Ti’Punch (say it loud!)

Posted by TraderTiki on August 15th, 2008 — Posted in Rum

…et en français!  TI POONNNSCH!

That was certainly heard plenty of times at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, during the Rum, Ron, Rhum session. Benjamin Jones from Rhum Clément and Chesterfield Brown from Mount Gay were part of the panel for the session, each representing their respective rums.

There was a lot going on during this session, but I would like to focus on the virtues of Martinique Rhum Agricole.  If you’re not up to speed on Rhum Agricole and the Rhums from Martinique, here’s the long and short of it.  Rhums Agricole, the ones with the “h”, are part of the Appellation d’origine contrôlée, that is, Controlled Name Origin.  While the legal body of A.O.C. has been around since the early 1920s, the island of Martinique was only recently brought in November 1996, and remains the sole territory outside of mainland France to hold the A.O.C. distinction.  If it ain’t from Martinique, and doesn’t adhere to strict standards (more information available here), it ain’t Martinique Rhum Agricole.  Even if it’s from Martinique but doesn’t follow those A.O.C. standards , it’s not Martinique Rhum Agricole.  The Agricole (Agricultural) has to be made from fermented pressed cane juice.  If it’s from Martinique and made from Molasses?  That’s Rhum Industriale.   Fun stuff this French language, eh?

Rhum Barbancourt?  While great stuff, and Haiti was at one time a French territory (they became independent 192 years before Martinique was declared A.O.C.), not Martinique Rhum Agricole.

10 Cane Rum?  Again, good stuff, made from fresh cane juice and has some mild hints towards that unique Rhum Agricole flavor, but not Martinique Rhum Agricole.

Cachaça?  It’s Cachaça.  Not Martinique Rhum Agricole.  Jeezy Peets people!

There are a number of great Rhum Agricole producers on Martinique, but what I’ve got the most of right now is Rhum Clément, thanks to a generous donation of bottles (and a REAL swizzle stick!) from them.  So, lets get down to the brass tacks of what makes this rum so special.

First, there’s the growth, distillation and aging process A.O.C., but I’ve already yakked enough on that, and there are others (see - Ed Hamilton) who can probably add books worth of knowledge to this post.

The taste though, it’s so unique, a Rhum Agricole can easily be picked out of pretty much any lineup.  The nose contains a rich grassy vegetal note, particularly on the Premiére Canne, Clément’s white.  It calms down after aging in charred barrels a bit, as in the Clément VSOP, but is still quite present.  The Creole Shrubb, a Rhum Agricole based Orange Liqueur, covers up the nose completely with an orange presence, but the muskiness can still be detected in the last notes of the flavor.  The taste for the white and VSOP continues from the nose, and picks up that unique vegetal, musky grapey flavor.  The white is the boldest example, and might need to be the last on the list to try if you’re just getting into Rhum Agricole.  I’ll have more tasting notes on the individual Rhums in an upcoming booze reviews section, scheduled to be available sometime after my concoctioneering section.

Rhum Agricole has been a favorite of Tiki Mixologists for its unique flavor that calls for different mixers than would a Jamaican or Virgin Islands Rum.  Don the Beachcomber had several drinks featuring Rhum Agricole on his menus, such as the Donga Punch, Don’s Beach Planter, and one of my all time favorites, Three Dots and a Dash.

But the best way to enjoy these fairly young Martiniques (the older they are, the more sippable they get) is in the classic Ti’Punch.  Here’s a great video on making a Ti’Punch available at the Martinique Promotion Bureau.  As in the video, there are a few ways to make Ti’Punch, and should be named according to the Rhum used.  White (Blanc) makes Ti’Punch Blanc, and Aged (Vieux) makes Ti’ Punch Vieux.  Ti’Punch is Rum, Lime, and Sugar… which makes it like a Daiquiri, right?  No.  Some distinct differences here… nitpicky to some, but nonetheless distinct.  Ti’Punch uses Rhum Agricole, is traditionally swizzled, and also traditionally served without ice.  The Daiquiri is traditionally shaken, with ice, and uses Cuban Rum.  You also can’t get a Ti’Punch out of a slushee machine on Bourbon Street, but that’s another angle altogether.  But for the best comparison, throw a Diaquiri and a Ti’ Punch next to each other.  The difference will shine crystal clear.

Ti Punch

Ti’ Punch

  • 2 oz Rhum Agricole
  • 1/4 oz Cane Syrup
  • 1 lime quarter

Into an Old-Fashioned glass, squeeze the lime wedge, being sure to express some oils along with the juice, and drop into the glass.  Add the sugar syrup and Rum, swizzle until completely mixed.  Add cubed ice to dilute, if so desired.  Lime and Sugar amount can be changed to taste.

At once it tastes of the field the Cane grew in, or terroir, so to speak.  The lime’s tartness brings other flavors from the rum to the surface, and the sweet cane syrup ties it all together.  This is great to serve on hot days, or at parties with rum loving friends.  A traditional way to serve this is as a “chacun prépare sa propre mort” (each prepares their own death), on a serving tray with the Rhum, cut lime wedges, and various sweeteners and spices, such as molasses, cane syrup, and nutmeg.  One way I’m particularly fond of Ti’Punch Vieux is with a bit of the Clément Sirop de Antillais, a Cane Sugar Syrup with clove, cinnamon, and vanilla flavors.  It’s rich, deep, and flavourful, but just a drop will do.

The correct pronunciation, of course, is essential.  Just like the islanders on Martinique, say it loud, say it French, TI POONNNSCH!

Well imbibers, our French lesson is now over.  For more excellent information on Martinique Rhum Agricole, check this thread at the MInistry of Rum forum.

Thanks to Camper English for letting me pick his brain a bit.  Just watch out for his whalloping Ti-PUNCH!

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Comment by tiare

Really great post, i`m a big fan of TI POONNNSCH! and of rhum agricoles. You have it all right on the spot here.

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 4:00 am

Comment by Rocky

You know, now some enterprising dude with too many slushee machines is going to make a Ti Punch flavoured slushee.

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 6:14 am

Pingback by Friday Fête: Four Drinks « Spiked Punch

[...] Ti’Punch: At Trader Tiki’s they’re punching it up right with this Rhum Agricole-based combo (and, you’ll get to learn a lot about Rhum Agricole while getting ready to get punched–in the friendly fashion, that is).  [...]

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 11:11 am

Comment by Rum Balls

I might have to change my name to Rhum Balls… :)

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 11:15 am

Pingback by Celebrating Rum | Trader Tiki's Booze Blog

[...] term for a wide and diverse selection of spirits.  There’s Jamaican Rum, Demerara Rum, Rhum Agricole, Whites, Aged whites, Dark, Gold, Aged, Amber, Red, Black Strap, Screech , Añejo, rums aged by [...]

Posted on August 17, 2008 at 9:51 am

Comment by laura

i love donga punch had it for the very first time at tales of the cocktail spirited dinner at Palace Cafe featuring Jeff Beachbum Berry. wished i had some of that for national rum day.

Posted on August 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

Comment by TraderTiki

I’ve updated this post with some new information, including an english translation of the AOC Charter for Martinique, available here.

Posted on August 21, 2008 at 1:06 pm

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