St. George Spirits California Agricole Rum

St. George CA Agricole-Blk-RG1-USE

Product of:  California, USA
Aged:  NA
Price: $50
Alcohol: 43% ABV
Sugar Added: 0 g/L
Context: 
Rum Agricole Blanc
RG Rating:  8

Tasting Notes 
Very smooth.   Uncorking releases a light bouquet of grassy sugarcane equally balances sweet and sour. St. George California Agricole Rum is clear, showing no color, but instead shines like polished stainless steel in my tasting glass.  Prolific legs form quickly after swirling, enhancing his rums attraction.  Flinty aromas of black olives, drying low-brix sugarcane bagasse - more fibrous than sugary, reminding me of green grass cuttings drying on a well-tended lawn.  There’s a unique oily gelatinous sensation on the nose that the distiller likens to truffles.  I won’t argue the point, though I wish I’d thought of it first.  Sipped neat, the initial taste is very grassy, delivering flavors in synch with the scents on your nose.  This is an earthy agricole rum, off-dry, medium-bright with a hint of lemon and sugar, not quite delicate in its body, while the finish is medium length and semi-sweet.  

Anecdotes 
St. George Spirits’ Distiller Lance WInters' talents really shine in his  California Agricole rum.  Sipped neat , the rum is grassy, clearly declaring its sugarcane DNA and more vegetal than agriciole blanc rhums from the French West Indies.  During crushing, the cane is not diluted with water in an effort to extract more sugar.  Lance prefers that the only thing being fermented is the juice from the cane itself, explaining “… as that’s where the flavor comes from”.  Take a photo tour of St. George Spirits' Distillery
here.

Much attention is paid to fermenting the California-grown sugarcane juice.  To the juice is added a common strain of yeast known as EC1118.  The yeast was chosen by Lance because it is relatively neutral, and does not impart other flavors.  EC1118 is an aggressive yeast, generally overpowering other weaker strains in the wash that might have gotten there by free air transport or native to the sugarcane stalks themselves.  EC1118 was also produces about 30ppm of sulphur dioxide that inhibits the growth of bacteria during fermentation.  The wash is fermented for five-six days at 60°F, a temperature low enough to subdue other yeasts from propagating.

Raw spirit condenses off the still at 65%-70% ABV, then is rested in stainless steel tanks for 3 months, the same as in Martinique per AOC regulations.  St. George has four Arnold Holstein stills at its disposal:  2 x 250L, 1 x 1500L, and 1 x 500L with 2 Columns.  The columns of the last still can be operated using one or both columns, and any combination of their 16 bubble cups.

Like all of St. George’s liquors, their California Agroicole Rum is packaged in a substantial, wide bottle topped with a natural wood cap and synthetic stopper. 

Sugarcane ready for crushing

Opinion
A pot-distilled agricole rum produced in California you say?  Sacré bleu!  This rum proves you can take the agricole out of the French West Indies, but you can’t take the FWI agricole taste out of fresh sugarcane rum.  At least, not if it distilled properly.  Every bit as earthy as rhums from say, Guadeloupe, but without the spicy anise of Martinique AOC agricoles, St. George California Agricole is a first rate American effort.  Every country in the  World that produces agricole rhums (rums) has their individual character.  Compare Barbancourt (Haiti) with Takamaka Bay Vesou rhum (Seychelles), or Rhum J.M Blanc with Dzama Nosy-Be Cuvée Blanche (Madagascar), or St. George California Agricole with … well, any other white agricole.  You get the point.  Even within the tiny context of agricole, which garners less than 10% of global rum sales, the expressions are unique and varied.  

It stands up very well in a ’Ti Punch where the lemon citrus flavor adds an additional if unconventional twist.  Urged on by Lance to try his California agricole rum in a Hemingway Daiquiri, I modified the cocktail according to his recommendation: half the Maraschino liqueur and double the grapefruit juice.  ‘Tis a refreshing take on a favorite classic.

For aficionados of rhums agricole blanc, or those wanting some natural grassy cane flavor in their cocktail, St. George is  definitely worth your attention.

Reviewed: The sugarcane distilled into this rum was harvested from California’s Imperial Valley during 2013 and tasted less than 200 miles away at the Rum Gallery, USA in March 2014.

© Dave Russell 2017