Rhum Agricole is a French term that translates to “cane juice rum”. Traditional rum production starts with the fermentation of molassas (a sugar production byproduct) however Rhum Agricole substitutes freshly squeezed sugar cane juice as its primary ingredient in the fermentation process. While most Rhum Agricole is typically produced on the eastern Caribbean (primarily on the French island of Martinique), Agricole is produced on various other locations (see Barbancourt Rum from Haiti).
St. George Spirits (SGS), in Alameda, CA, has introduced their own Agricole using 100% California sugarcane. Formerly known as Agua Libre Rum, St. George Spirits’ California Agricole Rum “is a pure, primal, unapologetic expression” that is “intensely grassy, sultry, and robust’. California Agricole arrives at a slightly higher 86 proof than most rums.
St. George Spirits describes their Agricole production process:
“We make our rum from fresh sugarcane—not molasses—in the style of a rhum agricole or cachaça. The cane is grown outside of Brawley in the Imperial Valley of Southern California. Immediately after harvest, stalks of sugarcane are shipped here to the distillery, where we extract fresh cane juice by running the stalks by hand through a sugarcane mill.
The freshly pressed, uncooked cane juice is then fermented and distilled in small batches in our 500-liter copper pot still.”
The distillery reminds consumers that sugarcane is actually a grass and their Agricole permeates with a “vivid, earthy, even vegetal aromatics that evoke wet grass, truffles, and black olives. When you open a bottle, the aroma is primal and brazen.”
I’m not sure that I would appreciate a rum that smells like wet grass but I certainly believe that such aromas could dramatically twist a traditional cocktail with something SGS says is “unmissable—adding funk and sultriness to anything it touches”.
California Agricole Rum received a Gold Medal at the 2010 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition and has recieved good reviews from the Los Angeles Times, Wine Enthusiast and Liquor.com.
And why did St. George Spirits choose to produce an Agricole rather than a traditional rum?
We could have. But we didn’t want to.
Staying true to this philosophy resulted in a colossal, grassy rum that is a clear expression of California sugarcane—but it’s a strikingly different flavor profile from most rums out there, many of which are made from molasses (a byproduct of sugar manufacturing) rather than fresh cane. And even among agricole-style rums (rums that originate from cane, not molasses), we know that ours stands out for its allegiance to the ripe, vegetal properties of just-harvested cane.
We’re proud of that, and we love how this rum smells and tastes. We know not everyone’s going to feel the same way, though, and we’re cool with that. For those of you out there who try our rum and can’t fathom why anyone would want to drink it, we’d be happy to point you in the direction of some “normal” rums.
While I have not tried California Agricole, I hope to order a bottle in the near future and provide my own spirited review within these pages. If you live in California, you can find Agua Libre in your local store or order some online from DrinkUpNY.com (among others).
Have you tried St. George California Agricole Rum? If so, let us know your thoughts.
I received this rhum today as a recommendation from Cask, in San Francisco. It came with another bottle of rum from Haiti. I had a friend in the area and they brought them home for me.
Ok, I’ll be honest. When I opened the bottle the first smell was…. wow, what is that? I asked a friend and they thought of Olives. My wife thought of Pickles and Saltwater.. odd yes? I thought… raw sugarcane at the mills in Hawaii when I lived there. I honestly was a little reluctant to taste it but, being a rum bar owner, all have to be tried, good or ill. I have to say, I did manage to drink a couple of oz. with a cube of ice but it wasn’t easy. I’m not a white rum drinker by nature, I prefer the golden and maybe a spice once and a while. But again, it was recommend.. I give it low marks in my book for now but… I want to try it with the recipes that were on the bottle, like the Mai Tai and the Ti Punch. I’ve usually found that white rhums were mixers, generally and only a few have made it to my “Top shelf” of rhums. Namely, John Watlings, Papa’s Pillar and Edwin Charley’s Transformation, but, again… I’ll leave the ticket out and try this with the mixers…