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Rhum Agricole

Fresh sugar cane juice rhum from the French islands.


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Old 08-27-2017, 05:18 PM   #1
rumswede
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Default Question on rhum distillery operations

Hi all,
I have a question about how rhum distilleries operate, e.g. on Martinique. If I understand things right, cane juice does not keep well, so time between harvest and the start of fermentation needs to be short. Thus, since harvest is seasonal, so is the production of rhum agricole. But what goes on in the distilleries during "off-season"? Surely when the operation is in place and all the equipment is there and in order, there'd be decent odds for finding a financially sound strategy of buying molasses to distill "rhum traditionnel"? Yet, if this is done, I haven't heard of it, at least not as a general rule?

A similar question has also been on my mind regarding the history of rhum agricole. If the emergence of agricole was at least partly due to a collapse of the sugar market, so that the point of producing sugar (and molasses) disappeared, then why go full on with agricole? Did they use up all the cane for agricole so there was none left to make molasses out of? And was imports of molasses a non-starter due to trade barriers? If not, again, wouldn't it make sense to at least keep some molasses based production going to fully utilise facilities?

Anyone able to shed any light on this??

Cheers,
M.


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Old 08-28-2017, 01:42 AM   #2
Edward Hamilton
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In the off season, rhum agricole distilleries work to maintain the boiler, steam engine, cane mills and harvest equipment such as tractors, trucks, etc.
A few distilleries do make rhum traditionnel from molasses in the off season, but only a few due to the economy of scale required to be competitive. It takes energy to make the steam to distill molasses and without more spent cane that energy costs a lot of money.

It should be noted that a few years ago as much alcohol was made on Martinique from fresh sugar cane juice as there was from molasses. In addition to making molasses-based rum you also have to sell it and compete in the market where there are much smaller differences in the actual product than in the rhum agricole market.
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Old 08-28-2017, 01:53 AM   #3
rumswede
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward Hamilton View Post
In the off season, rhum agricole distilleries work to maintain the boiler, steam engine, cane mills and harvest equipment such as tractors, trucks, etc.
A few distilleries do make rhum traditionnel from molasses in the off season, but only a few due to the economy of scale required to be competitive. It takes energy to make the steam to distill molasses and without more spent cane that energy costs a lot of money.

It should be noted that a few years ago as much alcohol was made on Martinique from fresh sugar cane juice as there was from molasses. In addition to making molasses-based rum you also have to sell it and compete in the market where there are much smaller differences in the actual product than in the rhum agricole market.


I see. So what's left of the cane after crushing is used to fire the steam engine, thus there's a big additional energy cost associated with running the facility when there's no local cane available?

Thanks for the swift and specific reply!


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