New rum claimed to be Caribbean’s first organic

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A report by Bill Dowd for the Albany Times-Union.

For those of you who are into the organic food-and-drink universe, here’s something offbeat that may be of interest.

A distillery in a tiny town on the tiny French-speaking island of Martinique this week sent to market what it is calling the Caribbean’s first organic rum. But, is it?

The Neisson rum house, located in Le Carbet in the north of the island, has produced what it labels Neisson Bio Esprit (“bio” is the French term for organic).

Neisson Master Distiller Gregory Vernant notes in an interview with the Caribbean Journalthat his product is “rhum agricole,” which is rum made from pure sugar cane juice. The vast majority of rums worldwide are “rhum industriale,” meaning they are distilled from molasses, which itself is cooked down from sugar cane. (The English “rum” and French “rhum” spellings refer to the same thing.)

But, given that Neisson’s is not the only sugar cane juice rum, how does Vernant support the claim of producing the region’s first organic rum? Especially since other Martinique distillers — there are seven on the 425-square-mile island — such as Rhum JM make rum agricole. As do several distilleries on the adjacent French islands of Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante.

Vernant says to be organic, you cannot use chemical products, only natural fertilizer, in growing the sugar cane. Also, you must use your own yeast, and your operation must be certified at least twice a year as adhering to organic standards. All of which seems to imply that no other rum distillery in the Caribbean does this.

We’ll leave that to the competition to comment on. As to consumer response to the 66% abv (132 proof) spirit, off-island merchants dealing in fine rums will have to contact Neisson directly to check on availability abroad for the limited edition rum.

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