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What is Rhum Agricole ?

A Quick Guide on the Earthy Spirit

Rhum is different from the more popular rum, and in the last 100 years, it has managed to pique the interests of several groups of people.
Rhum Agricole is typically obtained from French-speaking countries. This includes countries like the French West Indies — Guadeloupe and Martinique and Réunion, which is east of Madagascar.

However, some of the best Rhum is produced outside its state of origin.

Rhum is spelled with an ‘h’ because it is French, while Agricole means ‘agricultural.’

What is Rhum Agricole?

All forms of rum are made from sugar, most notably from beets or sugar cane. Sugar cane molasses becomes evaporated sugar, the primary ingredient for making rum.

But Rhum Agricole’s production is a bit more complicated than that. Rum has no production rules, the Rhum Agricole is the exact opposite.

Rhum Agricole is a more delicate variety that takes mastery. It is only produced from the fresh-pressed juice of sugar cane. Afterwards, the fermentation process ought to begin within a day, or the milk would turn sour and be no longer useful.

To allow quick processing, production typically takes place in the same territory as its main ingredient. That way, Rhum Agricole retains a taste of its local roots, and some argue, make it all more precious.

Rhum or Rum ?

Rum is often made from a sugary solution fermented from watered-down molasses. Rum travels well and is easy to procure.

What’s more, it can be barrel-aged with additives. Flavors, colors, and sugar are some of the rum’s best additives.

For Rhum Agricole, fresh sugar cane juice is harvested directly. This raw material is what makes the alcohol solution that is dense and rich.

Classes of Rhum Agricole

Interestingly, freshly-pressed sugar cane juice does not always guarantee the production of the drink. Not all fresh sugarcane spirits are actually Rhum Agricole.

Although several spirits have the same roots as the Swiss rhum, their production processes separate them. Sometimes, it is their origins and designations that differ.

For instance, Haitian clairin is different simply because of its production method. Instead of using the technique of the Rhum producers, the clairin only uses wild yeasts for fermentation and pot stills for distillation.

Also, the Brazilian cachaça predates rhum by a handful of hundred years. And even though the process is pretty much the same, producers prefer to keep it as its own designation.

There’s also the pre-existing distinction between regular rum and Rhum Agricole. Some novices consider rum another form its more natural counterpart, but it is hardly so.

Rum is largely sugar-based. Additives are always on the heavy side and end up giving it a delicious, albeit synthetic taste, when compared with rhum.

Rhum’s natural flavors are exquisitely so endearing to rum lovers, who find them enriching and vibrant.

Agricole Rhum’s preparation is entirely free of any sweetening agents or colorings. This makes it very low in residual sugar, affecting its overall taste and vibe.

What Does Rhum Agricole Taste Like ?

Rhum Agricole is only produced in the places where sugarcane is readily available. Anything else, and it is not the original spirit.

Lovers of the drink are attracted to it because of its unique and original flavor profiles. They are typically described as earthy, grassy, herbal or vegetal. Some even go as far as calling it tribal.

It is easy to understand this favoritism. Some Agricole Rhum especially carry the distinct taste of overlying fruitiness. Some have flavors that resemble banana, papaya, mango and pineapple.

All the flavor profiles the spirit carries can only be attributed to its origin and production. The fruity flavors come from the freshly-pressed sugarcane juice and a chemical reaction — esterification.

Esterification occurs during fermentation. Here, carboxylic acid and alcohol bond during the 48 hours before distillation. During this process, the naturally occurring funky fruity notes are born.

How to Make Rhum Agricole

The rules for making the spirit are extremely clear. By law, the sugarcane is grown only to be harvested at a single period annually. After harvest, the sugarcane must be juiced within 36 hours or the milk becomes spoilt.

After the cane is cut, it is crushed. The juice is sluiced directly into the fermenters. Fermentation begins immediately so that the flavors are not lost. Early fermentation also preserves the organic intricacies of each sugarcane.

Following fermentation, the fermented sugarcane juice is distilled. After 24 to 48 hours, the distiller has sugarcane wine of approximately 4% to 5% abv. Then the wine becomes even more dense. This happens when the juice is passed through a single pass creole column still. After distillation, the concentration is usually between 65% abv. and 75% abv.

Once distillation is through, the pure Rhum Agricole is transferred into large vats to mellow out. This period ranges from three months to three years, depending on the flavor and texture the producers want to achieve.

All flavors from the Rhum Agricole are natural. Nothing beyond pure sugarcane juice is used in this process. The color, flavor and aroma of Agricole Rhum remains as it is, without any form of alteration.

Bagasse is crushed sugarcane, and it is mostly recycled. It can be dried and used as furnace fuel for the column stills. It can also be mixed with vinasse and spread as compost on the plantations.

Choosing the Best Rhum Agricole For You

There are several types of Rhum Agricole depending on how long they are aged for after the distillation process.

White Rhum Agricole rests in wooden vats for three months, to be fully rounded out before it is bottled for consumption. Some producers use stainless vats as well. Before packaging, it is typically brought to market-friendly degrees with water.

Amber or Golden Rhum Agricole rests in wooden containers for 12 months. The storage period turns its hue to light golden.

Aged Rhum Agricole rests in an oak barrel for a minimum of 3 to 6 years before it can get an aged vintage status. The wood’s tannin bestows the wine with warmer hues as the years go by.

To Sum Up

Rhum Agricole is pure undiluted elegance in a drink. As a spirit, it retains everything that makes it tribal, keeping its heritage intact.

Rhum Agricole is reminiscent of energy and passion filled with nourishing and familiar flavors.