I was recently asked to explain the difference between rum and cachaça and so I thought I would have a go at answering here in the event that anyone else is asked the same or wants to know.
We all know that rum comes from the alcohol that is produced when you distil fermented molasses but did you that this is not the only way to make alcohol from sugar cane.
Rhum agricole differs from rum in that it’s distilled directly from pressed cane sugar instead of fermented juice, or cane by-products like molasses. It is a production method commonly associated with the French-speaking Caribbean islands such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. Haiti’s best known rum export is Barbancourt rum, but if you live in Haiti you are probably more accustomed to Clairin which is basically a rhum agricole but made in a more rustic way; it is to rum what Mezcal is to Tequila. Read more about Clairin HERE.
It is unsurprising that, Brazil, the world largest sugar producer, also produces a cane-based spirit of its own. Anyone who has been to Brazil will definitely have had a caipirinha or two!
The base of that caipirinha was most likely cachaça. Like rhum agricole, it uses sugarcane juice and not molasses; but like rum, the sugar cane juice must be fermented and then distilled to between 38% and 48% ABV – a much lower alcohol content than rum.
So in short, rum, rhum agricole and cachaça are all made from the same raw ingredient (sugar-cane) but each one has a different method of production, which results in very distinct tastes and flavours. The table below is a simple way to explain the difference:
|Spirit||Mostly Produced in||Produced from|
|Rum||English-speaking Caribbean and Latin America||Fermented molasses|
|Rhum Agricole||French-speaking Caribbean and Haiti||Pressed sugar cane juice|
|Cachaça||Brazil||Fermented sugar cane juice|
For further reading, take a look at this article by Matt Pietrek on the key differences between Cachaça and Rhum Agricloe where he goes into variations in distillation aging and barrelling.