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The Unabridged, English Language Martinique Rhum Agricole 2014 AOC

I’ve been on a French rhum excursion as of late, writing in detail about the history, production and regulations of rhum made on the French islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante. To bring the series to completion, I present the present day regulations governing Martinique rhum labeled with the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – better known as the “AOC”. Not in a neat synopsis of the high points though. No… The entire official AOC document, translated from its native French into English.

The official AOC document comes in at eleven printed pages, so there’s plenty to digest in just that. As such, I’m moving quickly through my notes and annotation. No gentle introductions here! If you’re not fairly familiar with rhum agricole already, I highly suggest you first start with my earlier article, The French Connection – A Cheat Sheet for French Caribbean Rhums and the AOC. Really. I’m not kidding.

The original Martinique AOC was approved in 1996. Since then, it’s gone through at least two revisions that I’ve found: 2005 and 2014.

Having translated and intensely studied both the original 1996 and 2014 documents, they seem very much the result of different writers. The original is very formal and precise. Not a word wasted and it reads very much like a process specification where you already know what’s being described. In contrast, the 2014 AOC is more reader-friendly. The beginning neatly summarizes what AOC-compliant rhum is. Subsequent sections provide a more relaxed reading of the production process. And surprisingly, a large section at the end (“ELEMENTS SUPPORTING THE LINK TO THE GEOGRAPHICAL ENVIRONMENT”) delves into the history of agricole rhum production on Martinique. It toils mightily to explain why the unique conditions on the island make it worthy of an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.

I’ve found it very enlightening to compare the similarities and differences between the 1996 and 2014 specifications. The similarities highlight what (generally speaking) all the producers agree on. The changes highlight gray areas that warranted tightening up, or perhaps where producers were pushing the edge of the envelope after the 1996 decree. Here’s my abbreviated notes before we get to the full AOC that follows:

What’s the Same?

  • Cane harvesting season – January to August
  • Allowed cane irrigation periods
  • Maximum cane harvest yield -120 tons per hectare
  • Prohibition of hot liming of the pressed cane juice to increase sugar extraction
  • Cane juice minimums: Brix (14) and pH (4.7)
  • Fermentation must be discontinuous, in vessels of 500 hectoliters max capacity
  • Column still characteristics:
    • A depletion zone with at least 15 stainless steel or copper trays;
    • An all-copper concentration zone with 5 to 9 trays;
    • The still’s concentration zone width is between 0.7 and 2 meters
  • Rectification (second distillation) is prohibited.
  • New make distillate’s volatile elements other than methyl and ethyl alcohol must exceed 225 g/hectoliter.
  • Aged rhum’s volatile elements other than methyl and ethyl alcohol must exceed 325 g/hectoliter.
  • The aging vessel for long-aged rhums must be less than 650 liters
  • The minimum ABV of the final rhum must be at least 40%

What’s New or Changed

  • Allowed production zones: Now 34 – up from 23 in 1996.
  • The original allowed sugarcane varietals were from a list approved by a committee. The varietals are now limited to the species Saccharum officinarum and Saccharum spontaneum.
  • The maximum fermentation time is now 120 hours, up from 72 hours originally
  • The upper ABV limit of the final fermented wash is 7.5%
  • Distillation dates limited are now limited from January 2nd through September 5th
  • The minimum resting period of “blanc” rhums is reduced to six weeks, compared to 3 months originally
  • Vieux rhums with a specified vintage must age at least 6 years
  • The set of allowed age-implying descriptors (e.g. “XO”, “Cuvée Spéciale” etc…) are greatly expanded.
  • Finishing methods: The use of caramel and oak chip infusions (for coloring, primarily) is now explicitly allowed, as long as it results of an obscuration of less than 2% by volume. NOTE: This is a significant change, and one worth pondering. Ideally only coloring will be added, but I see nothing that prevents a sweeter caramel from being used, with all that implies.
  • Exact record keeping requirements for each phase of the process – Cane harvesting, fermentation, distilling, etc.… are now specified.

What’s removed?

