Rhum Agricole is the French term for cane juice rum, a style of rum originally distilled in one of the French West Indies islands from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses. Cane juice rums are made throughout the Caribbean, including Trinidad, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Most rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar refining but when France began to make sugar from sugar beets, sugar prices plunged heavily. The debt ridden sugar factories could not survive solely on sugar production. The French islands found that fresh cane juice was available for fermenting and distilling into rum.
Much cane juice rum comes from Haiti (Barbancourt) and the island of Martinique, though other islands in the Caribbean, including Trinidad, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante and St. Barths also produce it. Reunion Island and Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, also produce cane juice rum (aka rhum agricole).
Cane juice rums from Martinique are labeled "AOC Rhum Agricole Martinique" because French and European law allowed a designation called "Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée" (protected designation of origin) of "rhum agricole AOC Martinique" for rums produced on the island of Martinique that meet certain local standards. This designation is local peculiar to Martinique, and does not define the category of cane juice rum or rhum agricole. It is the main ingredient in Ti'Punch.
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 rhum agricole) or for a few years. After three years of aging in oak barrels, it may be called "rhum vieux," or "old rhum".
Fourteen distilleries in Martinique produce rhum agricole. The most renowned include Clément Estate in Le Francois, DePaz Distillery in Saint-Pierre, and Saint James Distillery and Museum in Sainte-Marie.
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 cachaca, see below.
- Rhum Agricole at caribbeanspirits.com
- Rhum Agricole at cocktailatlas.com
- Descriptions of Rhum Agricole and Brazilian Cachaca