LE CARBET — Among the waving canes on a boutique rum distillery in the north of Martinique, something very special is happening.
Legendary rum house Neisson, located in the town of Le Carbet, has produced the first of its kind in the Caribbean: a certified organic rum.
Neisson Bio Esprit, as it’s called (Bio is the French term for organic), debuted for the first time on the shelves of Martinique this week, a significant project for a venerable distillery that could change the face of rum.
That’s because, unlike much of the rum made in the Caribbean, the “rhum agricole” of Martinique is made from pure sugar cane juice, not molasses, meaning it’s rum whose natural origin is central to its quality and taste.
In other words, this rum has a terroir — and its process is integral, making an organic rhum agricole that much more important.
It’s the brainchild of Neisson Master Distiller Gregory Vernant, one of the leading innovators in the world of Caribbean rum.
So what makes a rum organic?
First, you’ll notice the green “leaf” logo on the bottle — that means it’s certified by the European Union as organic, much like USDA organic certification.
In practice, there are two major things: one, you can’t use chemical products, only natural fertilizer. The second part is the process of the rum — you must use your own yeast, and a certifier must come two times a year to check that all production is done according to Bio, or organic, standards.
It’s an intense process — for typical rum, you have to work sugar cane land for 40 hours by hand. For organic land, it’s 600 hours.
That means smaller production, for now: Neisson is producing 5,000 bottles this year of organic rum.
It’s a long-term project, with with expansion of one more area of land every year, according to Vernant.
So how does it taste?
Bottled at 66 percent ABV, it’s a bold, grassy, vegetal rum with a bold, earthy flavor. It’s excellent.
Unsurprisingly, it’s best in a ti’ punch.
See our full interview with Gregory Vernant in the latest CJ video above.