  • A very esoteric limitation on the maximum width of a cane crushing roll is removed. Previously it was 1.25M.
  • Specific ways yeast are introduced to the cane juice have been removed.
  • Previously, the allowed yeast strains were limited to the genus Saccharomyces. That restriction appears to have been lifted.
  • Previously, if a column still had rectification elements (rectification is not allowed in AOC rhum), those stills had to be rendered unusable during the AOC distillation season.
  • If the facility also made non-AOC distillate, the operator had to ensure absolution separation of the raw materials and resulting spirits. This clause is now gone.

A very important note on the translation that follows. I don’t speak French. However, I’m pretty capable with document processing and Google Translate. The original source documents (in French naturally) are in PDF format. Unfortunately, they’re constructed in such a way that having Google Translate process the whole document in one gulp leads to an unsatisfying result – Mostly correct, but quite unreadable at times. Thus, I manually massaged the raw French text to make it easier for Google Translate to deal with as a cohesive whole. Naturally, formatting went out the window after going through Google Translate. I’ve done my best to restore the important formatting elements, but I make no claim that it’s close to a perfectly translated replica. In a few places, I added small notes in parenthesis to aid in understanding. Of course, if you see anything incorrect, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

One final note before getting to the translation: At the end of the day, these are not the rules for how you’re allowed to make rhum on Martinique. They’re just the rules you must follow to use the AOC labelling. Just like how you can make whatever the hell whiskey you want in Scotland. You just can’t call it Single Malt Scotch Whisky without complying with all the rules.

Update: 1/5/2019: Benoit Bail (a native French speaker and rhum agricole expert) has translated the most recent version of the Martinique AOC into English. His translation can be found here. I will leave my original translation below, for comparison purposes.

The 2014 Martinique Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, in English

Published in the AGRI BO of December 25, 2014

Specifications of the controlled label of origin “Rhum agricole Martinique” approved by Decree No. 2014-1542 of 18 December 2014 concerning the controlled label of origin “Rhum agricole Martinique”, JORF of 20 December 2014


“Rhum Agricultural Martinique”

Part I Technical Sheet


Only those entitled to the controlled label of origin “agricultural rhum Martinique”, originally recognized by the Decree of 5 November 1996, can apply to agricultural rhums complying with the specific provisions set out below.

The controlled label of origin ‘agricultural rhum Martinique’ is registered in Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 15th, 2008 in the category of rhum spirit drinks Annex II, Point 1.


Rhums with a controlled label of origin “rhum agricole Martinique” have at the time of marketing an alcoholic strength by volume greater than or equal to 40% and at least a content of volatile elements other than methyl and ethyl alcohol of 225 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol.

Rhums with a registered designation of origin “rhum agricole Martinique” and a “white” (“blanc”) label are characterized by their clarity and lack of color, low aggressiveness and aromatic finesse. Among the flavors present, one can notice especially fruity, floral, vegetable and spicy notes.

The rhums with a controlled label of origin “rhum agricole Martinique” supplemented with the mention “old” (“vieux”) are characterized by their honey color with dark mahogany and their roundness. Among the aromas present, woody, fruity, spicy, empyreumatic, and balsamic aromas can be noted. These agricultural rhums contain at least a volatile element content other than methyl and ethyl alcohols of 325 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol when marketed to the consumer.

The rhums with controlled label of origin “rhum agricultural Martinique” aged in wood have characteristics related to the stay under wood whose coloring. These include fruity, floral, vegetal, spicy, balsamic and empyreumatic flavors. These rhums have a minimum content of volatile elements other than methyl and ethyl alcohol of 250 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol when marketed to the consumer.


The production of plant material for replanting, harvesting and sugar cane processing, distillation, maturation, aging of agricultural rhums and the conditioning of “old” agricultural rhums are carried out in the territory of the following municipalities, with the exception of islets and rocks of the department of Martinique:

Ajoupa-Bouillon, les Anses-d’Arlets, Basse-pointe, Bellefontaine, Case-Pilote, Le Carbet, Le Diamant, Ducos, Fond-Saint-Denis, Fort-de-France, Le François, Grand-Rivière, Gros-Morne, Le Lamentin, Le Lorrain, Macouba, Le Marigot, Le Marin, Morne-Rouge, Morne-Vert, Le Précheur, Rivière-Pilote, RivièreSalée, Le Robert, Saint-Esprit, Saint-Joseph, Saint-Pierre, Sainte-Anne, Sainte-Marie, Sainte-Luce, Schoelcher, La Trinité, Trois Ilets, Le Vauclin.

