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Louisiana rum making a name in the spirit world

Louisiana’s sugarcane is now being used to make rum.

Louisiana is a leading American producer of sugarcane. Sugarcane is a tropical plant that typically has a growing season of 12 months or longer, but our enterprising sugarcane growers and millers have learned how to grow a top crop in just nine. Because we can grow a commercial sugarcane crop in such a short time, we are regarded as “heroes of the sugarcane world” by the international cane community.

What do we make of our sugarcane? The main products are raw sugar and molasses. We make those two products really well and we make a lot of it. In 2023 we produced nearly two million tons of raw sugar and 100 million gallons of molasses. Another product made from sugarcane is rum.

So, if Louisiana is the top domestic producer of sugarcane and molasses why isn’t the state known as one of the top producers of rum?

The answer is found in your high school history book. You may recall that the seafaring nations of England, France and Spain basically fought three centuries of war over who would have control of the high seas. By 1800, England and its 13 American colonies, Caribbean islands and Asian possessions eventually gained the upper hand. British Barbados became the center of the rum world and exported the rum making procedures to colonial North America. The first rum distilleries of the 13 colonies were established in New York and Boston by 1667. Rum was so popular it became New England’s largest and most prosperous industry. New England became a distilling center due to its abundant technical, metalworking, cooperage and lumber resources. Europeans preferred Caribbean rum, but Americans didn’t care; they supported their homegrown industry by drinking an average of three gallons of rum each year. Rum was as good as gold in America – no lie – a barrel of rum joined gold as an accepted currency in Europe.

Even though it seemed Louisiana should’ve become a rum producing powerhouse, cane was not commercially produced in the bayou until 1795. Louisiana’s producers perfected the craft of making raw sugar which could be stored and shipped great distances and growers rapidly became wealthy as the state attracted American investment after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Why make rum when producing raw sugar was just as profitable?

But that has changed in the 21st century. Capitalizing on its fame as a world class sugarcane producer, Louisiana is now the home of several award-winning rum distilleries.

The Oxbow Rum Distillery, headquartered in Baton Rouge, produces premium lines of its single-estate rum made with sugarcane from the family’s farm in Pointe Coupee Parish. It features three brands: Oxbow Estate, Three Roll Estate and False River rums. The Three Roll Estate Dark Rum is distilled from the distillery’s all-molasses fermentation, rested in American oak barrels, pulled in small batches, and finished with caramel color. Open for tours and events. 760 St. Philip St., Baton Rouge, La.

Bayou Rum opened their doors in 2013. Their rum is crafted with locally grown fresh sugarcane molasses, distilled twice in copper pot stills, and aged in bourbon and sherry casks at its craft distillery in Lacassine, La. Bayou rums have been recognized in spirits competitions more than one hundred times. Bayou Rum is available throughout the United States. Open for tours and events. 20909 Frontage Rd., Lacassine, La.

Bayou Terrebonne Distillers is located in Houma’s historic downtown district on Main Street. The distillery is housed in a local landmark building, the old Blum & Bergeron Dried Shrimp packing plant. Perched alongside Bayou Terrebonne, the distillery produces the Hard Scrabble Rum brand. 8043 Main Street, Houma, La.

Noel Distillery is a family operation descending from a line of sugarcane farmers. Their specialty product is an aged rum which one can drink like an aged whiskey. The Noels are making an agricole rum (rum made directly from sugarcane juice) that will be released in summer of 2024. The distillery is open for tours and other events. 30 Veterans Blvd., Donaldsonville, La.

Sugarfield Spirits is focused on using Louisiana cane sugar, molasses and cane juice from an Assumption Parish sugar mill as the main elements in their French-Caribbean-style rum and other spirits. The distillery is available for tours and events. 481 W. Eastbank St., Gonzales, La.

Other Louisiana distilleries include Atelier Vie, Borasaso, Happy Raptor, Lula, New Orleans Distillers, Porch Jam, Roulaison, Seven Three, Wildcat Brothers and 1827 Spirits.

The interest in distilling is a direct reflection of Louisiana’s success as a major sugarcane producer. We wish them every success.

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