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Move over, gin and whisky. Rum is making a comeback in Australia

At Husk Distillers, Messenger is taking inspiration from AOC Martinique rums, also known as Agricole rums, from France. “[Unlike commercial rums], AOC Martinique rums are an exception as strict rules apply to this style of rum. They must be made only from freshly crushed cane juice and not be adulterated [with] added flavours or sugar,” he said. “In this respect, AOC rums are similar to Scotch whisky, where strict laws apply.”

Since he opened Husk Distillers in 2012, Messenger has been developing what he calls Australian Cultivated Rum (ACR), a proxy geographic indicator that can “define our style of rum, protect its reputation, and be used as a marketing tool”. He has established rules that define how a rum can be called an ACR: It must be made from 100 per cent fresh cane juice of known cane varieties in a recognised Australian cane-growing region between Grafton in New South Wales and Mossman in Queensland. Like its AOC Martinique counterpart, it must also be unadulterated with no added sugar, flavours, or additives.

Husk Distillers’ Husk Pure Cane is an ACR an unaged white rum made from fresh cane juice from sugarcane grown and crushed on their on-site farm (fresh cane juice cannot be stored like molasses and must be distilled quickly as the sugary juice is prone to spoilage due to yeast and bacteria). Husk Distillers is the only distillery in Australia making farm-to-bottle fresh cane juice rum.

“Our cultivated rums are very different from the mass market sweet liquids that many people have come to associate with rum,” said Messenger. “When made well, cultivated rums are complex, balanced and have a distinct expression that reflects provenance.”

Brix Distillers’ co-founder James Christopher believes there is terroir in rum. “Weather, humidity, soil type, rainfall…all play a part in shaping the growth of the sugarcane and its flavour,” he said. “This also determines the flavour profile of the molasses that is sourced, so different base products can produce different rum profiles all over the country.”

Christopher thinks the current upward rum trend has been coming about for several reasons. “The consumer’s attitude towards craft spirits in general has changed,” he said. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, we have seen whisky and gin boom as consumers desired more knowledge about what they were drinking.

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