Marooned in the Indian Ocean 1,000 miles off the coast of Africa are the sandy shores and postcard palm trees of the Seychelles. Its tropical climate and small population have made it a popular tourist destination in recent years, with visitor numbers almost doubling since 2014. However, while tourism has been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, brothers Bernard and Richard d’Offay have been busy planning one of the biggest years of their lives.
About Takamaka Rum
Takamaka Rum is a brand of rum distilled, aged and blended in the Seychelles, at the Trois Frères Distillery, on the main island of Mahé. The distillery has been operating since 2002, and was founded by the d’Offay brothers, Richard and Bernard d’Offay. It is the first and only commercial rum producer and exporter in the Seychelles.
Cheers to 20
The d’Offays are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their Takamaka rum brand, which was launched by Bernard and his father Robert just after the turn of the century. Their beginnings were humble, with the duo carrying out home experiments using their swimming pool as a makeshift cooling tower for their condenser. After two years of trials and tribulations, they opened the Trois Frères Distillery on the island of Mahé. Bernard’s next move was to persuade brother Richard to leave his career in London, ditch his suit and fly back to the Seychelles, where the pair took charge of everything from distillation to distribution.
“Our entire philosophy from the beginning was to make the best of what we had and to experiment and have fun along the way,” says Bernard outside the family beach hut. “We really did start out as a two-man band so we had to do everything ourselves. But what this did was make us really understand the trade and learn about everything from the production side of things to distribution, so it was a blessing. But at the same time I’m happy those days are over because it was hard work.”
As part of their journey the d’Offay brothers restored the La Plaine St André estate where they now produce their range of rums, which includes pure cane, molasses and blended varieties.
Sugarcane was never a popular crop in the Seychelles but, having worked with around 40 local farmers to encourage sustainable and economically stimulating practice, Takamaka now buys almost all the crop, which is harvested by the local producers. The cane is then crushed, fermented, distilled and aged on site. The brothers have recently invested in two new pot stills for Takamaka’s cane distillery as well as a new column still as the brand’s facilities continue to develop.
While the lack of a local sugar industry forces Takamaka to import its molasses from across the Indian Ocean, Takamaka has now opened the first molasses distillery in the Seychelles, allowing the brand to control every step of the process in-house. Since 2008 the d’Offays have also collaborated with Bajan producer Foursquare to develop its range of blended rums, which they still use today alongside their own cane and molasses.
“Even though we have now expanded our own local production here at La Plaine St André, we continue to experiment with Bajan rum to build even more richness in our blends,” says Richard. “We specifically bring in an eight-year-old ex-bourbon rum that, when blended with our home-grown and aged cane and molasses rums, delivers, in our own opinion, exceptional character.