“Cane to Glass”

June 14, 2017

Story provided by This Week in Louisiana Agriculture

There is a new way to enjoy Louisiana’s sweetest farm commodity: Alma Sugar Cane Plantation’s, “Cane Land Rum,” made its debut earlier this year.

“Cane to glass” – that phrase sums up the whole process at Cane Land Distilling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Walter Tharp is the founder, and his family has owned Alma Plantation Sugar Mill for the last 200 years.

Tharp has fond memories of growing up around the sugar mill. “Climbing up and down mountains of sugar and thinking that was the greatest thing ever and having my mom be really upset with me when I got in the car with sugar in my ears and everywhere else – but it’s really special to me, really special to see this through and make sure that we’re putting a quality product out there for the folks of Louisiana,” said Tharp.

That quality product is rum, but it was not until Tharp went to Guatemala for a wedding that someone posed the question that led to Cane Land.
“You have a sugar mill and you don’t make rum?” Now, he does.

“What’s really unique about what we have here at Cane Land Distilling is that we’ll be able to show folks from seed all the way to glass where the sugar product has been produced. The entire process.” What’s also rare is the kind of rum Tharp produces, rhum agricole.

“Most times you see rum spelled r-u-m, which indicates it’s a molasses based rum which is a commodity you can buy at any time of the year and ship it all over the place and source it from anywhere. Distilleries do it all the time. But we’ll be able to make rhum agricole, which is spelled r-h-u-m, and that indicates that its fresh pressed cane juice. And that’s only available during the harvest, once a year, for a 3-month period. And that starts to ferment immediately, so once it’s crushed, you have to ferment it and get it into the still or it starts to spoil within several hours,” continues Tharp.

In the tasting room, Tharp wants you to feel very close to the cane.

“So, you’ll see all the old gears, all the old cane levelers, and farming implements that are used as tables and lights and fixtures. We want to create an atmosphere where you’re actually at a museum, almost, rather than a distillery.”

And just like at a museum, you see things under glass: one display features an array of artifacts buried in what at first glance looks like sand. But it’s not sand; it’s sugar. The sugar that warms the sweet spot in Tharp’s heart.