What It Is
That little “h” makes a big difference. Unlike most rums, which are made from molasses, rhum agricole is made from pure sugar-cane juice. Using the juice delivers the mouthfeel and sweetness of rum, but with a deeper sense of the raw sugar cane’s grassy or “funky” notes, along with big banana or tropical fruit flavors. Many also have a touch of salinity, with a brininess reminiscent of bacon.
Where It’s Made
Technically, it’s only rhum agricole if distilled in Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean. Just like Cognac, Champagne and Bordeaux, Martinique Rhum Agricole is an official appellation d’origine contrôlée, or AOC. Still, there are terrific sugar-cane juice “rhums” being made in Guadeloupe and here in the U.S.
How to Drink It
While complex enough to sip straight or with ice, rum expert Ed Hamilton, who writes the Ministry of Rum blog, suggests the quick-and-delicious Ti Punch, a staple drink in Martinique. In a rocks glass, stir together 1½ ounces of rhum, ¼ barspoon of sugar-cane syrup and a slice off the side of a lime, plus plenty of ice.
What to Drink
96 Clément VSOP Rhum Vieux Agricole (Martinique)
Perfectly balanced caramel sweetness and spice, with just a hint of bright banana on the finish.
Damoiseau XO Rhum Vieux Agricole (Guadeloupe)
Big maple and brown-sugar flavors; this 6-year-old rhum launched in the U.S. in early 2014.
St. George Reserve Agricole Rum (California)
Brawny and bold, sporting honey notes plus a huge wallop of ripe banana.