Renegade Hope Pure Cane Rum

Renegade Hope Pure Cane Rum (Photo courtesy of the brand)

Once in a while, I find a liquor that I don’t understand, and Renegade Rum Distillery’s “Hope” Pre-Cask rum is one. Rhum Agricole is a style I’ve never experienced, and I was wholly unprepared for what I discovered! Defined as a distilled spirit made from free-run cane juice, rhum agricole, French for “agricultural rum,” differs dramatically from the more common molasses rum, exhibiting intensely earthy and savory “funky” flavors and aromas. Many consider it the purest form of rum, but I can attest that it’s something most will likely either love or hate and is undeniably an “acquired” taste.

The product, defined as “Single Farm,” is part of their “terroir” designation program, with each bottle made from specific cane fields and representing distinctive flavors derived from each field’s unique characteristics. It’s a beautifully packaged product; its art deco glass with lime-lettered bright orange label adds a stunning counterpoint to the juice inside. No matter what I do with the liquid inside, I’m keeping the bottle for my decanter collection.

At its price point, I expected rainbow skies and blue seas forever. What I got were olives, artichokes, and mushrooms. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was sure I’d received a bad batch when I first poured. After searching other reviews, I learned that I’m not alone. To be generous, many reviewers call this crystal clear rum “unique.” Of that, there’s no doubt. As I stated, this will be the kind of spirit people love or hate. There must be a market for it. Otherwise, it will shock me if this product survives.

In the glass, the nose is intensely pungent. It immediately reminded me of heavy olive oil and cooked artichokes. The olive aroma is overpowering, but there are following notes of ethyl alcohol, mushroom compost, and possibly some citrus in the way, way, WAY far away distance. It has a fat, oily mouthfeel, with the olive carrying through to the taste. It’s so strong that I had difficulty identifying anything beyond the heavily vegetal qualities. The finish is long, but given my lack of appreciation for the flavor, it’s much too long.

Surprisingly enough, I found my silver lining. I thought about what type of cocktail I could make with a spirit that tasted like olives, and it dawned on me. Under my wife’s quizzical gaze, I broke out my shaker, added ice, and a shot of the rum. I shook vigorously, strained, and voila- the world’s first dirty rum martini! No joke. I repeated the process, this time adding a splash of olive juice and a dash of Tabasco. Call it American ingenuity or desperation to turn lemons into lemonade, but I’ll be danged- not bad! As always, your mileage may vary!