Agricultural Rum

Agricultural Rum: what it is

With the term Agricultural rum we mean rum which, unlike the industrial one obtained starting from molasses, it is obtained only from the fermentation of fresh sugar cane juice. This is also called vesou or "miel virgen" and gives rise to a softer, more aromatic and fruity distillate.

This production method is originally from the French Antilles, and in particular of the Martinique. Today, rums from pure cane juice are produced everywhere in the Caribbean and Central America. The most famous and well known is the Zacapa, which comes from Guatemala. In Brazil, if we are talking about sugar cane juice distillate, then the reference term will be cachaça. A dedicated article deserves the clairin, a white rum from pure cane juice produced on the island of Haiti.

What is the difference between agricultural and industrial rum

There are two rum families in the world: the agricultural rum and rum industriale. The difference between the two products arises from the production method; the first is obtained from the pure juice of sugar cane, while the second from the distillation of molasses. Rum, agricultural or industrial, like the products deriving from distillation, are devoid of color, which will be given to them through aging in oak barrels wanted him.

Those obtained from the fermentation and distillation of sugar cane, i agricultural rums, are undoubtedly the most difficult to find on the market and are undoubtedly the most valuable, for quality they are compared to the major European distillates.

Agricultural rum

Agricultural rum is the correct definition of agricultural rum, being a rum of the French school. There are three great schools that have created the most important distilleries in Caribbean rum: it is the English one, the Spanish one and finally the French one for the agricultural rhum. From these three schools also derive three types of denomination for the same distillate, respectively rum, ron e rhum.

Then a when we talk about agricultural rhum we will speak exclusively of rhum of French origin, which stands out not only for the raw material but also for the methods of fermentation, distillation and aging borrowed from the world of cognac. Compared to other school rums the French agricultural rhum uses discontinuous or continuous distillation methods with Creole columns capable of creating distillates that are round at the same time, but rich in those particles (the congeners) that give the distillate the scented notes that distinguish it. 

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Agricultural rum brands

 Agricultural Rum, or Rhum Agricole, as mentioned above we mean the distillate of pure sugar cane juice native and typical of the islands of the gods French Caribbean. Sugar cane juice is called vesou, and is obtained by pressing and defibrating the cane itself and then distilled. The most famous and prestigious rums belonging to this typology are produced in the islands of Guadeloupe, Réunion, Marie Galante, Martinique and Haiti. Agricultural rum is usually very rich and full-bodied, and is aged in oak barrels. Below is a list of the best agricultural rums produced in the world.

Agricultural Marches of Martinique

It is the agricultural rum most famous in the world, for many experts the only distillate that can boast the title of "Agricultural rum" without fear of denial. The origin of rum in Martinique is very ancient, as indeed in many Caribbean islands. The production of agricultural rum, or agricultural rum as it is called in France, is relatively more recent and is linked to the reduction in the production of cane sugar, in favor of that produced with beet which took place at the beginning of the 19th century. Many of the sugar mills on the island were thus converted to the production of fresh cane juice to produce a rum considered by many to be of a higher level than that obtained from molasses.

Surely it is a more expensive production method that over the years has struggled to free itself from almost exclusively local consumption. Hence the idea of ​​the few remaining distillers on the island to create in 1993 an AOC of agricultural rum from Martinique (Appelation d'origine controlèe) capable of enhancing the terroir, as happens for many French wines and rums. The disciplinary of the agricultural rum of Martinique is very rich and detailed, below is the summary of the characteristics of the distillate now considered the best rum in the category of agricultural rums.

As before, you discriminate in order to join "AOC Martinique Agricultural Rum“, The rum must be produced from cane grown in an authorized area on the land of only 23 municipalities on the island. The second factor is linked to the yield per hectare of sugar cane: this production limit allows to reduce the use of fertilizers and to it are also associated the irrigation limit of four months and the prohibition of the use of substances suitable for promoting the maturation of the barrel. The type of cane is also regulated and must be registered on a list subject to approval by the technical committee that oversees the denomination of controlled origin of agricultural rum. Finally, the collection period is also regulated, which must be between 1st January and 31st August.

As regards the production of the juice, the AOC of agricultural rum of Martinique establishes that the sugar cane juice must be obtained only by crushing and pressing the sugar cane, without the addition of molasses or syrup with values ​​also established for what concerns the minimum sugar content and acidity. Juice extraction is also regulated by establishing the exclusion of hot extraction which could distort its quality and alter the bouquet of the agricultural rum produced. The distillation of agricultural rum it must be carried out in continuously operating columns (traditionally used in Martinique) and rectification is also prohibited (second distillation aimed at increasing the alcohol concentration). The allometric titer must be between 65 ° and 75 ° at the outlet of the distillation column to meet the requirements of the Martinique AOC agricultural rum specification.

At the end of the distillation, the rums with the label of controlled origin "Agricultural rum from Martinique"Must be aged on the island and must be able to be classified into one of these three types:" White "agricultural rum from Martinique: colorless rum aged for at least three months after distillation. In the case of aging in wooden barrels, three months become the maximum aging time. Agricultural rum from Martinique "Aged in wood": the rum is aged in oak barrels for at least twelve months, with volatile elements other than ethyl and methyl alcohol equal to 250 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol, in order to guarantee the scent of agricultural rum of Martinique.

"Old" agricultural rum from Martinique: the rum must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels with a maximum capacity of 650 liters, in this case the quantity of "esters" must be at least equal to 325 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol. This greater concentration of volatile elements serves to differentiate this type from the previous category, characterized by a richer bouquet. The alcohol content of agricultural rum from Martinique cannot in any case be less than 40%.

