The man behind Penny Blue rum



Jean Francois Koenig, Master Distiller at Medine Distillery in Mauritius, gives us the background behind our award-winning, premium rum.

Is there a Mauritian rum “terroir” – how is it different from what is produced in the Caribbean?
I believe Mauritians rums tend to be dryer, less syrupy than most Caribbean rums. With regards to Penny Blue our rum is unsweetened, un-chill-filtered and natural in colour. We wanted to produce a 100 percent natural rum. Moreover, because of the French influence in Mauritius, aged rums tend to be matured in ex Cognac Casks. They are therefore soft, spicy with often beautiful eucalyptus notes.

Can you tell us a little about the history of rum production in Mauritius? Do Mauritians drink more “agricole” or molasses-based rums?
Sugarcane was first introduced on the island when the Dutch colonised it in 1638. Therefore it is believed that rum was being produced in the Indian Ocean well before it was taken to the Caribbean. We have therefore we have a long tradition in sugar and rum production.

However, the cane was grown to produce sugar and the molasses was used for the distillation of a spirit called arak or rum. For hundreds of years, only molasses was used for the production of white rums; still today, most of our rums are molasses-based. Only recently, we have seen a development of Agricole rums as well as the creation of world-class matured rums.

Could you describe the styles of Penny Blue?
Penny Blue is a small-batch, aged sipping rum. Only 14 individual casks have been hand-selected at the very peak of their maturity by my friend and spirits expert Doug McIvor (from Berry Bros. & Rudd) and me. It is unsweetened, un-chill-filtered and natural in colour.

Can you tell us a bit about wood management at the distillery?
We use different types of wood: French oak casks used to age Cognac and American oak from ex Bourbon and Scotch Whisky casks. Doug and I will then go through our inventory of casks to create the best possible batch. One of the challenges is the angel share in Mauritius, it is approximately of eight percent per year! Our rum matures four times more quickly than Scotch whisky. Therefore a 10yo Mauritian Rum is the equivalent of a 40yo Scotch Whisky… Wood management is therefore crucial.

Penny Blue is un-chill-filtered, natural in colour and unsweetened: why is this important?
We wanted to keep our rum as natural as possible. Penny Blue is always natural in colour and
is not chill-filtered in order to preserve the heart of the rum. We also prefer dryer styles of rums, this is why no sugar has been added to Penny Blue. Some say it is a rum for whisky drinkers…

What’s your preferred way to serve Penny Blue?
My preference is Penny Blue XO straight, no ice, no water. Sometimes with a good cigar…