Sugar cane is harvested from cultivated plots in the production area bounded by cadastral (map) sections, plots or parts of plots, as approved by the National Institute of Origin and Quality at The competent national committee of May 22, 1996, February 27-28, 2001, September 6, 2007 and June 9, 2010.

The National Institute of Origin and Quality shall submit to the municipalities concerned the graphic documents establishing the boundaries of the area so approved.


  1. Plant material

Sugarcane varieties belong to the species Saccharum officinarum and Saccharum spontaneum or derived from their hybridization.

They are the subject of acclimatization, multiplication and selection work in the geographical area over a minimum period of 4 years before any use with a view to the development of agricultural rhum with controlled label of origin “agricultural rhum Martinique “. Transgenic (genetically modified) sugar cane varieties are prohibited.

  1. Cultivation of cane

Sugar cane irrigation is limited to a maximum period of 6 months following the date of cutting or planting. It is prohibited between December 1st and the cut date. Any substance intended to promote the maturation of canes is prohibited.

  1. Cane harvest

For a harvest year, the cutting period shall begin no earlier than January 1st and end no later than August 31st of the year concerned.

  1. Analytical criteria for cane juice

The juices extracted from the rods have the following values:

  • richness in sugars greater than or equal to 14 ° Brix;
  • pH greater than or equal to 4.7.

The values ​​of brix and pH are calculated on the average of the day’s loadings from the same plot.

  1. Cane yields and entry into production

The yield of a parcel is the ratio between the weight of the canes harvested on the parcel and implemented at the distillery, and the planted area of ​​that parcel. This yield must be less than or equal to 120 tons of cane per hectare. A parcel may enter production in the year following planting.

  1. Juice Extraction

Before grinding by mills, the rods are cut by cane cutters or shredders, which can be combined.

The extraction of the juice combines mechanical pressure and an imbibition of the rods. The pressure is exerted cold in horizontal mills. The imbibition is carried out exclusively at ambient temperature from water or small juices from the last mills.

The juice is clarified by mechanical methods without heating or liming.

  1. Conduct of fermentation

The fermentation of the juices is of the discontinuous type, in an open tank of inert material with a maximum capacity of 500 hectoliters. Continuous and closed fermentations are prohibited.

The use of any technique for enriching sugars in the juice, in particular by adding by-products of the manufacture of sugar (syrup or molasses) is prohibited.

The maximum duration of fermentation is limited to 120 hours from the end of the tanking of the juice until distillation.

Fermented juices shall have an alcoholic strength by volume not exceeding 7.5%.

  1. Distillation

Distillation takes place between January 2nd and September 5th of the year in question.

The traditional principle is the continuous multi-stage distillation with reflux (distillation by column comprising a zone of exhaustion and a zone of concentration in which are installed trays ensuring the contact between the liquid and gaseous flows which cross them against the current).

The main characteristics of the installations are as follows:

  • The heating of the fermented cane juice is carried out by direct injection of steam or by a boiler in which the steam heats the vinasse through a tubular exchanger;
  • The column is composed of:
    • A depletion zone with at least 15 stainless steel or copper trays;
    • An all-copper concentration zone with 5 to 9 trays;
  • The diameters of the columns are between 0.7 and 2 meters in the depletion zone;
  • Retrogradation (reflux) is carried out by one or more wine heaters or condensers.

Each installation includes a combination of water heaters (s) and water condenser (s) that condense and cool the vapors. The condensates from these heat exchangers are directed in different combinations either at the head of the concentration column or towards the casting.

The extraction processes on the liquid phase during distillation making it possible to modify the partial concentration of the distillate in certain compounds (rectification) are prohibited.

The compounds deemed undesirable are downgraded in the residue (vinasse) or eliminated in the atmosphere by degassing trumpets.

