A Handy-Dandy, Non-Exhaustive, and Very Nifty Guide to Rhum Agricole
Rhum Agricole has exploded in the United States. You’ve probably seen them lining the top shelves at liquor stores and fine printed on cocktail menus already, but what exactly is this specific style of rum? More importantly, should you invest in one?
Broadly speaking, rum is produced by fermenting and distilling parts of sugar, either from sugarcane or sugar beets. Rums can be made from a range of different by-products, with molasses and sugarcane juice being the most common. Rum isn’t like heavily regulated spirits such as tequila, pisco, scotch, or cognac—it can be made anywhere in the world, it has no specific aging requirements, and producers have free license to play pretty fast-and-loose with their additives and labels in comparison to other spirits.
There are so few rules surrounding rum that it can seem like one of the last free agents of the spirit catalogue. Rhum Agricole, however, follows much stricter guidelines. It can only be made from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice, not any of the other by-products such as molasses, and because fresh sugarcane juice spoils quickly it must be fermented on the same day it's harvested. Because of this, Rhum Agricole can’t be made anywhere there is no access to fresh sugarcane.
This style of rum is characterized by a funky, vegetal flavor with lots of tropical notes of banana, pineapple, and melon. These flavors are caused by the fermentation process, which produces esters by combining acids with alcohol; these esters are what gives rhum agricole its fruity, complex flavor.
Now that you know a little about what Rhum Agricole is, here are some of my favorite bottles to stock on your bar:
Rhum Clement VSOP Rum 4 Year
This 4 year old rhum from Martinique is aged in French Oak barrels, giving it a rich, caramel-like flavor. Baking spices and woody flavors intermingle with coconut, dried fruit, banana, and creme brulee. This is a great choice for anyone who is looking to get into rum and is already a fan of spirits aged in oak barrels, such as whiskey, scotch, or cognac.
Clément Canne Bleue
This totally clear rhum agricole is made completely from blue sugarcane, and rests for six months at a time in stainless steel vats and diluted with volcanic mineral water. This rum is lighter with more meringue, cucumber, and pepper than the VSOP 4 Year. This bottle is particularly beautiful in an agricole daiquiri or Ti Punch.
Rhum J.M VSOP
This rhum is aged for three years in American oak then rested for an additional year in a blend of French oak and used bourbon barrels. This rhum agricole has more vanilla bean and baking spice notes than other varieties and is excellent in a rhum sazerac.
No matter what bottle of Rhum Agricole you choose, I hope you enjoy this phenomenal style of rum!
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