REASONS TO GO
The operating distillery
The gift shop
Let’s be clear: people come to La Favorite for the rum.
There are no gardens to visit here and La Favorite Distillery does not organize guided visits, which is a shame, as it’s one of the rare distilleries still in operation. Lucky visitors will stumble upon an employee willing to answer their questions, but for the most part, the people busy about the grounds have no time for chitchat.
Rest assured, there is a gift shop where you can taste, ask questions about, and buy La Favorite’s white, aged, and vintage rum.
La Favorite may not be the most opulent of estates, but I have to admit, I have a weakness for this modest plantation located half-way between Fort de France and Lamentin. La Favorite hasn’t changed a bit since its early days: the same rum-making machines and processes have been in use here since the 19th century. If I had to describe La Favorite in one word, it would be “authentic.”
The manor house is magnificent, but you’ll have to content yourself with admiring it from a distance—it’s closed to visitors.
La Favorite’s origins can be traced back to 1842, but it may be even older. Originally, the plantation extended over 900 hectares, all the way to the sea. At first, it was called La Jambette, after the name of the river that powered the machines in the sugar factory, but it went bankrupt during the late 19th-century sugar crisis. Henri Dormoy, a plantation owner from Saint-Pierre, lost his plantation in the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée. He bought La Jambette in 1903 at auction and turned it into a distillery three years later, equipping it with steam-powered machines that are still in operation today.
Paul Dormoy now manages La Favorite with his son, Franck.
Today, La Favorite owns just 62 hectares of sugar cane fields, which supply 60 % of the distillery’s production needs. The rest is provided by small independent planters.
La Favorite is one of Martinique’s seven distilleries still in operation. The family-run factory is unique in that it uses traditional steam-powered practices fueled by a water reserve on the Jambette River dating from 1842, and bagasse, the residue that remains after grinding sugar cane.
La Favorite is entirely energy-independent, having successfully preserved a century-old process. It’s a business that manages to be at once traditional and modern at a time when sustainable development and reducing fossil fuel use and carbon footprints are only beginning to be explored on an industrial scale. Whether out of choice or necessity, the Dormoy family has capitalized on tradition and quality by preserving the original production tools, in spite of lower output.
The distillery machines have been steaming for more than a century. Like the Leavers machines that forged the reputation of Calais lace, La Favorite’s Henri Marriol machines are unique, the last of their kind. But who makes them work? Who knows how to maintain them? Are they in danger of disappearing? My first visit to La Favorite left me hungry for answers. Believe me, I have many questions that I intend to make the subject of a future blog post.
THE MANOR HOUSE: INACCESSIBLE BEAUTY
Henri Dormoy built the house in the early 1920s. The corner turrets—which earned it the nickname "chateau"—are reminiscent of another magnificent mansion, the Périnelle chateau on the Depaz plantation, in Saint-Pierre, on the north end of the island.
This beautiful house, now classified as a historic monument, hasn’t belonged to the Dormoy family since the end of the 1960s. It appears to be open for visits during Heritage Days; the rest of the time, you must be content to gaze at it from behind the fencing along the path that leads to the distillery parking lot. A camera and dissuasive signs are pointed reminders that the house is now property of the French army...
The renovated space is clean and neat, but all in all quite impersonal. A small effort has been made to decorate by displaying barrels with an effigy of La Favorite—the manor and its two turrets—here and there, in hopes of giving the place a little character. The real interest here lies in access to the range of La Favorite rums: white, amber, aged and vintage (aged 12 to 35 years in oak barrels).
The salesgirl is very kind and generously provides explanations and advice. Obviously, the tasting is free, with the stipulation than any excess…well, you know the drill.
- The manor’s architecture is reminiscent of the Depaz Plantation, also known as Château Périnelle. It was the result of an oath made between Henri Dormoy and his friend Pierre-François Depaz on the frontlines of World War 1.
- King Louis XV is believed to be responsible for the change in name from La Jambette to La Favorite. Apparently, the nickname was as much a tribute to Madame de Pompadour as to the quality of the rum.
- The Dormoys owned the Saint-Etienne Plantation , which they sold in 1994 to the brothers Yves and José Hayot.
HOW TO GET THERE / HOURS OF OPERATION
- Free visit and tasting
- Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm (year-round, except holidays)
- Saturday morning 9am to noon (November through May)
Telephone : +596 596 50 47 32