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French agricultural brands

Since 2015 some French rums have obtained the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), indicates the category of products with characteristics determined by the geographical origin, but for which it does not need to carry out all the production activities on site. These are therefore products that have a less strong link with the terroir that characterizes the AOC del Agricultural rum from Martinique, but which still follow a specification that certifies their origin and authenticity.

Below is the list of French agricultural rums IGP:

"Agricultural rum from Guadeloupe" o "Rum from Guadeloupe" o "Rum Guadeloupe"

"Rhum agricole from Reunion" o "Rhum Reunion" o "Rum from Reunion" o "Rum from Reunion Island"

"Agricultural rum from Guyana" o "Agricultural rum from Guyana" o "Agricultural rum from Guyana"

"Agricultural rum of the French West Indies"

"Rum from the French overseas departments" o "Rum from the French overseas departments"

The following distilleries produce agricultural rum:

Guadeloupe: there are nine distilleries operating in which produce agricultural rum;

French Guyana: Rum Saint-Maurice;

Reunion Island: Rivière du Mat produces agricultural rum at 45 °; Isautier produces agricultural rum at 55 °, Savanna produces agricultural rum at 45;

Mauritius : Rhumerie de Chamarel; Rum Saint-Aubin;

French Polynesia: Il Domaine Pari Pari produce rum agricolo a 55 °

An excellent agricultural rum is also produced in Tahiti: in fact, the Manutea Tahiti 50 ° white rum was awarded a gold medal at the Rhum Fest Awards in Paris, one of the most prestigious rum festival the world.

Agricultural rum of Haiti: the clairin

While not being officially classified as agricultural rum, clarin in Haiti it has all the characteristics and thanks to the backwardness of the island, it has miraculously maintained the characteristics of a true artisan agricultural rum of the end of the 800th century. Suffice it to say that even today sugar cane is delivered to the distillery by means of wagons pulled by animals and its quality has remained unchanged since it is free of hybridization and having not known any practice linked to chemical interventions over the years. The clairin was recently discovered by Luca Gargano, which has made a decisive contribution to its worldwide diffusion, imposing it as a product of excellence and strongly linked to the territory to which it belongs.

We are faced with distillates that have nothing to do with molasses distillates, produced in 532 distilleries by small local artisans. In order to preserve this product from speculation, before putting this completely new type of agricultural rum on the market in 2013, Luca Gargano (one of the leading rum experts in the world is Italian!) Wanted to create a protocol that would photograph the methodologies of production that are still used on the island. According to this specification, the Clairin must be produced with the island's sugar cane, not hybridized and without the use of chemicals, the harvest must be done by hand with the transfer of the cane by means of carts pulled by animals.

As for the fermentation, which must last at least five days, the exclusive use of natural yeasts is envisaged. The distillation will also have to follow traditional methods, with the use of stills with up to five dishes. Finally, this type of agricultural rum, must be bottled in purity without dilution and bottled in Haiti.

Agricultural rum of Guatemala: the Zacapa rum

Agricultural rum is by definition a French rum, because the school that created it is undoubtedly of transalpine origin, with the distillation methodologies introduced already at the end of the 700th century in Martinique. However, there is a rum of the Spanish school and more precisely Guatemalan, which has understood the potential of the production of rum from pure sugar cane juice and it is the very famous distillery that produces the Zacapa. In this case the discriminating factor with respect to rums of French origin lies in the introduction of hearth method, ie the mixing of different vintages of rum from the distillery.

It is a methodology that tends to standardize the product of different vintages, in order to offer a constant product over time. The sugar cane is produced locally and thanks to the volcanic soil and the climate of Quetzaltenango, it has unique characteristics for the production of cane juice, in this case called "miel virgen". The aging in cask and the choice of how to combine the different vintages is due to the contribution of Lorena Vasquez, Master Blender of the distillery, who succeeded in the task assigned to her by the Boltran family, namely to create an extremely balanced rum.

To contribute to the production of this agricultural rum atypical, the pineapple yeasts used in fermentation and the aging place - the famous “House above the clouds” - a building located at more than two thousand meters - with unique characteristics for the aging of Rum also intervene. Since 2010 the rum Zacapa together with the Rum Boltran is part of a denomination of controlled origin "Ron de Guatemala" recognized in 2014 also by the European Union. Also in this case the production area, the types of sugar cane and the fermentation, distillation and aging systems are regulated, in order to offer rums that can be traced throughout the entire production system.

Agricultural rum from Madeira

Since 2011 also the rum di Madeira, a Portuguese island best known for its liqueur of the same name, has officially become an agricultural rum, given the recognition of the European Union which has included Madeira rum among the protected geographical indication (PGI) products. To guarantee the quality of the product and its authenticity, the government of the island has issued strict rules that distillers must comply with in order to call their product "Madeira Agricultural Rum”(Agricultural rum from Madeira).

Furthermore, rums must be subjected to a commission of tasters before they are placed on the market. These regulations were introduced after that in the early XNUMXs the agricultural rum of Madeira he had experienced sudden popularity thanks to Poncha, a local cocktail based on agricultural rum. What for many years was considered a low-quality rum of exclusively local use, has been transformed into a high-quality agricultural rum, which unfortunately, given the small size of the island, is produced in modest quantities. However, together with Clarin, it is one of the great innovations in the world of agricultural rums, which is however experiencing an ever-growing success among rum connoisseurs.

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