Published On: Mon, Aug 1st, 2022

How Pott Rum disappeared from St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG — Fancy that. A foreign investor building a factory in St. Maarten where 29 out of 31 employees are Antillean. That’s not a pipedream: it really happened back in the late sixties of last century when a German company established West Indies Distillers in Pointe Blanche. The factory produced 30 million liters of rum each year. A small part was for local consumption, but the majority of the output was exported to Europe, with Germany as its most important market.

The foreign investor in this story is H.H. Pott Nachfrg.Vertiebsgesellschaft MbH Rumhandelshaus. This company was established in 1848 as a distillery in Flensburg, the third largest city in the German region of Schleswig-Holstein. Various consumer groups attributed the term Der Gute (The Good One) to Pott and since 1923 Der Gute Pott has been a protected brand name. These days, Pott is a subsidiary of Henkell & Co. Sektkellerei, which in turn belongs to the Oetker Group.

So how did a German distiller end up in the Caribbean and, in particular, in St. Maarten? Pott founded the West Indies distillery in 1965 and two years later the company built a factory in Pointe Blanche. With a feel for local history or coincidentally, the factory started operations on November 11, 1968 – St. Maarten Day.

Nine years later the company invested a for that time hefty sum of $400,000 in the expansion of its molasses unloading facility.

The question is of course: why did the West Indies Destillery establish itself in St. Maarten and why did it disappear? The answer to both parts of this question is the same: St. Maarten’s duty free status.

The Ministry of Rum-website notes that alcohol can be imported, blended and sold without the usual red tape.” But in the eighties the distillery closed because of the island’s duty free status. The company was no longer able to compete with untaxed imports from other islands.

The author of the blog sugarcanecollection.wordpress.com took a stab at the history of the Pott rum factory. He found on the company’s website the notice that “the typical Flensburger rum is made at the Pott distillery in St. Maarten.”

The writer concludes: “Pott was closed in St. Maarten in the 1980s and Pott is a German rum from Flesnsburg. But the German rum is made in St. Maarten in a distillery that closed in 1980.”

The blogger published his remarks five years ago, in 2017, so it is possible that this mistake has in the meantime been corrected.

The factory is gone now from St. Maarten for close to forty years, but it has not been entirely forgotten, John Hartog writes about the company in his book History of St. Maarten and St. Martin and John van Sluis sent us a picture of the Pott Rum Steelers, a steelband that must have been sponsored by the rum factory. On the picture, the steelers perform during the carnival in 1976.

It is, of course, still possible to produce rum in St. Maarten. Topper’s rum factory in Cole Bay is a fine example of how this can be done. Tripadvisor also mentions the St. Maarten Distillery, located at the Sister Patentia Houtman road #17.

The sugarcane-blogger writes about his experience with a 40% Pott light rum, distilled and bottled in St. Maarten around 1980. “Light rum indeed! Very light and fresh with sweet fruits and a hint of mint in the nose. Soft floral tones and delicate sugarcane in the background.”

Pott rum also has a vintage value, it appears from a report on the website oldspiritcompany.com. There, a one-liter bottle of Pott rum from the 1970s sold for $51.24.

Photos provided by John van Sluis. The above photos show scenes of a Pott Rum party at Little Bay Beach Hotel on May 1, 1980.


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