SpiritsHandpicked by IWSC

Award-winning rhum agricole

Get to know a style of rum originating in the French West Indies and on the rise elsewhere: here are seven of the best rhum agricole from the IWSC 2022

Words by IWSC judges

Photography by IWSC judges

martinique landscape with sugar cane
Handpicked by IWSC
'Grassy' is a common flavour descriptor for a style of rum that originated in the French West Indies (and the pictured Martinique)

If you’re looking for complexity in the glass, rhum agricole is a great place to go. The style of rum originates from the French West Indies and not only differs in spelling, but also stands out from some of the rums you might be better acquainted with thanks to its production method.

While rum is most often made using molasses (the byproduct of sugar refinement), rhum agricole comes from the distillation of pressed and fermented sugar cane juice. The drink emerged in the French Caribbean in the 1800s as a way to keep sugar factories in pocket after France turned to sugar beets as its main source for the sweet stuff.

trois rivieres rhum agricole bottle with sea view
Trois Rivières in Martinique is the producer of two standout bottles of rhum agricole from this year's IWSC

Martinique is perhaps best associated with rhum agricole – it even has its own appellation for the drink (Rhum Agricole AOC Martinique) – but it can be made anywhere and more and more frequently, international producers are experimenting with aged and unaged examples of the sugarcane spirit. One standout reason for the rise of the rum style is that many believe it can offer a great expression of terroir to its drinkers.

See it for yourself in tasting notes from this year’s IWSC, where experts have identified things like ‘green and tropical fruit’, ‘mango aromas on the nose’ and ‘undertones of earth’ in the glass. Other flavour descriptors for the spirit can often include ‘grassy’, ‘vegetal’ and even ‘funky’.

Read on for a list of eight of the best rhum agricole bottlings tasted at the IWSC 2022 – from Martinique’s own Trois Rivières to Edinburgh’s innovative Holyrood Distillery.

Holyrood distillery rhum agricole bottle
Holyrood Distillery in Edinburgh has recently begun experimenting with new expressions of rhum agricole

HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE SPIRITS?

We run a tightly structured, rigorous spirits tasting process. That means that each spirit sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC spirit judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the drinks industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.

HOW DO WE SCORE THESE SPIRITS?

Only the best spirits sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, spirits have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.

MORE FROM CLUB OENOLOGIQUE

Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.

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