Rhum agricole (French pronunciation: [ʁɔm aɡʁikɔl]) is the French term for cane juice rum, a style of rum originally distilled in the French Caribbean islands from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses. Rhum is the term that typically distinguishes rum made from molasses in French-speaking locales in the West Indies.
Cane juice rum mostly comes from Haiti, Martinique, and the Guadeloupe islands of Marie-Galante, Grande-Terre, and Basse-Terre, but is made throughout the Caribbean, including on Trinidad, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Grenada, and in the Indian Ocean on Mauritius and Réunion Island.
Most rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar refining. When France began to make sugar from sugar beets around 1811, sugar prices dropped and the debt-ridden sugar factories in the French Caribbean could not survive solely on sugar production. Fresh cane juice was now available for fermenting and distilling into rum.
Cane juice rums from Martinique are labeled "AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole" because French and European law allowed a designation called "Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée" (protected designation of origin) for rums produced on the island of Martinique that meet certain local standards. This designation is unique to Martinique and does not define the category of cane juice rum or rhum agricole.
In Martinique, AOC labeled cane juice rums are usually distilled to 70% alcohol (140 proof in the U.S.) and then watered down to 40–55% (80–110 proof) when bottled. It may be aged as little as a few months (3 months at least for AOC Martinique Rhum agricole) or up to a few years. After three years of aging in oak barrels, it may be called "rhum vieux," or "old rum".
The archipelago of Guadeloupe is often listed as one of the best rum destinations, where the rhum is appreciated for its signature flavor. There are nine distilleries in the Guadeloupe Islands and centuries-old traditions in distillation are still used to produce multi-awarded labels. In Basse-Terre you will find Domaine de Severin, Distillerie Bologne, Distillerie Longueteau and Distillerie Reimonenq (where the Musée du Rhum is located). In Grande-Terre there is Distillerie Damoiseau and in Marie-Galante there are Distillerie Bellevue, Distillerie Bielle and Distillerie Poisson (also known as Rhum du Père LaBat).
The rest of the Caribbean produces cane juice rums of varying ages. Most notable are the Barbancourt rums of Haiti which are aged to four, eight and fifteen years. A form of cane juice rum first appeared in Brazil where it is called Cachaça.
With the burgeoning craft distilling scene new world styles of rhum agricole are appearing. In Australia, Husk Distillers use local cane varieties, paddock to bottle production and a pot still batch distillation to create a unique Australian expression. Other new world Rhum Agricole distilleries include Chalong Bay and Lamai Distilleries in Thailand and Chamarel in Mauritius. With the closure of Hawaii's crystaline sugar producing mills some artisinal distilleries have opened which continue production of cane for rhum agricole.
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- Rhum Agricole at caribbeanspirits.com
- Rhum Agricole at cocktailatlas.com
- Descriptions of Rhum Agricole and Brazilian Cachaca