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Rhum Agricole

Fresh sugar cane juice rhum from the French islands.


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Old 03-24-2008, 09:35 AM   #21
Hank Koestner
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The great thing about rum is the diversity. There are so many from so many different countries and distillers. That is why I look at agricole as being a certain type of rum, and the standards make it the product that it is. And, what is interesting, each of the rhums from Martinique have thier own unique flavor profile, which shows some diversity within the standards.
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Old 03-24-2008, 11:57 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RumBarPhilly View Post
A good point was brought up, that rum might not have the appeal that scotches have due to their unreliability in the truth.
The scotch industry has had its share of trials and tribulations concerning coloring, blending, raw materials, aging and labeling. And those trials continue as scotch is exported around the world.

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Originally Posted by RumBarPhilly View Post
This takes me back to the idea of standardizing the industry. Creating a set of standards to attain the true definition of rum (other than "Must be a distilled spirit with a base of a sugar cane product")

But unfortunately, as we all now, there is such deep rooted history involved with every country and their rums, that to create a standard for rums, would be merely impossible.

I suppose this is why we often refer to rums by their country of origin (i.e. Jamaican Rums, Cuban Rums, etc) whereas vodkas are never referred by their country of origin. I cant remember the last time somebody referred to Swedish Vodkas or Dutch Vodkas or American Vodkas...
It should be appreciated that the Martinique distillers worked on the rules for their appellation for more than two decades. And, in this case all of the distillers knew each other, had a common interest, spoke the same language and since they all lived on the same island it was easy for them to meet and discuss their ideas.

In the case of the broader rum industry, many of the distillers have not met each other, most see each other as competitors as opposed to sharing a common interest in raising the awareness of the category, there is no common language other than English which many don't speak fluently and to meet and discuss anything would take weeks of planning and organizing.\

As long as distillers see each other as competitors there will be little common ground. In the meantime, the current definition of rum serves everyone equally, though there are differences in the American and EU definition of our favorite spirit.

In the meantime, the internet is providing a very effective platform for marketing and debunking marketing claims which are less than honest, which in effect will provide the greatest degree of regulation. The problems in the cognac, scotch and other distilled spirits industries has largely been resolved only after communication improved between the producers and consumers. Certainly communication is improving faster today than anytime in the history of rum.

I have a couple of changes in the last year in marketing campaigns which were less than forthright as a result of this forum. Hopefully the coming years will provide the consumer more and better information. Considering the number of people who are reading this post, I would be reluctant to go too far in making false and devious claims in the rum industry, the track record for truth is pretty good and improving.
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Old 03-24-2008, 09:58 PM   #23
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Great thread. It has been informative to me since I am still learning about agricoles. For whatever reason, the topic of agricoles seems to bring out strong thoughts, opinions, and emotions. Credit to everyone for keeping this conversation friendly. This is just one more reason why this forum is so great.
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Old 03-24-2008, 10:54 PM   #24
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Curiously the de facto standards you arrive at are based on geography...Just like France's AOC, Italy's DOC, and Germany's Qmp. These countries codified local taste, popular usage, preferences , and tradition in conjunction with the producers..By law.

Quality is not stifled..But rather defined.

As for the price? We all get a chance to "vote" with our pocketbook.


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Great question, but not at all. My hypothesis and goals were simply to recognize de facto standards established by popular usage and preferences, rather than to establish and impose artificial de jure standards enforced by law as done by the French.

A bit different, wouldn't you say?

YMMV, but when regulations limit the type of cane, size of acreage, width of crushing rollers, genus of yeast, temperature, pH, BRIX, size of tank, specifying the construction, height, number of plates, and material of the still, exit temperature and percentage of volatile elements, time and material of aging, ad infinitum...

... I can help but believe the art (or craft as some may prefer) is inhibited. There is little room for error, for experimentation, for deviation, for useful alteration, correction or out of the box improvement. Does such stifling restriction improve the quality? I think not. But it sure increases the prices...
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Old 03-26-2008, 10:57 AM   #25
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A producer can go "outside" the regulations...And they have done so...Just as an example Mattia, The Tuscan wine "Sassicaia" ..Which is selling for a very high price around the world.
Sassicaia isn't a DOC wine, but it's an IGT (typical geographic indication), and can be produced only in Toscana, with a precise regulation. However the success of sassicaia is due more to commercial politics that to its real quality.
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Old 03-26-2008, 12:30 PM   #26
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Sassicaia isn't a DOC wine, but it's an IGT (typical geographic indication), and can be produced only in Toscana, with a precise regulation. However the success of sassicaia is due more to commercial politics that to its real quality.
I am aware that Sassicaia is not DOC. My point was to illustrate that one could produce an individual product outside of DOC regulation (while located inside a DOC zone) and find commercial success.
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Old 03-26-2008, 01:17 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Capn Jimbo View Post
Great discussion among friends...

