Rounding out my Mauritian Rum collection is a Rhum Agricole. In fact this is the first Rhum Agricole that has been presented on my blog….something that I hope to rectify very shortly. Once again, refreshing yourself on my previous post on Green Island Rum may be beneficial.
Rhum Agricole is made from the fermented juice of freshly squeezed sugarcane. As fresh sugarcane juice suffers oxidation, fermentation needs to begin as soon as possible therefore the place of juice extraction is usually located at or very close to the distillery to expedite this process.
Due to the nature of the raw material (sugarcane juice rather than molasses), the rhum agricole is usually only distilled to around 70% alcohol unlike molasses based rums. This allows the character and influence of the growing environment (the terroir) to be displayed in the final product. The techniques employed and base material used to create rhum agricole gives it an entirely different flavour profile to a molasses based rum.
St. Aubin has been as sugar plantation since 1819 but in comparison has only recently begun making rhum. It is located in Southern Mauritius and takes its name from one of the original owners, Pierre de Saint Aubin. The location of the plantation brings its own unique qualities as the balance of rainfall and sunshine hours give rise to a micro climate that exists in the region of the plantation. The volcanic nature of the soil and the micro climate combine to make the terroir more than suitable for producing sugarcane.
The sugarcane is immediately sent to the mill where it is slowly pressed to extract the sugarcane juice. It is only this first press of juice, known as ‘fangourin’ in Mauritian, that is used. This juice undergoes immediate fermentation to create the ‘wine’. This is then distilled in an alembic still. This St. Aubin Rhum Agricole is an unaged product.
The rhum is very clear in the bottle and sits at a higher 50% ABV and I’m unsure what to expect as I’ve only tasted Rhum Vieux or Old Rhum (aged for a minimum of 3 years) previously but I cant wait to see how it tastes….
In the glass: The rhum is crystal clear in the glass and there is a little alcohol vapour that I leave to dissipate. There is a raw sugarcane aroma sitting with the alcohol vapour with grassy, herbal and vegetal notes all nestling alongside a sweetness.
In the mouth: There is a spicy and peppery entry for the rhum with a little sweetness but that sweetness doesn’t stick around for long. A little vanilla and pepper follows. It is very smooth as it sits in your mouth and it certainly doesn’t feel like its 50% ABV. Fresh sugarcane washes the rhum down to leave a fresh sweetening finish with little to no burn. I always prefer the taste of agricole to the smell of agricole and this yet again confirms that for me.
Of course, the drink that shows an unaged agricole off (although it is also made with vieux) is the classic ‘Ti Punch. My Potteries accent doesn’t really allow me to pronounce the name of the drink too well but the pronunciation is more like ‘tee paunch’ and is Creole for ‘Petit Punch’ or ‘Small Punch’. It comprises a little lime juice and wedge, sugar syrup and a measure and a bit of agricole. I haven’t really ever quantified it. I just start with a little lime and syrup then add to taste. I usually add an ice cube and let the drink sit and settle for a few minutes. There are few things more refreshing. It’s sweet, fresh and satisfying. Its the simple drinks that show off a product to its best and it is the same combination whether a ‘Ti Punch for Agricole, a Daiquiri for Rum or a Caipirinha for Cachaça. Simple ingredients that put the sugarcane product up front and allow it to be the star of the show.
St Aubin Rhum Agricole is a good example of this style of sugarcane product and it is most definitely worth picking up a bottle. It sits proudly on the shelf with my Clement V.S.O.P from Martinique and my Damoiseau Vieux from Guadeloupe.
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