There are jaguars in the cane fields.
In the heart of a rainforest in southern Belize, one of the Caribbean’s newest rum companies is doing something very special.
It’s a sustainable rum, a sugarcane rum and — and most importantly, a very good rum.
It’s called Copalli, and it’s the next big from Belize.
Despite a spectacular Caribbean coastline and what has always been a sizable sugar industry, Belize has never been known as a rum powerhouse.
But that’s changing.
In recent years, more and more producers have launched rums in Belize, beginning with Tiburon back in 2013, and now, most recently, with the particularly fascinating Copalli.
Copalli would be interesting enough for its environment.
The rum is produced in southern Belize in the heart of a rainforest, with a focus on sustainability and, as Copalli’s Conservationist, Will Meheia, is quick to point out, is the kind of eco-conscious, natural environment where jaguars regularly walk around the plantation.
“No other sugarcane farm has that, because of the chemicals,” says Meheia, who is also the only on-staff conservationist at a Caribbean rum company.
But it’s not just the jaguars.
Uniquely for Belize, and for much of the Caribbean outside of Martinique and Guadeloupe, this rum is made from cane juice.
That means it has a real terroir, and it’s a kind of Western Caribbean rhum agricole.
“We believe firmly in the idea of terroir in spirits,” says CEO Mark Breene. “When you smell the sugarcane juice, you can smell all the flowers in the fields. In the finished rum, you can often taste the wild vanilla that grows near the sugarcane.”
And as any agricole aficionado will tell you, that’s true.
The rums of Martinique and Guadeloupe have real terroir, and when you make rum from cane juice as opposed to molasses that’s exactly what you get.
And it makes sense when you’re making rum in such a rare environment — you want it to be part of the rum, not just a story.
You might call this rainforest agricole.
Copalli has two expressions so far: a White Rum and a Barrel Rested Rum (a cacao rum, made from cacao nibs grown on site, is on the way).
For this review, we tried the Barrel Rested Rum, a 44-degree pot still expression — a divergence from the typical use of column stills in the vast majority of sugarcane-juice rums.
There’s no age statement; it’s lightly aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels.
So what’s it like?
Copalli Barrel Rested has an aroma of butterscotch, confectioner’s sugar, dried apricot and cane stalk.
The flavor profile is marked by black pepper, orange peel, licorice, vanilla and tobacco, and a lingering, lasting essence of cane.
It’s remarkably balanced for such a young rum.
But what really stands out is that this tastes like an agricole. No, it’s not from the French Caribbean. But it’s true to the essence of an agricole, a rum that has terroir, a rum that has soul.
Plainly, this is an outstanding effort — and we’re excited to see what more aging brings.
And I’m sure the jaguars would agree.
Rum Journal Rating: 93 Points