When you write for TreeHugger, you get a lot of pitches for product reviews. In my case, most do not get answered. But when the pitch describes a fair trade, GMO-free, "eco-positive spirit distilled in a solar powered facility in the French Caribbean", I am inclined to make an exception.
Batiste Rhum is made from fresh cut sugar cane on the French Caribbean island of Marie Galante, before being further refined and "polished" in California. The production itself is claimed to be carbon negative—with perennially grown sugar cane serving as a significant carbon sink (8-11lbs is absorbed per bottle, apparently), and power for the milling and distilling coming from both crushed sugar cane stalks and a 2.5MW solar farm—a farm big enough to power half of the island's energy needs. Waste from the distilling process goes back to the fields as fertilizer, and by finishing and bottling in California using clean energy, Batiste also reduces the emissions associated with shipping and packaging.
Tristan Mermin sees the craft spirits movement as a natural progression of what we've seen happening in the farm-to-food movement—promoting healthier choices and a regenerative, positive model of agriculture. Of course "healthier choices" and " hard alcohol" are a somewhat incongruous pair, and when Batiste talks about 'poison or food', I would suggest it best to take the 'food' portion in moderation. You still need some salad! But Mermin makes a strong case that the sheer amount of raw plant material going into spirits production, combined with its relatively unregulated nature, make it an ideal point of focus for people concerned about pesticide residues or other impurities.
As for the drink itself, I confess I am not a rhum aficionado. But I did manage to plough through most of the 200ml sample bottle in one sitting—trying it straight, mixed with campari, lime, mango juice & simple syrup, and then in a typical sour (1.5oz rhum, 3/4 oz syrup, 3/4oz lime). It was delicious in all. Batiste themselves recommend a variation on a ti punch—1.5 oz rhum, half a lime, 3/4oz syrup and a few dashes of bitters, shaken then served over ice. The flavor is described as having a perfumed aroma of tropical fruit and floral notes, with a fresh, complex palate of lychee, violet and accents of banana, vanilla and ginger. Given my aforementioned newbieness when it comes to rhum, I'll just say that I find nothing to disagree with in that description, and that it was a thoroughly delicious experience. You can read some reviews from more knowledgeable drinkers here.
I'm not going to comment on whether Batiste's carbon negative claims led me to having one drink more than I should. Let's just say that I believe that fighting global climate change is a challenge that is worthy of sacrifice.
Batiste is currently available at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and other retailers, and 200+ fine restaurants and bars across California. The company's website says they expect to ship farther afield soon.