Sugarcane: The World’s Largest Crop.

Sugarcane used in Rum.

Sugarcane used in Rum.

The base material for all the Rums made in the world is the tall, pliant plant known as sugarcane, the world’s largest crop. Standing from six to twenty feet in height, sugarcane is a perennial grass that resides within the saccharum genus, a botanical family (Poaceae) that includes maize, wheat, rice and sorghum. Sugarcane grows only in tropical or subtropical climates, which produce copious amounts of rain and are humid. Each sugarcane stalk supplies at least two and as many as ten harvests and is typically one to one and a half inches in diameter. Its juice contains the highest caloric count of any of the Earth’s plants.

Origin of Sugarcane: 3000 B.C.

Sugarcane likely originated in southeast and south Asia thousands of years ago, with some substantial evidence suggesting New Guinea. The Indus Valley civilization grew it in 3,000 BC. Alexander the Great encountered it when he invaded India, circa 326 BC, reportedly describing it as “grass that gives honey without bees”. Sugarcane migrated west into Asia Minor along the fabled Silk Road in the early First Millennium AD. Arabs brought it with them upon invading southern Spain in 714 AD.

The Origin of Rum

The origin of sugarcane’s use in Rum: Almost 3000 years old.

2 Centuries of Development.

Doubtless, the pivotal moment for sugarcane occurred when Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo, sailing under the flag of Spain, introduced sugarcane to the island of Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic and Haiti) in 1493. Over the next two centuries, the Portuguese, French, Dutch, Spanish and British explorers and colonials would establish sugarcane as the foremost agricultural crop of the Caribbean region, including Central America and northern South America.

Rum is made from both fresh sugarcane juice and from molasses, a derivative product of the sugar refining industry. Sugarcane is grown today in over 110 nations. Brazil, India, China, Thailand and Pakistan are the five biggest sugarcane-producing countries in the world. But it is the sugarcane grown in and around the Caribbean Basin that allows this willowy, historically important grass to manifest itself into its finest, most sophisticated incarnation: Rum.