Rum and other sugar-cane spirits are truly worldwide drinks, varied and vibrant, with local histories spanning centuries. The one thing they have in common is that they all start with sugar-cane juice, produced by pressing sugar canes. From there the juice is processed, fermented and distilled into a spirit.Shop Cane Spirits
While the steps are similar, each spirit does things a little differently – here's a breakdown of the most common spirits and what sets them apart from each other:
The most popular style of cane spirit, made from the by-products of turning sugar-cane juice into refined sugar. The juice is heated and skimmed to remove the sugar crystals that emerge. They stop before all the sugar is removed – due to diminishing returns beyond a certain point – and the resulting dark, gooey, sugar-laden liquid is called molasses.
Sugar-Cane Juice Rum/Agricole Rhum
Rum made from raw sugar-cane juice. As the juice hasn't been heated, as it is with molasses rums, it retains a lot more of the flavour of the cane, which carries through into the spirit – grassy and aromatic. These are often called agricole rums or rhums (using the French spelling), although in Europe that is a legal term that refers to rum made in certain countries.
A spirit made from sugar-cane juice in Brazil. It's made in the same way as many rums but is traditionally kept separate, as it is always made from sugar-cane juice rather than molasses and has its own distinctive style. It has a similar grassy and aromatic character to cane-juice rum, and is best known as the key ingredient in Brazil's national cocktail: the Caipirinha.
Another spirit made from raw sugar-cane juice. It's produced in Haiti, and is a very rustic and rural style of rum, generally made on small farms across the country. It's spontaneously fermented – they don't add yeast, relying instead on the natural yeasts present in the environment – and distilled with old-fashioned stills, creating a very characterful spirit that’s sought after by connoisseurs.
The oldest style of cane spirit, hailing from south-east Asia and India, where sugar-cane originated. There are a number of different styles – some of which are made from non-cane ingredients including coconut palm sap, rice and even potatoes – and they vary a lot in character from being very similar to rum through to weird and wonderful combinations of flavour that aren't found in other cane spirits.
This is just Spanish for ‘alcoholic spirit' – it comes from agua ardiente, meaning ‘fiery water’ – and is a widely used catch-all term for cane spirits in South America, typically those made from molasses. Increasingly, it’s a name used by distillers who are making something a bit different in style to their local rum, helping drinkers pick out adventurous and distinctive spirits.