Engenhos do Norte

1128 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

May, 2019

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

This is one of Madeira’s last remaining rum distilleries and is immediately recognisable by its tall red chimney.

The mill was built in 1927 replacing about 50 smaller mills. It is the only factory in Europe still using the original steam powered machines. The factory operates from March to May although during the rest of the year there are videos of the machines working.

The fertlle soils and abundant supply of water and wood, made Madeira an ideal place to grow and process sugar cane. In the C15th and C16th it was the major sugar exporter in the world. Sugar was so valuable, it was referred to a ‘white gold’. With the arrival of cheaper sugar from south America, Madeira diversified into the production of syrups, jams and rum. The aguardente de cana (distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice), is mixed with honey, sugar, lemon rind and lemon juice (or other fruit syrups) to produce poncha.

The sugar cane has to be crushed and boiled within 72 hours of being cut, otherwise it begins to ferment and the sucrose content falls. Initially animals were used to grind the sugar cane but were later replaced by water and then steam power.

The sugar cane is brought to the factory by lorry and fed in through an upper window. It is passed through three massive grinding cylinders and the juice is collected in tanks before filtering. It is then boiled in a series of copper vats to drive off excess water.

The syrup would originally have been dried to from sugar before being wrapped in paper. Now some is used to make honey and passes through a tall cylinder of vats. The rest is distilled and the clear liquid, Argardente, collected. This is aged in oak barrels becoming rum.

The waste sugar cane is taken along a conveyor belt and loaded into trucks. It is used as a mulch or feed for livestock.

This is a fascinating place, especially as it is working when we visited. It is a real step back into history. There are no safety barriers and our H&S would have 40 fits. It challenges all the senses with sheer power of the machinery and the smell of steam mixing with the sweet smell of the syrup. It was wonderful and ranked as one of the highlights of the holiday.

The mill is open Monday – Friday 10-6 and is free. There is a small shop next to the mill where you can taste rum and Poncha. It also sells other products made from the sugar cane syrup.

There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/madeira/eastern/porta_cruz/index.html


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