Rhum Agricole: What Exactly Is It?

As the rum market continues to expand, one style of rum has emerged as a trendsetter: Rhum Agricole. This rum has existed for over a century, but only now is it starting to hit the United States. The first bottles of Rhum Agricole were imported from Martinique about fifteen years ago.

What is rhum agricole?

This style of rum is considered more raw and authentic than most variations of the drink. However, many people say that it is also denser in flavor than other rums. 

Rhum Agricole has a vegetal taste to it, mixed with a bit of fruitiness. It is fair to describe the drink as bittersweet. 

If you were to ask a few random people in a bar what Rhum Agricole is, you would probably receive various answers. Some might say that the term is used to describe any rum produced in the French West Indies. Others might say that Rhum Agricole refers to naturally fermented rum.

The truth is, both where the rum is made and how it was produced determines whether a rum can be considered “Rhum Agricole.” Many distillates have restricted denominations, requiring that the product be produced in a certain region to use its name.

In this case, Rhum Agricole has a Protected Destination of Origin, or in French, an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). This rum must be produced in the French West Indies, a region located in the Caribbean.

The rum must also be produced with certain standards in agriculture, sugarcane processing, fermentation, and distillation. Without these requirements fulfilled, a product cannot legally call itself Rhum Agricole. 

Many other caveats are included in these requirements. This drink has a dense history that must be preserved. To find out if your rum is authentic Rhum Agricole, continue reading below with Saucey.

What is rhum agricole made from?

All rum is made from sugar—this is where the natural sweetness of the drink comes from. But what many people don’t know is that most of the world’s rum supply is produced from sugarcane molasses or evaporated sugar. 

This sugar is processed from cane or beets. These ingredients are fairly cheap and easy to procure. 

One interesting aspect of rum is that it is often said to have no rules. However, when discussing Rhum Agricole, it’s a completely different story. 

Rhum Agricole can only be produced from the fresh-pressed juice of sugar cane, which begins fermenting within 24 hours. If the fermentation process doesn’t begin within a day, it will spoil. 

This type of rum must be made as close as possible to the source. This proximity allows the product to maintain an authentic regional taste. The flavor of Rhum Agricole is unique to its local agricultural provenance. The term actually comes from the French spelling of “rum,” which is “rhum.” The “Agricole” part comes from the word “agriculture.”

In terms of alcohol, Rhum Agricole is generally higher proof than other rums. It is made with a single ingredient, while most industrial rums are made with molasses and other additives such as caramel. 

Where is rhum agricole made?

Rum can be produced anywhere on Earth—but not Rhum Agricole. 

Rhum Agricole is only made in a few places globally; usually, where sugarcane grows. Most Rhum Agricole is produced in the French West Indies, in Guadeloupe or Martinique.

You can also find this spirit being made in other French Overseas Territories like Réunion, an island located off the coast of Madagascar. However, bottles from these territories are rarely found in America.

In recent years, many distilleries have attempted to create their own renditions of Rhum Agricole. Today, “Rhum Agricole” distilleries from Panama to Mexico, Thailand, and even Australia. There are even distilleries in America, like in Ko Hana, Hawaii, and Alameda, California.

Though rums from these areas cannot truly be considered Rhum Agricole, this trend shows how popular this drink is becoming. 


Taste profile of rhum agricole

Most traditional rums only have a single note in their palates. Many rums also cause you to feel heavy-headed, especially the cheaper, mass-produced ones. 

With Rhum Agricole, the taste is centered around freshness and complexity. Many critics would consider it to be the absolute, purest expression of rum. Simply put, it is smooth but dynamic. 

Its palate can be described as herbal or vegetal. This taste comes from the sugar cane, which is basically just a tall, leafy plant. When fresh cuts of this plant are pressed, a subtle, grass-like scent is produced. This smell is similar to how a lawn smells after being cut on a warm day. 

With rum that uses molasses, the sugar cane juice is boiled down, causing it to caramelize and let off notes of butterscotch. These flavors only appear after being aged in barrels for a few years. 

Cocktails with rhum agricole

A huge reason why Rhum Agricole has taken so long to gain its proper recognition is that it is difficult to use in mixed drinks. It can be hard to find ingredients that complement this rum with such a dense and potent palate.

When in doubt, it’s best to use a fairly simple recipe. Rhum Agricole works well in fruity, multi-rum concoctions, as well as more plain, old-fashioned cocktails. 

A popular Rhum Agricole cocktail is the Ti’ Punch, which really embodies simplicity. All you need to make this drink are some lime peels, a touch of cane syrup, an ice cube or two, and of course, your Rhum Agricole. This drink is so basic it is also known as the Petit Punch. However, it’s absolutely delicious.

Another cocktail you can try is the Broken Corazon Club, which is essentially a blend of rum, fruit juices, and Fernet. Combine pineapple juice, lime juice, Fernet, and grenadine with your Rhum Agricole to make this drink. The result is a bright, tropical mosh posh of flavors.

The Hearts & Mind cocktail, also known as the Prickly Pear, is another mixed drink you can make with Rhum Agricole. Grab some lemon juice, prickly pear puree, rich simple syrup, Fernet, and some sparkling wine. Shake it up with some Rhum Agricole, and serve in a flute glass. 

If made properly, your drink should have a lovely scarlet hue and taste fruity and tangy. This drink is great for beginners because you can really taste the rum and receive lighter tropical notes.

Different types of rhum agricole

There aren’t as many types of Rhum Agricole as some other spirits, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quality bottle near you. You may not find it immediately in your local liquor store, but with a little bit of digging around, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

One variation that’s great for novices is the Rhum Agricole Blanc Rum. It’s only about $40 and has a pretty standard ABV level of 40%. Its palate is fresh, smooth, and very tropical.

You can taste notes of pear and citrus in this rum, followed by sugarcane juice. It may not be the purest expression of Rhum Agricole, but it sure is tasty. This rum even received five stars by the Wine Enthusiast.

Another quality Rhum Agricole is the Neisson Agricole Blanc Rum, a rum produced in Martinique. It is made from freshly harvested sugarcane.

This rum has floral and citrus notes with a sweet, clean finish. For a more traditional rendition of the drink, this is a solid option.

The takeaway

Rhum Agricole is a drink that is slowly beginning to gain the respect it deserves. It has only been around in the United States for fifteen years. It has immense potential in the spirit market. Its unique vegetal notes may throw some inexperienced drinkers off. However, those that truly know quality rum can appreciate this classic drink’s complex array of flavors.

You don’t have to sip it alone either. Contrary to popular belief, you can make a lovely cocktail out of some Rhum Agricole, and it is absolutely heavenly in some rum punch.  

Don’t be left behind in the wave. This drink is coming to rock the alcohol industry. Don’t be surprised in a few years if you begin to see Rhum Agricole littered on the shelves of your local liquor store.

To get some fresh Rhum Agricole delivered straight to your home, check out Saucey. We carry nearly 500 different types of rum. There truly is no other service that provides as wide of a selection as us. From white rum to spiced rum to Caribbean rum, we’ve got it all. Check out our site to gain access to thousands of different bottles in an instant.

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