Beautiful Caribbean beach and sea on St. Barts
St. Barthelemy: Rhum-based Ti Punch Served Nightly

Rum is the spirit of the Caribbean but all rums are not created equal

What makes a rum special goes well beyond the color. The most important characteristics of rum’s flavor are the process and aging method. Is the rum made from fresh sugar cane juice, cane boiled down to form a syrup, or a sugar cane byproduct – molasses? Was the rum stored in stainless steel, oak barrels, or oak formerly used to brew bourbon or cognac? And for how long? And, of course the percentage of alcohol is important on multiple levels.

Rum is made throughout the Caribbean islands and Latin American countries, but notable rums are produced around the world including many places in Europe, Canada, the Philippines, and even in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Rums, or rhums made on French Caribbean islands utilize fresh cane juice – or the Agricole method.  This process enables a clean taste, enabling the flavor of the cane to shine through. This rum is served neat, on ice or in Ti’Punch, the drink of the French Caribbean islands, that is a lot stronger than it sounds.

Some Rhum Agricole brands produced on Martinique even meet the French AOC classification system and have the designation of “AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole.” Guadeloupe also produces notable rhum agricoles that have one multiple awards. Being French, there are strict guidelines and to be called old rum, or rhum vieux – the rhum must be in the barrel for at least 3 years. These rhums are typically more expensive than molasses based rums – and Astor Wines & Spirits in NYC has a huge selection of some of the best brands available for export.

Rums originating in former British colonies tend to have a more present taste of molasses or caramel. This rum is actually called rhum industriel by the French islanders. Rums from Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and Grenada showcase this style.

Spanish speaking islands or countries are known for their aged rums called anejo. The alcohol percentage and aging requirements for rum to be called anejo vary by country. Caramel color is sometimes added for color.  According to Wikipedia, rums from the US Virgin Islands are also made in this style.

In addition to these characteristics, there are also dark rums, overproof rums, flavored rums, and spiced rums. A favored souvenir of St. Barthelemy is rhum vanille, a house-made brew served to guests after dinner by almost every restaurant on the island.

You can do your own rum taste test here in New York City at the Rum and Rhythm Benefit & Auction on June 5th starting at 6:30pm. Compare rhum agricole with rums from many Caribbean islands in cocktails made by popular mixologists at this  Rum and Rhythm Benefit & Auction at Tribeca360.

Rum and Rhythm is the ultimate Caribbean culinary experience. Taste award-winning rums paired with Caribbean food specialty items, while dancing to the unique rhythms of the Caribbean. Proceeds benefit the Caribbean Tourism Organization Scholarship Foundation.

Caribbean Week is the largest regional tourism event in the New York area and attracts thousands of attendees excited about traveling to the Caribbean or connecting with their heritage.  New Yorkers and visitors will be treated to an exciting offering of events June 1-5 including Celebrity Chef tastings around the city. Check here for more information.


This post was sponsored by Caribbean Tourism Organization and Caribbean Week; opinions are my own.

Rhum Agricole: The Treasure of the Caribbean

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