The agricultural rhum produced over a day shows in the daily collector an alcoholic strength by volume:

  • Greater than or equal to 65%;
  • Less than or equal to 75%.
  1. Rhum breeding

The “white” agricultural rhums show no coloring and have a minimum period of maturation in tanks of 6 weeks after distillation. (This typically refers to resting in metal tanks.)

Agricultural rhum “raised in wood” (Élevé Sous Bois) is housed in an oak wooden container and aged at least twelve months after being placed in wood.

“Vieux” (old) agricultural rhums are aged in an oak wooden container with a capacity of less than 650 liters at least three years after being placed in wood.

The “vieux” agricultural rhums for which the vintage of the distillation year (also termed a “millesime”) is claimed are aged in an oak wooden container with a capacity of less than 650 liters at least six years after being placed in wood. (Note: There are longer age statements that are addressed later.)

The minimum durations defined above are realized without interruption, with the exception of the manipulations required for the production of the products. (This refers to transferring rhum between barrels, such as when “topping up” barrels that have lost rhums due to evaporation.)

  1. Finishing

Finishing methods are permitted in such a way that their effect on the obscuration of agricultural rhum is less than 2% vol. Obscuration, in particular as a result of the extraction of wood or the adaptation of coloring, Addition of caramel, expressed in % volume, is obtained by the difference between the actual alcoholic strength by volume and the gross alcoholic strength by volume. (This is important and vaguely worded. Some experts have stated that this clause allows some amount of sweetening to be added. This controversial addition comes as a surprise to many people.)


  1. Description of the natural factors and human factors of the link to the soil

The geographical area covers the island of Martinique. The tropical climate of Martinique is influenced by trade winds and very hot marine currents coming from the equator. With a warm and humid season from June to December and a drier season between January and May, this climate is generally in line with sugar cane production, which requires temperatures above 20° C, heavy precipitation during the period of vegetative growth and a period of moderate water stress during the maturation phase. However, within the island, certain sectors are less favored for the production of canes for agricultural rhum. As a result, a sugar cane growing area is delineated within the geographical area.

It first espouses the orographic and rainfall boundaries by excluding the mountainous and rainy part of the north of the island and prevents mainly the soils presenting a strong hydromorphic in the first 50 centimeters especially present in the bottoms of alluvial valleys and the soils of coastal areas and mangroves with salty upwelling.

However, within this delimited area, depending on the altitude and the exposure to the winds, there is a great diversity of climatic regions associated with numerous microclimates with different characteristics depending on the soil water reserve, precipitation regime and of the daily thermal amplitude (temperature swigs). Each of these sectors in which sugar cane behaves differently, houses the cane sole for the supply of distilleries on the island.

This sole cane is characterized by the presence of fifteen varieties whose spatial distribution varies according to their adaptation to the microclimatic characteristics of each sector.

The know-how of sugar cane cultivation has been organized around varietal selection (see historical elements) and the mechanization that has accompanied the development of cane cultivation for decades.

  1. Historical elements concerning the factors linked to the terroir

The cultivation of sugar cane began in Martinique around 1640 (the Rouennais TREZEL obtained the monopoly of the manufacture of the sugar in 1639) then it developed under the influence of Portuguese and Dutch emigrants. This production was exclusively carried out until the end of the 19th century in “maison” (houses), a term that designates an entity for the production of cane and its attendant transformation of the place of life of all those who work there.

Plant material

The cane was introduced in America with a variety called Creole Cane, which would have been the only one cultivated until the introduction, of the Ile Bourbon in 1785, of a new variety, known as Cane d’Othaite or Canne Bourbon. Other introductions in the nineteenth century succeeded the Lesser Antilles.

At the end of the 19th century, the propagation of canes by seedling was developed, and pollinations could be controlled, with the production of the first seeds from directed fertilization of cane flowers, in two agronomic research centers, A Dutch in Java, the other English in Barbados.

Thus appeared a profusion of varieties chosen empirically by the industrialists and the planters whose adaptation to the local characteristics proved sometimes catastrophic. In order to avoid the uncontrolled introduction of exogenous plant material in Martinique, the Sugar Cane Technical Center (CTCS) was created in 1952. Then in the 1960s and 1970s, control of the introduction and spread of varieties was introduced from the introduction of systematic trials to monitor the botanical, agronomic and technological characteristics of the new hybrids coming from a dozen international agronomic selection stations.

