Mauritius, and its rum, being discovered

Unless you're fond of map reading, you can be excused for not knowing the location of Mauritius.

If, however, you're a fan of fine rums, check your globe. The island nation off the east coast of Africa -- actually off the east coast of Madagascar which, itself, is off the east coast of Africa (see map)-- is showing signs of coming into its own as an international purveyor of fine rums.

Some months ago, as a judge in the first International Cane Spirits Competition, held in Tampa, FL, I had the opportunity to sample Starr African Rum, perhaps the best Mauritius has to offer. The judges awarded it a gold medal in the white rums category (including spirits aged less than a year).

The three other gold medalists in that category were more mainstream labels -- Santa Teresa Blanco, from Venezuela; Prichard's Crystal Rum, from the U.S., and Ron Botran White Rum, from Guatemala.

My tasting notes for the event called the Starr African Rum "peppery; floral; and, with a long finish." There are hints of cardamom and citrus, all of which work well in various rum punches.

Now, Mauritius will be expanding its sales in India as part of a new trade agreement signed between the two countries. (About 70% of Mauritius's population is of Indian descent.) The agreement allows Mauritius to triple its rum exports to India.

The change is part of a steady growth in the presence of Starr African rum. It received a "Superb 90-95 (Recommended)" rating from Wine Spectator last year, then the godl medal in Tampa, and has been popping up at various "beautiful people" events at which clever PR types have been managing to link the names of show biz luminaries.

When that happens, can mainstream success be far behind?

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