Let's first define agricultural rum, aka rum agricole (Fr), with rum agricole AOC Martinique as a subset.

The French Indies include: Haiti, Guadeloupe, Marie Galante, Reunion and Martinique. Other agriculturals are made in Trinidad and Panama..

As all wine enthusiasts know, "terroir" is defined as the influence of environmental factors (such as climate, microclimate, atmosphere, subsoil, soil variety and topography) on the grape and wine of a particular locale. While terroir’s effect on wine is pretty much accepted, its effect on rum is largely rejected. What the French are attempting to sell us is the notion that the conditions in Martinique are so unique, so identifiable and so influential that "rhum agricole" from anywhere else constitutes a fraud.
Au contraire! It does not, never did and never will.

The nutty notion of "terroir" has been hotly dismissed by many rum experts:

The experts agree that the influence of "terroir", if any, is minor, regional and related to the production of rum from cane juice. Any localization to Martinique is presumptuous. A real expert can taste a grape and identify its "terroir", something nigh to impossible regarding a piece of sugarcane. To further stricture production via inane regulation of even the most miniscule factors in no real way enhances any possible influence of terroir. Rather, it simply tends to homogenize the process, leaving little room for individuation short of relatively limited tweaking. Have no doubt, the AOC endeavor is exactly that - an endeavor to exclude other producers of agricultural rum, to create an "exclusive" market, and to coopt the term "rhum agricole" for their own. Pooh!

One important exception is Barbancourt in Haiti, where agricultural rum from cane juice is virtually handmade using time consuming techniques and free of the oppression of the AOC. The result: exquisite, world class, affordable rhum agricoles of relatively great consistency and uniformly top ratings and reviews. Holy terroir Batman!

As so well said by our own Mr. Hamilton when you buy a very expensive AOC product you may end up with something heavenly, or just a very expensive souvenir. Considering the price, well...

In closing, forgive me but "La reine ne porte aucun vêtements!"
Haitians may not agree with you that they are part of the French Indies, since they gained independence from France in 1804.

The influence of terroir (literally soil) has been largely downplayed by wine experts as well, as other factors mentioned play a much greater role in the end product.

That you see AOC Martinique as a "put down" of other rums is curious to me.

The endeavour was to codify a unique product based on geography, production, and quality within a standing framework endorsed by Government approval. Are the other producers on Martinque complaining?

I am big fan of Barbancourt. The fact that they are "free" from AOC, and produce a product by methods that largely follow those used by AOC Cognac and AOC Armagnac is not lost on me.

While price is important to me,(as far as perceived value goes) I have never used it as a qauge for quality.

My take on it is that the Queen has no clothes simply because she is a "Naturiste".
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Last edited by Rum Runner; 03-27-2008 at 03:46 PM.
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Old 03-26-2008, 08:59 PM   #28
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I see agricole as one TYPE of rum, made from fresh cane juice. There are a number of different expressions of this type of rum. From Martinique, we have AOC. Once again, a certain type of rum, made a certain way. In Martinique, the cane is harvested, crushed, and the juice is distilled!! Once a year!!! There are not barges of sugar cane sitting in the harbors waiting to be crushed.
I see many people pay high prices for rums that are not agricole. Smaller production equals higher prices.
And another point I must mention. The thing I like about agricole, is that this type of rum brings you the closest to the cane. The flavor profiles represent sugar cane distillate in its true form. Now, I enjoy many agricoles, as I do many other rums, equally. But the product produced in Martinique is unique, and the AOC is how they establish thier own TYPE of rum.
And, there are some in the industry who are also experts, who could make an argument about how and where the cane is grown and harvested, down to the quality of molasses it produces.
I could go on about price point, the inflation of prices because of import and local taxes, etc. And I could also make comparisons to other rum producers who make expensive souveniers.
But, I had a long day and need a glass of rum and a cigar!
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Old 03-27-2008, 12:01 AM   #29
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Saludos Hank!
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Last edited by Rum Runner; 04-08-2008 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 03-27-2008, 02:01 AM   #30
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I just thought of something. All this discussion about Agricoles and AOC... we have forgotton about a similar spirit, Cachaca. Not only does Cachaca have its own rules and regulations, it gets its own spirit category! Thoughts?

And Hank, you mentioned agricole rhums bring you the closest to the sugar cane of anything. The cachacas do have them beat by a little bit.
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