More than six hundred varieties are compared on the station of the CTCS and each year between fifty and one hundred new pre-selected clones are implanted. In this way, some 4,000 hybrid varieties were tested in Martinique in the second half of the 20th century.

Development of the rhum industry in Martinique

From the 17th century onwards, the molasses supplied by the refining of sugar was fermented and then distilled with the aid of crude appliances consisting of a boiler connected to a coil placed in a cask of cold water.

As elsewhere at that time, rhum was essentially in Martinique a by-product of sugar, hot and cheap. Its export to the first forbidden metropolis (Continental France) will be strictly framed at the end of the 18th century and gradually liberalized at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1854, with the total abolition of customs duties by the Napoleon III government, production and exports to the metropolis exploded to make Martinique the world’s largest producer of rhum in the last decade of the 19th century with more than 220,000 Hl to 55% vol.

In the 19th century, a number of technological innovations revolutionized the production of rhum in Martinique.

Emergence of agricultural rhum

The arrival of the first steam engines, which will increase the cane crushing capacity and improve the extraction of sugar, will upset the cane economy of the eighteenth century. These machines, which are based on the combustion of residues from cane pressing (bagasse), will make it possible to establish, in the most accessible regions, genuine independent sugar mills that used to be used for the hydraulic power of rivers. Between 1884 and 1896 a severe crisis of overproduction led to the closure of the most uncompetitive Martinique dwellings. Several of them,

Ruined by the loss of their outlets, abandon the production of sugar for which they are no longer competitive and are then converted into the manufacture of rhum, exclusively produced from cane juice. Thus begins the production of agricultural rhum which will take a considerable boom in Martinique while the Martinique sugar economy will have to suffer from the competition of others with better sugar yields.

Installation of distillation columns

At the same time, the continuous distillation columns adapted to the materials used in Metropolitan France for the production of beet alcohol, known as Creole columns, are gradually replacing discontinuous ironing machines in Martinique and Guadeloupe. These creole columns have great advantages in terms of energy consumption, ease of operation and above all production capacity, which makes it possible to treat quickly the fermented cane juice (or vesou) whose quality does not wait (it spoils quickly). On the other hand, since they are inferior to the stills in order to carry out the fractionation of the impurities, specific know-how and distillation materials will gradually be established in order to collect the high-boiling esters, which contribute considerably to the tormation of the natural bouquets while eliminating the impurities which, by their unpleasant smell and taste, depreciate the eau-de-vie. Thus, heating of the fermented cane juice to be distilled will be strengthened by the use of powerful boilers or large capacity wine heaters, and the columns whose diameter is increased will contain only a few concentrating plates. On the other hand, bare-fire heating disappears in favor of the use of steam from the exhaust of steam engines which produce from bagasse the energy required to grind the cane in each of the distilleries.

Analytical Characteristics

At the end of the 1914-1918 war (World War I), rhum production reached levels never before seen. Rhum, the only alcoholic beverage whose production has not been hampered by the fighting has been abundantly consumed in Metropolitan France and the distilleries have developed their production tools to meet the demand. Martinique, which in 15 years has recovered from the destruction of Saint Pierre (due to the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902), remains the main supplier of rhum in the metropolis. But at the end of hostilities, the needs are no longer the same and overproduction is rampant. From this crisis emerges a regulatory environment that will strongly orient the characters of the agricultural rhum of the French Antilles and mainly of the agricultural rhum of Martinique.

In the face of declining prices, producers distilled very high grade rectified alcohols, which were less expensive to produce and transport. Under the pressure of the other French regions producing spirits, in 1922, the authorities were contingent on the entry into France of rhum from the French West Indies exempt from the tax levied on foreign spirits. On the other hand, the importation of high-grade rhum is prohibited in order to protect the metropolitan industrial alcohol industry which is reorganized after the destruction of the war. In 1938, rhum was defined on the basis of analytical standards, and in particular a minimum quantity of non-alcohol elements, which made it possible to verify that the spirits had not been distilled at a high alcohol content. These parameters, maximum degree of distillation and minimum content of volatile substances, have remained elements of the definition of the product since, even now, national or Community regulations derive from the 1938 text.

