Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho has the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors.
A lot of tiki cocktails ask for Rhum Agricole as a supporting spirit. So I went out to buy a Rhum Agricole, but I was thinking and thought to myself, why not look for a few cocktails where the Rhum Agricole is actually the star and write about those before I use the remaining spirit for those cocktails where the Rhum Agricole is only a supporting flavour? So here we are.
What is Rhum Agricole? Even though the colour is often (off) white, it is not the same as a white rum. Rhum Agricole is a different style of rum. It hails from the French speaking islands in the Caribbean. The spirit is made from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice where other rums are made with molasses. This gives the Rhum Agricole a bright, grassy and vegetal flavour profile.
Rhum Bielle comes from Guadeloupe. The Bielle distillery has been making rum since 1910, but the family has been in the agricultural industry since the late 1700s. First as coffee plantation owners but over the years and generations, the family got into making alcohol. The distillery offers several Rhum Agricole, the one for the local market has an abv of 59% but a lot if the international markets get a 50% version of the Rhum, and that’s what I was able to purchase.
I’m using a Glencairn glass to taste this Rhum Agricole neat. The nose is strong, a fresh smell with sweetness but also with a vegetal character. Notes as bark are in the nose too just as a hint of pepper. After swirling the spirit, a brown sugar aroma comes along. The flavour that I get when I taste the spirit is best described as pepper bark with a tangy yet sweet undertone. Not as sweet as an aged rum, but more complex as the average white rum. Different though, more towards a vegetal and grassy palate and I understand why this is a rum category by itself. The finish is quite short. I would not pair this with a heavy cigar, something medium bodied from Casdagli Cigars or a Maestranza Marques for example. A Cuban Juan Lopez of a nicely aged Cohiba would go well.
Pins & Needles
This recipe is a concoction from Alex Day when he was at Honeycut, a cocktail bar in Los Angeles (permanently closed unfortunately). It fits my needs exactly as I have a little bit of Lillet Blanc in the fridge that I need to finish. As for the pineapple syrup, it’s quite simple. Just make simple syrup but add chunks of pineapple during the process and strain the syrup. The leftover pineapples are nice as a topping on ice cream, so don’t discard those.
The alcohol is completely undetectable in the nose. There is a mixture of lime and angostura bitters but that’s about it. The combination of the lime and the pineapple syrup is heavenly, the bitters balance it out and make the barky flavours of the Rhum Bielle shine in a smooth way. The light pineapple flavour brings something tropical to the cocktail without turning it into a tiki-style concoction. The hint of bitterness and the pineapple flavour remind me of a Jungle Bird, but different. This is another drink for a medium bodied cigar, something smooth. And honestly, I would not have guessed that a Rhum Agricole would be a perfect fit for something smoother. Guess my prejudice slaps me in the face. After a few sips of this drink, I lit up an Alec Bradley Fine & Rare 2018 and that was a match made in heaven.
And now for the Pins & Needles recipe:
1½ ounce or 45ml of Lillet Blanc
1 ounce or 30ml of Rhum Agricole
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Pineapple syrup
½ ounce or 15ml of lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 dash of Angostura bitters
1 ounce or 30ml of Club Soda
Shake all the ingredients minus the club soda with ice and strain into a chilled wine glass on fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wheel and a pineapple wedge
This cocktail originated in Donna, a famous cocktail bar in New York. But before you book a trip to New York, just remember, Donna closed its doors in 2020 and cigars are expensive in New York because of the state tax. The barkeeper responsible for this cocktail is Matthew Belanger. This is one of the cocktails that used Rhum Agricole as a supporting spirit, yet the recipe looks so delicious that I still want to include it.
Even though the Rhum Agricole is a small part of the ingredients, the vegetal character shines through in the nose. The aged rum and the banana liqueur are in the nose too, but the brandy doesn’t appear at all. The cocktail is an explosion of flavours. Tart from the lime, vegetal notes from the Rhum Agricole, banana sweetness, the brandy gives it a soft velvet feel while the rich demerara syrup binds it all together with its sweetness. I wonder if this falls under the Tiki category, but the flavours do remind me of that style of cocktails even though there isn’t a lot of juice in this concoction. And due to the complexity, I would pair this with a complex yet not too strong cigar. A nice Cohiba, a Sobremesa Brulee, Alec Bradley Fine & Rare or on a crazy night, an Opus X 20TH Anniversary.
And now for the Fay Wray recipe:
1 lime wedge
¾ ounce or 22½ml of aged rum
¾ ounce or 22½ml of cognac or brandy
¾ ounce or 22½ml of banana liqueur
¼ ounce or 7½ml of rhum Agricole
¾ ounce or 22½ml of lime juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce or 15ml of rich demerara syrup
Squeeze the lime wedge in a shaker and add the wedge. Add all the other ingredients with crushed or pebbled ice and shake briefly. Dump into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with a banana slice and a mint sprig.
This is the national cocktail of Martinique, one of the countries that produces Rhum Agricole but even though the Rhum Bielle comes from Guadeloupe, this old-fashioned riff should work well. I have seen several recipes, the recipe I followed was the one that I saw most, so that’s the one I used. The cocktail smells funky, vegetal, barky with a hint of lime. The nose is quite strong. The drink is strong and sweet, peppery and grassy notes and even though there is just a little simple syrup in this cocktail, the sweetness shines through. It reminds me a lot of a caipirinha. And I will go for the same suggestion as with that drink, I would go for a strong maduro, either Connecticut Broadleaf or San Andres.
and now for the Ti’ Punch recipe:
2 ounces of 60ml of Rhum Agricole
1 teaspoon of simple syrup
1 wedge of lime
Garnish: lime coin
Squeeze lime wedge in a glass and put the squeezed wedge in the glass as well. Pour the other ingredients ingredients in a rocks glass, stir and drink.