Maybe it's all the memories of rich rum cakes, hot buttered rum, and spiked eggnog. Or maybe it's just the cold, gray weather making us long for a taste of the Caribbean, but this holiday season, we're dreaming about rum.
In the past we've talked about all the exciting new gins now available in the U.S. market, and fortunately the world of rum is keeping pace, with new brands popping up just about every time we look. Among the newcomers we've seen, we've been noticing an interesting trend: rum made from fresh-pressed cane juice.
While most of the familiar brands of rum (think Bacardi, Myers's, Gosling's, etc.) are made from processed sugarcane in the form of molasses, these new (to the U.S.) rums are made from fresh-cut sugarcane, giving them a distinctive grassy taste - a little like cachaça. The cane is harvested and pressed for its juice while in season, then fermented promptly to preserve the complexity of its flavor.
An interesting note: Rums produced this way on the French Caribbean island of Martinique are eligible for their own A.O.C. (Appéllation d'Origine Controllée) designation in the way that French wines are. They're called rhum agricole.
Here are some of the rums made from fresh-pressed sugar cane juice we've sampled recently:
Rhum Clément Première Canne
Price: $30 range
This rhum agricole is a smooth, balanced classic white rum with an herbaceous, slightly floral flavor. A good mixer.
Note: As well as Première Canne, Rhum Clément also makes an impressively wide range of aged and unaged rhum agricoles, as well as a very tasty rum-based orange liqueur, Créole Shrubb.
Depaz Blue Cane
Price: $40 range
You can really taste the distinctive grassy blue cane flavor in this amber rhum agricole. At 45% alcohol, it's a little stronger tasting than some other rums, but aging in oak barrels makes it very smooth and sippable.
Note: Depaz also makes a cane syrup (a simple syrup made with cane sugar from Martinique) - great for making Ti Punch, the national drink of Martinique (1 ounce syrup, 2 ounces rhum agricole over ice with a squeezed lime wedge).
Price: $30 range
Smooth, light, and well-balanced, this new rum from Moët-Hennessy gets its pale yellow color from the new French oak barrels it's aged in. Complexly flavored, but not as herbaceous as rhum agricole, it's a high-quality, versatile mixer.
Price: $45 range
From the land of cachaça, comes a rum! A barrel-aged blend of Brazilian rums made from fresh cane juice and South American rums made from molasses. Sweet and light and vanilla-y without being at all cloying. A nice after-dinner drink: very sippable on its own.
Note: With its embossed recycled leather label, and individual batch-numbering, this rum's fancy packaging is a real attention-getter. Would make an especially nice gift.
Have you tried fresh-pressed cane rum?
Related: Will You Help Save the Daiquiri?
(Images: Nora Maynard)