By definition, all rum must be distilled from sugar cane—but not all sugar cane spirits are rum.
And that’s just fine.
The five sugar cane spirits covered here, spanning the globe from Mexico to Japan, were selected for their remarkable ability to express how and where they are made.
Cane is a particularly malleable medium, explains Ben Jones, North American director of Spiribam. “The flavor comes from the hand of the maker,” he says, meaning the effect of how the stalks are processed, fermented and distilled. The best cane spirits “form their own complexity and character.”
Nuances start with the cane itself, whether that means fresh-pressed juice, dehydrated piloncillo or umami-rich, caramelized “black” sugar. For others, it’s about how that cane reflects mineral-rich soil or flourishes in the presence of wild yeast as it ferments. Some are shaped through distillation techniques or given additional character, thanks to resting time in ceramic vessels or casks made from indigenous wood.
Not surprisingly, the finished results are distinctive and diverse, whether fruity, funky, savory or briny.
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!