Rhum isn’t simply another way to spell rum. That additional “h” means something.
Rum (sans an “h”) is the overarching term for all styles of rum, including dark and full-bodied Guyanese demerara rums like El Dorado, Jamaican rums like Appleton Estate, deep and rich Guatemalan rums like Zacapa, crisp Cuban rums like Havana Club, and Venezuelan rums like Diplomatico.
Rhum, on the other hand, is a much more specific term. An abbreviation from the term rhum agricole, this type of rum can only come from Martinique. And while most rums are distilled from fermented molasses, rhum is made from fresh pressed sugar cane juice. On the island, sugar cane is grown specifically for the production of rhum agricole, and the fields are managed and controlled like vineyards.
To produce rhum agricole, distillers first ferment the raw cane juice with wild, indigenous yeast to create a sugar cane wine, which they then distill into a raw, funky and extremely flavorful spirit that’s more vegetal than sweet. The two most famous brands of rhum agricole available in the U.S. are Rhum Clément and Rhum J.M. Like other rums, rhum agricole comes in all shades from white to gold to dark brown.
While you can sip on a rhum agricole straight, it’s best in cocktails where you want vibrant, vegetal funkiness. Try making a classic Daiquiri with Rhum J.M.’s unaged, agricole blanc for a drink that is grassy, fragrant and floral. Agricole also works well in stirred cocktails, and pairs wonderfully with fresh herbs like mint or basil in a twist on a Mojito.