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Rhum Agricole is the French term for cane juice rum, a style of rum originally distilled in the French West Indies islands from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses. Much cane juice rum comes from Haiti (Barbancourt); Martinique; and Marie-Galante, Grande-Terre, and Basse-Terre located in the Guadeloupe Islands. But are made throughout the Caribbean, including Trinidad, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Grenada; and in the Indian Ocean on Reunion Island and Mauritius. Most rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar refining but when France began to make sugar from sugar beets, sugar prices plunged heavily. The debt ridden sugar factories could not survive solely on sugar production. The French islands found that fresh cane juice was available for fermenting and distilling into rum.
Cane juice rums from Martinique are labeled "AOC Rhum Agricole Martinique" because French and European law allowed a designation called "Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée" (protected designation of origin) of "rhum agricole AOC Martinique" for rums produced on the island of Martinique that meet certain local standards. This designation is local peculiar to Martinique, and does not define the category of cane juice rum or rhum agricole. It is the main ingredient in Ti'Punch.
In Martinique, AOC labeled cane juice rums are usually distilled to 70% alcohol (140 proof in the U.S.) and then watered down to 40–55% (80–110 proof) when bottled. It may be aged as little as a few months (3 months at least for AOC rhum agricole) up to a few years. After three years of aging in oak barrels, it may be called "rhum vieux," or "old rhum".
The archipelago of Guadeloupe is often listed as one of the best rhum destinations, where the rhum is appreciated for its signature flavour. There are nine distilleries in Guadeloupe Islands and centuries old traditions are still used in distillation to produce multi-awarded labels. In Basse-Terre you will find Domaine de Severin, Distillerie Bologne, Distillerie Longueteau and Distillerie Reimonenq (where the Musée du Rhum is located); In Grande-Terre there is Distillerie Damoiseau; and in Marie-Galante there are Distillerie Bellevue, Distillerie Bielle and Distillerie Poisson (also known as Rhum du Père LaBat).
The rest of the Caribbean produces cane juice rums of varying ages. Most notable are the Barbancourt rums of Haiti which are aged to four, eight and fifteen years. A form of cane juice rum first appeared in Brazil where it is called cachaça.