Rum has long played a pivotal part in Australian history.
The First Fleet brought their favourite tipple to our shores in 1788, and the cockle-warming spirit was used as a currency right throughout the convict years (drinking away your paycheck was a literal term back then).
But in the 200 odd years of Aussie rum-making history, distillers have stuck to the tried-and-tested English-style molasses rum.
In a break from age-old traditions, a group of ambitious Northern NSW distillers are creating something unique in Australia: French-style cane juice rum.
We spoke to Harriet and Paul from Husk Distillers to learn more about this innovative new drop.
How did Husk Distillers start out?
“The idea came to our founder Paul when, while travelling the world in 2008, he was introduced to a unique style of French-Caribbean rum called Rhum Agricole. This rum, which was made from fresh sugar cane juice instead of molasses, was dry, complex, and sipped neat or on the rocks—unlike anything he had experienced in his rum-loving home state of Queensland.
On his return to Australia, Paul went to the local bottlo to buy more of this herbaceous rum…but he couldn’t. There was no high quality imported rum available, nor any local rum made from sugar cane juice.
The solution? Read, research and learn how to make it himself.
We purchased 150 acres of land comprised of grassed fields and remnant rainforest in 2011. In 2012, Paul founded Husk Distillers upon converting an old farm shed into a tiny distillery. He made the first two barrels of Husk Rum using fresh sugar cane hand cut from our neighbour’s farm.
How did you come up with the idea for distilling sugar cane rum in Australia?
“Australians love rum. But historically, we’ve only had one type of rum available – English style molasses rum, best mixed with coke.
We’re a sugar cane producing country, yet the French style of cane juice rum has never been made in Australia before.
The beauty of using fresh cane juice is the environment is reflected in the rum. The annual harvest climatic conditions and the unique geological environment impact the sugar cane, which translates through to the spirit.
We call our expression of this style of rum ‘Australian Cultivated Rum’. Our incredible region is reflected in every bottle.”
What’s the difference between cultivated rum and molasses-based rum?
“Cane juice rums exhibit terroir reflecting the cane varieties and provenance of their place of origin. Their distinct aroma plus a vibrant and complex flavour make them instantly recognisable.
Molasses is an industrial by-product from sugar production that occurs after the cane juice has been clarified and boiled down. For distillers, this provides a suitable, inert substrate for fermentation that can be stored for long periods to enable year-round rum making.
Cane juice is a raw agricultural product that can’t be stored. The moment sugar cane is cut, indigenous yeasts and bacteria begin to digest sugar and multiply.
For the cane juice distiller, it’s a race against time to crush the cane, adjust the BRIX, pH and temperature and pitch their chosen yeast strain.
From that moment, there’s intense competition between the distillers’ yeast, the indigenous yeast, and bacteria from the paddock. It’s a balancing act between letting the natural components of our rum express themselves and controlling the process to ensure quality and consistency.
It’s an incredibly challenging process that takes years to learn, but the pay-off is the vibrancy and balanced complexity of flavour that defines this style of rum.”
What can you tell us about the cellar door experience?
“When you visit Husk Farm Distillery, we definitely recommend going on a distillery tour.
Our highly educated tour team will give you a guided tasting of all our spirits. Drink in hand, you’ll walk through the still house, bottling hall and barrelhouse, learning about how we make our unique spirits, Ink Gin and Husk Rum.
As well as tours and experiences, you can wander the grounds and gardens, meet our recycling team of cattle, and relax on the lawn or at the cellar door over lunch and some cocktails.”
Where can our readers sample your wares?
“Ink Gin is available nationwide from your local bottle shop.
Husk Rum is available in your local bottle shop if you’re on the Gold Coast or in the Northern Rivers.
You can find the whole range online through our website www.huskdistillers.com/shop, where you can also sign up to score free shipping.”
Visit Husk Distillery on a Kiff & Culture Tour
Keen to quaff Husk’s sensational sugar cane rum (and their legendary Ink Gin) straight from the source?
We visit this award-winning venue on our Farm Long Lunch & Husk Distillery tour. The fun-filled culinary foray includes a lazy five-course lunch at Three Ducks (Byron’s best eco-friendly restaurant) and an extended tasting session at Husk Distillery.