  1. Components related to the reputation of the product

The rhum of Martinique is an agricultural rhum, obtained from the fermented juice of the sugar cane. It thus presents analytical characteristics that distinguish it from molasses rhums. Among the agricultural rhums, Martinique rhum has original organoleptic characteristics.

The first agricultural rhum of Martinique was reported at the beginning of the 19th century, at the sugar factory of Fonds Préville in the municipality of Macouba. The notoriety of Martiniquan agricultural rhums was established as early as the Universal Exhibition of 1855, as evidenced by the first and second class medals won by the Martiniquais Rousseau and Morin fils and Raboutet respectively.

The rise of the agricultural rhum generates various frauds which elicit the creation in 1895 of the agricultural union of Martinique by the agricultural rhumics of Martinique. Its object was to maintain “the good reputation” of the agricultural rhum of Martinique by fighting “the frauds to which its sale in France gives rise”.

To this end, the trade union has issued certificates of origin which ensured that the sweet materials originating from the rhum were produced exclusively from the canes of the mentioned dwelling and not from foreign molasses. This certificate enabled the beneficiary to affix the trade mark to the drums and bottles constituting the certified consignment.

This action was continued by the creation in 1935 of a specific trade union which proposed bottled rhums with guarantee of origin and quality control by a tasting commission. This collective practice of tasting has always been maintained and has been integrated into the heart of operations to control the quality of the appellation d’origine contrôlée.

After the Second World War, unlike the production of molasses rhum, which declines as a result of the decline in sugar production, agricultural rhum production is growing from the dynamism of local consumption and from the notoriety to the metropolis of major brands.

Special case of old rhum

From the beginning of the twentieth century, Martinique embarked on the production of “old” agricultural rhums under the leadership of Mr. Jacques BALLY. This production, which quickly became commercially successful, was soon threatened by counterfeit products in Metropolitan France, suggesting by their coloring and labeling that they were aged under wood. To guarantee to the consumer the presentation of rhums resulting from an aging under wood of several years in Martinique, develops before the Second World War, their expedition in bottles.

The regulation made this condition mandatory by Decree 63-765 of 25 July 1963 for the application of the amended law of 1 August 1905 on the prevention of fraud, which reserved the term old Rhums:

  • Containing at least 325 grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol of volatile substances;
  • Having been aging for at least three years in oak wood vessels with a capacity of not more than 650 liters;
  • Having been bottled and labeled by the holder of an aging account.

In fact, since the allocation of aging accounts has been linked to a distiller or breeder activity, the packaging of old rhums has always been carried out in the production area.

  1. Causal link between the geographical area, quality and characteristics of the product

The typicality of agricultural rhum with controlled label of origin Martinique is the result of a combination of elements relating to the natural environment of the island and to the history of traditional rhum of the Antilles.

The production of sugar cane is favored by the climatic conditions of Martinique which allow both its vegetative growth during the wet season and its maturation during the dry season.

However, the topographical conditions of some landlocked areas of the island have not allowed to follow the intensification of production demanded from the nineteenth century by the sugar industry. As a result, some dwellings have been forced to switch to agricultural rhum production.

This production of agricultural rhum was able to develop thanks to technological innovations arrived in the West Indies such as the steam engine which operates thanks to the burning of the bagasse or the continuous distillation columns coming from Metropolitan France.

These columns have been adapted to take into account the specificities of fermented cane juice, which are themselves derived from the conditions of fermentation and therefore from the climatic characteristics. The materials had to evolve in order to comply with the regulations governing traditional rhum when it was established between 1922 and 1938 (maximum alcoholic strength by volume and minimum content of volatile substances) and specific know-how of distillation developed in this particular context.

