Rhum Agricole is a style of rum not often covered here.
This isn’t because Rhum Agricole is bad or even that I don’t like Rhum Agricole. In fact, I’m a huge fan of the rum variant based on fresh sugar cane juice instead of molasses. The vibrant fruit and grassy notes are a real departure from the more common rum flavors that you find in Jamaican, Spanish, or Guyanese rums.
La Favorite has been producing Rhum Agricole on the island of Martinique since the early 1840’s. The Blanc is made by distilling a fermented mash of freshly pressed sugar cane juice. A single copper column still is used to produce the blanc, which is taken off of the still at around 70% abv (140 proof). This white spirit is then rested in oak before being bottled at 50% abv (100 proof).
While La Favorite Blanc may spend some time resting in oak to allow it to mellow, the visit in the wood is brief enough to prevent it from coloring the rum at all. When a white rum is aged as opposed to rested you’ll find a slight green tinge to it in the glass. This very brief rest leaves La Favorite Blanc as one of the clearest white rums you’ll find.
On the sides of the glass the spirit holds tightly. Thick, slow-moving legs form and slide downward.
“Agricultural” rhums are distilled from fresh sugar cane juice instead of molasses, and this is readily apparent in the nose of La Favorite Blanc. Grassy, sugary notes are the first thing that you notice coming from the glass.
The nose is quite vibrant. Overripe banana, pear, apricot and lime are all present once you get past the initial notes of raw cane. There’s a bit of a yeasty quality to the nose – a scent that is almost “thick.”
Scent alone is enough to get you thinking about slicing some limes and getting some sugar and ice to make yourself a ‘ti punch.
The entry of the rum is sweet, with notes of sugar, pear and honey. The midpalate is a rich medley of overripe banana and just a hint of apricot before giving way to a very pleasant, slightly peppery finish.
Throughout the experience two flavors seem to persist underneath all of the other flavors. Fresh cane juice and lime seem omnipresent without being completely dominant in all phases of the taste.
At 50% abv or 100 proof, the heat of the spirit can be a bit overwhelming for the less stout-of-heart. This is easily conquered though by adding an ice cube…and maybe some lime and sugar.
You don’t often find Rhum Agricoles – blanc or otherwise – listed on the pages of cocktail books or websites. You do occasionally stumble across it listed in Tiki drinks as “Martinique” or “Martinician” rhum, but even that can be somewhat rare.
In my experience a Rhum Agricole is made for punch, and La Favorite Blanc is no exception. The sweet, grassy qualities of the rhum allow it to stand up to the other ingredients of the punch without overwhelming them.
In San Francisco, Heaven’s Dog makes a wonderful Agricole Punch using La Favorite (though they use the Ambre). And in Martinique, of course, the most typical usage of the Blanc is the ubiquitous ‘Ti Punch.
2 oz Rhum Agricole
.25 oz Lime Juice (approximate)
1 tsp Simple Syrup
Mix rhum, sugar, and a squeeze of lime (between .25 oz and .5 oz) in a Double Old Fashioned Glass. Add 2 ice cubes and stir.
The Long & The Short Of It
La Favorite Blanc is very different from the much more common molasses-based rums that we’re all used to seeing in liquor stores and on the back bar. The yeasty, grassy, fruity notes are wonderful and can be very refreshing, while the extra heat of the strong spirit can be a bit much for the neophyte when it comes to sipping on its own. However, when mixed in a drink, the La Favorite can easily transition from an acquired taste to a key component in cocktails that are very easy to love.
Dood’s Rating: 4 Bottles of Rum Out of 5
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Agricultural rums are kind of odd beasts. I got a bottle of St. James Royale Ambre last week and had a bit of a hard time finding cocktails that it worked well in. However, substituting in some Oronoco with the St. James seems to produce a rather pleasing effect that mitigates some of the flaws of both spirits.
The rhum agricole punch from Heaven’s Dog has become one of my favorite cocktails. In fact, I just emptied my bottle of La Favorite Ambre last night. Luckily, the good folks at Cask in San Francisco have a bottle on hold for me. Yes, it’s that good.
Blair, aka Trader Tiki
The La Favorite Blanc has been my staple for awhile, mostly because it’s the only bottle of Agricole blanc I could get my hands on.
Luckily, the state just got in Clemént Premier Canne and Rhum Niesson Blanc, so I’m looking forward to a few taste tests.
The agricoles aren’t usually where I start people with rum. Their higher proof and strong vegetal notes can be a real challenge to people who are new to the spirit.
I generally start them with something very easy and approachable like Clement VSOP or the Clement Blanc while reserving stuff like La Favorite, Rhum JM, and Neisson for the previously initiated.
Some agricoles just aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with not liking them or finding them just a little weird. I like a lot of whiskeys but really just can’t seem to get “into” Scotches to save my life…unless I’ve got that Scotch in a Blood and Sand…
Just had an excellent Blood and Sand at The Alembic here in San Francisco, not less than an hour ago. It was my first and mighty tasty. As for the agricole, well I guess I was already one of the initiated. I love it!
With Antica formula, blood orange juice and cherry heering dressing up a scotch, how can you go wrong? No rationale person would read the recipe and decide to pass. In any event back to the subject of agricole blanc, does anyone find the La Favorite a little unnecessarily hot? The Neisson and Clement seem a bit smoother, nu? I have not yet had the JM
In addition to traditional drinks, I’ve had the La Favorite at the Pegu Club in a Killdevil (with Green Chartreuse) and this interesting drink at Alembic called the Samba:
1 1/2 oz La Favorite blanc
scant 1/2 oz allspice dram
1/2 oz Campari
1/4 oz simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura
Stir, orange twist.
That…that sounds delicious. Thanks for the suggestions. I don’t think I’ve had either of those drinks. More experimentation? Yes please.
The Kill Devil at Pegu was good for a couple sips but too sweet to get through all of the drink happily.
If you like the La Favorite blanc, you should try their special bottles, starting with the “Cuvee speciale de la Flibuste” witch is the heart of very old agricole rhum, I know it’s quite a hight price but it’s a really wonderfull bottle
ps: I always use dark cane syrup in my Ti’punch, and sometimes Batterie syrup like Dormoy’s (La Favorite owner’s familly name)
I just had a tasting of the full range of La Favorite rhums and I have to say i was blown away, especially with the 5 YO which had massive depth of flavour comparable to is molasses based counterparts.
The 1991 bottling (name escapes me) is phenominal. I havent been told prices yet so I wont hold my breath that I can get the full range but Ti Punches with the unaged rhum I think will become a regular tipple.