To craft the quintessential French Caribbean spirit of rhum agricole, distillers all across Guadeloupe demand only the best sugar cane. That means harvesting this tall grass originally from southeast Asia when its sugar concentration reaches its peak. Depending on rain, soil, strain and other factors, the time for reaping starts in January and can run all the way through June. (At this time all over the island, travelers can sample sugar cane and pressed sugar cane juice in markets.) The cane is at its sweetest near the base, so it’s important to cut the cane as close to ground level as possible. The less-sweet upper stalk and leaves are immediately discarded. From there, the finest cane is off to one of nine distilleries and a future as one of the finest spirits in the Caribbean.
And to think, it all starts with a seven-foot-tall purple grass.