These regulatory constraints have also had an impact on the conditions under which the cane was put into operation because, since it was impossible to raise the alcoholic strength by volume in order to get rid of undesirable tastes, the distilleries in Martinique had to act on the quality of the raw materials to produce agricultural rhums appreciated by consumers. For example, in the production of agricultural rum, the presence of distilleries is necessary in order to shorten the time between cutting and distillation, thus avoiding bacterial alterations and improving the quality of the distilleries. Fermented cane juice. Under the influence of high ambient temperature and dwellings made of oak barrels, aging is marked by a strong evaporation, an acceleration of the oxidation reactions and extraction of the compounds of the wood giving to the old rum all its Organoleptic characteristics

Obligation of conditioning in the area of ​​old rhums

The requirement for conditioning in the area ensures the quality conferred by the specific requirements of the “old” agricultural rhum: minimum aging duration, maximum housing capacity, physicochemical characteristics … (see 3.Elements related to Reputation of the product). It avoids the transport of rhums by boat of several weeks to the centers of consumption. This transport in tanks by necessarily interrupting before bottling, the obligation of aging under housing of small capacity wood required for “old” rhums constitutes a risk for the identity and quality of these products and therefore for their notoriety .

Consequently, the packaging in the area limits the manipulation and transfer of rhums, which constitute, like the transport in tanks, a risk of alteration.

Lastly, the conditioning in the area allows a greater control of the quality of the old rhums, which would make it very difficult to separate between the places of production and the operators who would market them. This control includes, in particular, the monitoring of the aging accounts and an analytical and organoleptic examination on the rhum in bottles.


Trade Union of Defense of the Designation of Origin “Rhum Agricole Martinique”

Factory SOUDON

Route of the Green Pre

97232 Le Lamentin

Tel: 05 96 51 93 35



The rhums for which the controlled label of origin “agricultural rhum Martinique” is claimed cannot be put up for sale or sold without the name mentioned above being registered and accompanied by the words “appellation d’origine contrôlée”, or ” Appellation contrôlée “, all in very apparent characters.

The controlled label of origin “agricultural rhum Martinique” is compulsorily supplemented with the words “white” or “old” for rhums meeting the production conditions fixed for these mentions in this specification.

No denomination suggesting an aging can appear on the labeling of other agricultural rhum Martinique than the “old” rhums.

The words “white” or “old” are inscribed in the same visual field as that of the controlled designation of origin and in dimensions of characters which must not be greater than both height and width than those of the component the name of the appellation.

The following statements relating to an aging period may only supplement the term ‘old’ if the minimum durations defined below are achieved without interruption, except for the manipulations required for the product:

  • “VO” for agricultural rhums aged at least 3 years;
  • The words “VSOP”, “Réserve Spéciale”, “Cuvée Spéciale”, “Très Vieux”, for agricultural rhums aged at least 4 years old;
  • The words “Extra Vieux”, “Grande Réserve”, “Hors d’Age ” and “XO” for agricultural rhums aged at least 6 years old.

On the movement titles, invoices and any commercial document mentioning the controlled label of origin “Martinique rhum” in rhum “old” must appear at least either the age account of the rhum shipped or one of the designations -above.

In any drink, when an agricultural rhum enjoying the controlled label of origin “Martinique rhum” is used in conjunction with another rhum, the mixture thus obtained loses the right to the benefit of the said appellation of origin.

Part II Reporting obligations and record keeping

  1. Reporting obligations

Operators shall make the following declarations:

Declaration of partial allocation

Agricultural rhums benefiting from the controlled label of origin “agricultural rhum Martinique”

Come from cane harvested from parcels located in the production area defined in C and which have been the subject of a declaration of allocation.

This declaration is forwarded to the defense and management body before January 1st preceding the cutting period. It includes in particular the references of the producer, the cadastral references of the parcels, the planted area and the cultivated varieties.

Any modification of the parcels must be declared by January 1st before the cutting period.

Declarations of commencement and termination of works, interruption or resumption of distillation works

A copy of these declarations provided for in the general regulations shall be transmitted to the defense and management body within the same time limit. The total of the quantities claimed per campaign is appended to the declaration of completion of work.

Declaration of claim

This declaration shall be forwarded to the defense and management body each year not later than February 10th of the year following the distillation period.

It summarizes the quantities in volumes and pure alcohol of rhums in AOC “Martinique rhum” developed from their distillation.

