Louisiana is one of America’s biggest producers of sugar, and it’s found everywhere in the state, whether snowed upon beignets, stirred inside a hot café au lait or growing in tall, lean rows on the Cajun prairie.
And as one would expect in a state that prides itself as the birthplace of the cocktail, it’s found its way into locally distilled liquor. Rum distilleries using Louisiana-grown sugar have sprouted in south Louisiana in recent years, and their factories and products are a hit with travelers and locals alike.
I recently visited one of the new rum distilleries, Louisiana Spirits in Lacassine, which is the largest privately owned rum distillery in the U.S. The factory sits inside thousands of acres of cane fields off Interstate 10 just east of Lake Charles, and it produces three award-winning rums bottled under the Bayou Rum label.
It felt like I was inside an upscale ski or hunting lodge when I entered the factory through its gift shop. The décor is rustic, with huge stained beams framing its open cathedral ceiling and polished metals surrounding a massive hardwood bar. The feel is echoed in an adjacent small theater where visitors are introduced to the history and evolution of both rum and the Louisiana Spirits story.
It’s a different experience behind the double doors that lead to the distilling area. There are a series of massive aluminum tanks and distilling machines, and the gymnasium-sized room is bathed in a sweet, syrupy scent.
The 30-minute tour concludes at the lavish upscale bar to sample three Bayou Rum varieties: a traditional clear, a spiced version and a satsuma rum made with the popular Louisiana-grown citrus.
Other notable and tourist-accessible Louisiana distilleries include: Donner-Peltier Distillers in Thibodaux, which uses sugar and rice to create high-quality rums, vodka, gin and whiskey; Celebration Distillation in New Orleans, which makes Old New Orleans rum; and the city’s Atelier Vie, which produces a traditional green absinthe and a red variety that is colored and flavored with hibiscus flowers.
For more on Louisiana’s distilleries, plus information on the Louisiana Craft Brewery Trail and the state’s wine producers, visit Libations.LouisianaTravel.com.