The EDDEN Project highlights the Martinique distillery’s circular and sustainable efforts to date and its roadmap for improvement, as well as advocating for similar commitments from distilleries around the world.
Caribbean rum giant Spiribam has launched The EDDEN (Engagés pour le Développement Durable de nos Écosystèmes et de notre Nature) Project — an initiative to mark its Martinique-based Rhum J.M distillery’s sustainability work to date, as well as a benchmark from which to mark its continued progress.
Over the past decade, J.M has made a series of developments to its sugarcane rhum distillery in an effort to improve production quality and diminish its impact on the natural environment — and to hone their craft within a full circular economy. Nestled at the foot of Mount Pelée, the area’s largest distillery has been a longtime advocate of the sustainability movement in Martinique — working within the challenges of cultivating in the area’s terroir-rich tropical climate in the most environmentally and socially responsible manner possible.
Their core principles included thorough review of their environmental impact on the island; investments towards a variety of biodiversity and operational initiatives — including the preservation of the region’s biodiversity; sugarcane harvesting and volcanic soil cultivation; unique wastewater treatment techniques; reduction of emissions by more than 90 percent; strict waste-management protocols, shipping and supply chain efficiency; thorough audits of business practices of its closest suppliers, and investment in its team through technical training and career-advancement initiatives; and the entire management team drives electric vehicles.
Rum (and rhum) production and banana cultivation are Martinique’s most substantial industries, ahead of tourism. To the J.M team and the Martinique community, these endeavors have all been enforced to protect the island paradise. J.M sees the EDDEN Project as not only a tremendous accomplishment — it will also ensure that J.M creates even more exceptional and ecologically responsible rhum 100 years from now. EDDEN is the culmination of these efforts.
“We produce rum, which demands excellence; yet our idea of excellence vastly surpasses that of taste alone,” says Emmanuel Becheau, Managing Director at Rhum J.M. “The lovers of our rhum can be certain that behind each bottle there are passionate women and men committed to excellence, crafting our spirits within this circular economy: EDDEN. It is for our fans that we wish to share what we are learning, our dedication to the planet, and the value we hold for our environment and social responsibility.”
Leading by example
Established in 1845 by Jean-Marie Martin, Rhum J.M is one of the smaller producers of Rhum Agricole — which differs from rum in that it's distilled directly from pressed cane sugar, instead of fermented juice or cane byproducts such as molasses. As such, Rhum J.M is uniquely characterized by its terroir — from the breezy, volcanic sugarcane fields; to the humid, salty environment; to the estate's mineral spring water.
J.M’s sustainability efforts have set an example for other island distilleries to follow. J.M has shown how a distillery can create its own renewable energy in multiple ways, especially around the reuse of agricultural byproducts: 100 percent of J.M’s plant fiber is repurposed for fuel, electricity and fertilizer; and 100 percent of residual liquid is treated and used. Through this process, J.M can conserve more than 5M gallons of water annually. The distillery also carefully selects and creates the sugarcane varieties to cultivate for rhum production: It has produced its own cane plants, grafted from nodes in its nursery, using three main varieties of cane — Canne Roseau (B59.92), Canne Bleue (B 69.566) and Canne Rouge (B64.277) — which are particularly suited for the microclimate of the property.
Image credit: Rhum J.M
“When you discover Rhum J.M, you cannot help but be moved. We knew it was our responsibility to protect it. How? Continuous innovation, tireless motivation, and limitless passion — because only this will enable us to protect our traditions while also paving the path towards our future,” said Spiribam CEO Grégoire Guéden. “This is both the secret and battle of our centuries-old distillery. In this rich land, swept by trade winds and tropical rains, we grow some of the best sugarcane in the world. We prioritize soil health using crop rotation and fallow. We operate our distillery according to the principles of a circular economy, so that the waste products from sugarcane fuel our eco-efficient furnace. Some of our surplus bagasse is delivered to the local biomass plant to produce electricity for the island.
“With EDDEN, we’re sharing these advancements — because this is the way. Exceptional because it is authentic. Rhum J.M is at the crossroads of modernity and tradition, and there is much more on the horizon.”
With EDDEN, J.M also aims to provide complete transparency for both B2B and B2C. To codify its methodology, J.M engaged sustainability consultants Linkup Factory., with which they created a manifesto to serve as a new standard for themselves, their partners, and their community. Linkup Factory EVP Philippe Raffin says he was impressed with J.M’s commitment to and embodiment of its sustainability ethos.
“I met the team a few years ago, they told me two things: ‘We probably have the best aged rum in the world, and we may be ahead of the game in rum sustainability.’ Working with companies such as Nestle, Heineken, and PepsiCo, we conducted a similar audit. The findings were illuminating, especially in comparison to other distilleries. [J.M] has demanding and sophisticated farming practices, which are quite difficult in tropical regions. Strict prohibitions of pesticides and herbicides are in place and the labor force is French, part of the EU — therefore commanding fair wages and social benefits such as access to education, healthcare, and paid leave. Massive investments had already been made, especially in low-emission furnaces and distillation apparatuses, which is unique. What’s more is they have a strong willingness to continue to progress.
“They have a natural sincerity and dedication for sustainability as one coming from such a small island should have — which is probably, yes, a key trait for creating the best aged rum in the world.” Raffin said.
Continued work and recognition
In 2021, J.M became part of the UN Global Compact, and partnered with Péyi Vert Project — which aims to plant one million trees in Martinique in the next five years in an effort to increase local biodiversity, restore the fertility of degraded soils, fight against air pollution, and reconstitute a green belt for public enjoyment. The distillery has pledged to plant 120 trees per year, with one year already complete. This month, J.M is set to be certified by Bonsucro — an international not-for-profit governance group that promotes sustainable sugarcane production while recognizing the need for economic viability. By the end of this year, the brand will obtain the Haute Valeur Environmental (HVE) Level 3 Certification (“high environmental value”), awarded by the French Ministry of Agriculture to farmers focused on key areas of environmental conservation.
Cultivating responsible Rhum drinkers — and producers
Ecotourism is on its way to Martinique, and J.M is building educational efforts into its consumer offerings — taking visitors behind the label to see the full process while visiting the property. Plans include touch points throughout the distillery to explain the Rhum Agricole production process and steps toward sustainability at each point in the cycle; as well as extended, guided tours to the sugarcane fields to showcase its unique cultivation methods.
“I’m proud. After so many years of development, EDDEN has finally been shared with the world,” says Ben Jones, Managing Director of Spiribam America. “This is not the end, but truly Day 1 of a lifelong commitment to be a leader of sustainable rum production practices — a huge milestone accomplishment from one of our own crown jewel rum distilleries!” -
With EDDEN, J.M is also advocating for improved sustainability at distilleries around the world; and it is in good company — as a growing number of spirits producers around the world are not only putting sustainability at the forefront of their operations; brands such as Dewars and Tattersall have embedded and are continually improving theirs through circular practices.