A Visit to the Enmore Sugar Factory
Visiting the Enmore Sugar Factory
After visiting Demerara Distillers Limited, we were excited to learn we’d have the chance to see where it all starts. We boarded the bus and settled in for a forty-five minute ride to one of Guyana’s famous sugar factories, and the original home of some of the Diamond Distillery’s famous stills: Enmore.
The Enmore sugar factory was originally built by the Porter family in the 1880s. Thomas Porter (1748-1815) had arrived in British Guiana from Tobago in 1782, and cultivated cotton with slave labor. His sons Thomas II and (Edward) Henry were left with land upon their father’s death, and it is understood that Henry changed the name of the plantation to Enmore. Porter would have had ample money to build the sugar factory, having been given nearly £36,000 by the British government as compensation for losing his 569 slaves to emancipation after 1834.
The famous EHP wooden Coffey still was added to capture the value of the molasses and turn it into rum. The Porter family continued to operate the estate until the 1930s, when it was sold to Curtis Campbell & Company, and eventually landed in the hands of the Booker Group through a merger.
In 1976, the sugar industry was nationalized, and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was formed. The transition from British merchants to national control was not without its setbacks. During the 1980s, GuySuCo experienced considerable problems in management, labor, weather, and crop losses. Today, the sugar industry in Guyana still struggles with labor issues, which seems almost inevitable with a labor pool of 70,000 employees.
The sugarcane grown near the factory is actually below sea level, so water and levy management is critical. The soil is heavy with clay, high in acid as well as salt. The cane variety has been bred specifically for Guyana, which is tropical rather than sugarcane’s natural subtropical habitat. With 750,681 hectares (over 1.85 million acres) of sugar cane to manage, it would appear GuySuCo has got it dialed in.
The cane is burned to remove the excess foliage, and to drive snakes from the fields for worker safety. The cane is harvested mostly by hand with some semi-mechanized assistance. The cut cane is loaded into flat-bottomed metal boats called punts, which are pulled through canals by tractor to the sugar factory.
Once at the factory, up to five tons of cane per hour is unloaded from the punts and conveyed to a mechanical cutter and sent to the crusher.
The cane juice moves to the boilers, and the juiced cane fiber (bagasse) is collected for use as fuel for said boilers. So great is the volume of bagasse fuel, that the Enmore factory actually produces more electrical energy than it needs for the entire operation. Many area homes are actually powered by the plant, and efforts are underway to be able to put additional excess power back onto the wider electrical grid.
The cane juice is boiled to 80° Brix under -25 inch Hg vacuum for energy efficiency. Grains or crystals of sucrose begin to form once the solution is supersaturated, and once enough crystals are formed, the solution is sent to a centrifuge to separate the crystals from the molasses.
The Demerara sugar crystals are then conveyed next door to the modern sugar packaging plant, while the molasses is collected for sale to rum makers around the world (among others).
Because Demerara Distillers Limited is an associated company, they are able to purchase GuySuCo’s molasses at a discount.
Ask a rum Caribbean distiller where they source their molasses, and the answer will almost always include Guyana. What a treat to see from whence it comes!
Editor’s note: This trip was sponsored by the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) under the auspices of the Authentic Caribbean Rum Certification (ACR) Program. After completing the free 4-hour certification course in San Francisco, I submitted an application for, and was accepted into the Full Certification program in the Caribbean. As part of the inaugural class, we visited six Caribbean rum distilleries and one sugar factory across three countries in four days. I highly recommend taking the free certification class when it comes to a town near you. It’s quite informative, but best of all, it qualifies you to apply for the Full Certification program in the Caribbean (also free of charge).
(a must-read for those of you interested in Guyanese rum history!)