Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is All Rum or Rhum Made From Cane Juice an Agricole?

   What is the basis of a true rhum agricole?   In 1993 an expert committee was set up to write Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) specifications.   This committee sets up geographical limits for cane cultivation and defines acceptable production techniques.   As it is the case in most AOC specifications, these limitations did not exclude any current production but rather set new rules from current practices to make sure that rhum would always be produced the same way.   This specificity in raw material gives rhum a wider bouquet. This is especially the case for white rum (rhum blanc) as in older rums barrel aging tends to smooth down the differences. Fresh sugarcane juice being so prone to oxidation, a rhum agricole distillery can only produce rhum from locally sourced canes. Rhums agricoles have specificities of the geographic origin, its soil, climate, growing techniques and personality of the cane juice used in its production.

   This being said, if the cane is not grown close to the distillery and in the designated soil and climate conditions, it can not claim to be Agricole Rhum.   There are a lot of similarities with rhum agricole and rums made with fresh squeezed sugar cane juice in flavor, but they are not agricole.   In Georgia, The Richland Rum people grow their own sugar cane on the estate and it is fresh cut and pressed into cane juice, just like the agricole's are, but this is not one of the specified sugar canes.  Therefore not an agricole.  Same with many other rums made in Hawaii, Mexico, and other places around the world.

     To be an agricole it has to be made in   Martinique.  These are the island that have all of the requirements to grow the sugarcane necessary to make agricole.   The cane is only the tip of the iceberg, the production methods, aging methods are also a part of the very strict rules that govern rhum agricoles.  This is what makes them so special in their flavors and the consistency year after year.

     The thing to remember is that all agricoles are made from fresh cane juice, but all rums made from fresh cane juice are not agricoles.