three kilometers south of the plantation, along Vauclin road.

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You can, however, tour the aging cellars. There are four giant buildings devoted to the God of rum, where two million liters of the magic elixir are stored in towering oak-barrel pyramids that exude a pungent aroma

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  A barrel of aging rum features a portrait of Charles Clément

A barrel of aging rum features a portrait of Charles Clément

Let’s go back in time to 1770. We are at the Domaine de l’Acajou, where sugarcane is cultivated for sugar production.

The estate changes hands several times, going through different owners and expanding through land acquisition deals. Bit by bit, it swallows up neighboring estates until the great sugar crisis (1884-1905) drives it to bankruptcy, along with many other plants on the island. By the time 35-year-old Homère Charles Marie Hidulphe Clément buys it in 1887, it has fallen into ruin.

Although we know a great deal about his many accomplishments, we know very little about the actual man. One thing is for sure, though—Homère Clément’s life a true success story.

Doctor, politician, entrepreneur… Homère Clément has all the makings of a great leader. In many ways, he is a pioneer. In his era (and even today), plantation owners are usually white Creoles—not people of color, and most certainly not black.

Young Homère is the first man of color to win a scholarship, going on to become one of the first doctors of color on the island. The tailor’s son rises through the ranks to become the mayor of François, and then parliamentary deputy for Martinique. He is the first man of color to receive the Legion of Honor.

 

Homère eventually abandons politics, redirecting his time and energy into developing his plantation. With rum in high demand during the First World War, he spots an opportunity and in 1917, builds a distillery on the ruins of the old sugar refinery.

 

 

BIRTH OF A LABEL

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The best rum in the world
comes from the West Indies.

The best rum in the West Indies
comes from Martinique.

The best rum in Martinique
is Rhum Clément.

Advertisement for Rhums Clément, 1945

In 1923, his son Charles takes over the business at the age of 22. He modernizes the distillery and expands production.

In the early 1930s, he and other agricultural distillers form a collective, working to safeguard the quality and authenticity of local rum. Their early demands will ultimately lead to the region’s rum being granted the appellation d’origine contrôlée (“protected designation of origin”) or “AOC” certification, in 1996.

In the 1940s after the Second World War, Charles puts the family name on the business and begins distributing to buyers outside of Martinique. Rhum Clément is born!

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In the 1970s, the company runs into financial difficulty and needs new investors to keep going, while other Martinique distilleries are closing their doors or merging to strengthen their position. In 1986, Domaine de l’Acajou, the company, and Clément, the brand, are purchased by Yves and Bernard Hayot, two Caucasian Creole entrepreneurs who are local to François.

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THE MANOR AND ITS GROUNDS: A NEW LEASE ON LIFE

 
When I bought it, my father said,
”It’s not worth the match you’d strike to burn it down”.
— Bernard Hayot, to a reporter from Le Monde, 2016
 

The estate and its distillery are struggling when the Groupe Bernard Hayot acquires it in 1986. It takes real vision—a combination of art and philanthropy, cultural heritage and business, passion and (of course) considerable financial means—to turn Habitation Clément into the remarkable site that we recognize today.

As with many plantations, the main house towers over the surrounding fields, looking out over the distillery and the sugarcane crops. It is built entirely of wood, its exterior façade tiled with wooden “shingles”.

  The main house exterior is tiled with wooden shingles known as “essentes”

The main house exterior is tiled with wooden shingles known as “essentes”

 

Windows with built-in shutters or jalousies (“slatted blinds”) keep the house ventilated in the tropical climate. “Essentes”—small, rot-resistant shingles made from wapu and guyana wood—protect its fragile facade from the ravages of stormy weather. The bedrooms are located upstairs, while the kitchen, as always in Creole architecture, can be found in a building adjacent to the main house.


Since 1986, the main house has been completely renovated and its furniture restored.

 

 
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FUN FACTS

Lenin mentions Homère Clément in his memoirs, recognizing his efforts during the great strike of 1900 in François. When police open fire on protestors, Homère Clément tries to intervene and is nearly killed, saved only by his coachman, who shields him with his body and is mortally wounded in the process.

The mahogany table in the dining room can seat up to 16 people. Presidents George Bush Sr. and François Mitterand figure among its most illustrious guests, having dined there during a summit meeting at the end of the first Gulf War in March 1991. Martinique was chosen as the meeting location because President Bush’s busy schedule meant he needed to

A number of movies have been shot on the estate:

  • Cœurs Caraïbes (“Carribbean Hearts”), 1995
  • La Grande Békée (“The Great White Creole”), 1997
  • Belle-Maman (“Mother-in-Law”), 1998
 

 
 
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HOW TO GET THERE

Hours of Operation

Open every day from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm (last admission at 5:30 pm).

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

Telephone : 0596 596 54 62 07

www.rhum-clement.com

www.fondation-clement.org