It divides these rhums into the different categories: “blanc” (“white”), “élevé sous bois” (“high in wood”), “vieux” (“old”). It indicates the volumes that may be decommissioned or re-allocated to one or other of these categories during the year.

Each claim shall include the following references for the quantity concerned:

  • Distillation period;
  • Volume in hl (hectoliters) of pure alcohol;
  • housing reference;
  • list of the plots of cane used;
  • Weight of cane received per plot.

Declaration of placing in wood

This declaration shall be transmitted to the defense and management body at the latest when the statement of claim is transmitted. It includes in particular the dates and place of distillation of agricultural rhum and the address of the cellar, the capacity of the dwellings used, the volume and the alcoholic strength by volume

From agricultural rhum to logging.

  1. Record Keeping

Reception register for canes

This record includes the following: date of delivery, identification of carrier, reference planter, reference plots, weight, analytical characteristics (pH and Brix degree)

Fermentation log

This register includes the following elements: Tank number, date and time of vatting, volume of cane juice put into fermentation.

Distillation register

This register shall include, in particular: the date and time of start and end of distillation, the references of the distilled vats, the alcoholic strength by volume of the distilled vats, the quantity and alcoholic strength by volume of the agricultural rhums obtained (in the daily collector)

Summary record of old rhums and their dwellings

This register includes the following summary elements: total volume of old rhums and total volume of aging rhums and total capacity of their dwellings.

Monthly log of entry and exit of distillation rhums

The register shall include at least the following: inputs, outputs and initial and final stocks of rhums of each category and additional information in pure alcohol.

Each distribution of the quantities committed by category (“blanc”, “vieux”, “élevé sous bois”) is the subject of a specific line for recording movements.

The registers and declarations provided for by the general regulations, in particular the Monthly Customs Summary Report (DRM), the annual inventory or the material accounting booklets may be used for the presentation of such data.

Part III Main points to check and evaluation methods

Main points to be checked Evaluation methods
Area for the production, harvesting, processing, distillation, maturation, aging of agricultural rhums, and conditioning of “old” agricultural rhums Document review
Fermentation equipment (vats) Distillation equipment (composition and dimensioning of columns) Visual inspection and / or document review
Maximum yield Document review
Cutting period Document review
Degree Brix and pH: minimum values of juice extracted from canes Measures
Maximum TAV of fermented cane juice Document review
Analytical characteristics at distillation: Minimum and maximum TAV Analytical Controls
Maximum capacity of “old” agricultural rhum housing Document Review and / or Visual Inspection
Minimum maturation, aging or aging Document review and / or Number of dwellings
Organoleptic characteristics of “white” rhums and rhums grown under wood Organoleptic examination
Organoleptic characteristics of “old” rhums Organoleptic examination reinforced on packaged products
Analytical characteristics of “white” rhums and wood-rum Analytical review
Analytical characteristics of “old” rhums Reinforced analytical review on packaged products

References for control structures

National Institute of Origin and Quality (I.N.A.O.)

12, rue Henri Rol-Tanguy

TSA 30003


Tel: (33) (0)

Fax: (33) (0)


The control of compliance with these specifications is carried out by a third party body offering guarantees of competence, impartiality and independence under the authority of INAO on the basis of an approved inspection plan.

The inspection plan recalls the self-checks carried out by the operators on their own activity and the internal controls carried out under the responsibility of the defense and management body. It indicates the external controls carried out by the third party body as well as the analytical and organoleptic examinations.

24 thoughts on “The Unabridged, English Language Martinique Rhum Agricole 2014 AOC

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  1. ‘raised under wood’ is the literal translation of élevee sous bois. It’s meaning is closer to matured in wooden casks. But you probably gathered that from context.
    Thanks for the excellent read!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I did understand the intent. I fixed a lot of things that were ambiguously translated, but this one slipped by.

    1. Thank you for the additional information! I’ve reviewed the translated 2015 text, and other than some minor wording change around labeling, it does not appear to change anything with regard to what is allowed or disallowed with regards to AOC-compliant rhum.

  2. As I’m browsing Agricoles on Astor, a question pops to mind. Google confirms once again that, just as there is a Trump tweet for every occasion, there is a Pietrek post for every rum question.

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