President of Louisiana Spirits LLC, Trey Litel, is a homegrown kind of guy. His rum company, Bayou Rum, is located in Lacassine, Louisiana and showcases the best of what the local region offers with locally grown sugarcane. Swig Contributor Kristen Oliveri sits down with Litel to hear how the company got started and how they set their brand apart within a crowded market. Litel also shared a few delicious rum recipes that can be made anytime, anywhere!
Q: What is the story of Bayou Rum?
A: We love our state. We are especially proud of Louisiana’s historical place in the sugar industry. We were inspired by the dedication of Louisiana sugar farmers and sugar mill workers who have competed successfully for that last 230 years on the world market. When we started talking to them about our idea, they told us it was a 50 year dream of Louisiana sugar workers to have a rum they could call their own. This changed our perspective on the project and made it much bigger for us. We noticed the growth of the craft beer industry lead by Abita and others, the amazing food culture of Louisiana chefs and the tourism our state attracts. We learned that the number of distilleries in the USA grew from about 60 (mostly in Kentucky) to over 600 in 2011. We knew that the time had come for Louisiana to get on the map! Rum comes from sugarcane producing countries and Louisiana produces more sugarcane annually than any Caribbean island.
Q: Why did the founders decide on rum? What is it about the flavor profile that makes it so special?
A: Since Louisiana was the birthplace of sugarcane farming in the “new world” and is the home of the biggest Mardi Gras party in America, it has some of the greatest (and spiciest) food on earth. Given this is a place where our fiercely loyal citizens live every day to the fullest, we questioned why no one was creating a homegrown, high-quality Louisiana rum. Alongside my brother Tim Litel and longtime friend Skip Cortese (Bayou Rum co-founders), we wondered aloud at times how was it possible that Louisiana, a state that produces more sugarcane than any Caribbean island and with a reputation for good times, did not have a world class rum?
Bayou Rum has a taste profile like no other. The flavor is a result of a traditional pot distilling process, combined with locally grown raw sugarcane from the soils of the Mississippi Delta region in Louisiana. Sipping Bayou Silver Rum, you will notice the influence of the pot still, which carries over lots of flavor. Your first sip starts with a whiff of natural sweetness with tones of sweet cream vanilla (some say banana) and finishes very smoothly. Unlike industrial rums, you can enjoy Bayou Silver rum straight on ice.
Q: You have an interesting technique—tell us how your rum is made.
A: Louisiana’s soil is the result of the Mississippi River transporting and depositing nutrient rich soil in the Mississippi Delta region. There is an average of 4 to 6 feet of topsoil available in Louisiana in the sugarcane growing areas around Iberia Parish where we procure the richest blackstrap molasses and raw unrefined sugar crystals used to make Bayou Rum.
Raw materials are the base of the flavor, and there are four important elements that influence the taste of distilled spirits. We do a pasteurization step before fermentation, which conditions the molasses and raw sugar prior to adding our sugarcane yeast. Temperature control is the key to a successful and efficient fermentation. Our Vendome Copper Pot stills contribute to a flavorful, complex and tasty final spirit. And it’s important not to forget that how you finish the rum makes a big difference to the final taste profile.
Q: What sets your brand apart from others on the market today?
A: We are an American rum produced from fresh Louisiana sugarcane for an award-winning flavor that’s handcrafted, pot distilled and bottled in the USA, which is a strong differentiator because up until we came on the scene, every rum that was distributed nationally was imported.
Bayou Rum is the most decorated American rum, with 82 awards and growing. On the shelf and the back bar, our packaging is premium, which inspires confidence to consumers that they are about to enjoy a top quality spirit. It is also approachable, fun and eye-catching – the Bayou Rum iconic bottle and Bayou Rum gator on the label turn heads. Our first year, we were recognized with a Double Gold medal from the prestigious San Francisco International Spirits Competition for the packaging.
Terroir also makes a difference in rum making, just like in wine making. The sugarcane varieties growing in this rich Mississippi River delta soil surpasses those grown in the sandy beaches of a Caribbean island. Bayou Rum’s raw materials are solely sourced at M.A. Patout & Sons Enterprise Factory, which is situated in Iberia Parish. This imparts a unique taste quality of our rum. Our Louisiana terroir separates Bayou Rum from Caribbean rums in terms of taste and quality. You can kick the dirt where our sugarcane grows, whereas most Caribbean sugarcane growing is non-existent.
Q: What are a few classic rum cocktail recipes that work well with your brand?
A: The Hurricane was invented in New Orleans to help Pat O’Brien move out a very large inventory of rum he bought. The drink is still popular today, and our fine Bayou Rums make a very nice “top shelf Hurricane.” Another local favorite is our Gator Bite, which is a classic rum punch.
3/4 oz. Bayou Rum Silver
3/4 oz. Bayou Rum Spiced
3/4 oz. Bayou Satsuma Rum Liqueur
1 1/4 oz. orange juice
1 1/4 oz. pineapple juice
Splash of simple syrup
Squeeze of 3 lime wedges
Dash of Grenadine (for color)
Garnish with a maraschino cherry, pineapple, orange wedge (optional)
This classic rum punch drink was created by mixologist Kelly Bistok and featured at the Bayou Rum Inaugural Toast event on May 23, 2013. It is easy to make with common bar ingredients. Just mix them all in a cocktail shaker, mix well, and then pour over ice in a tall hurricane glass. Careful with this one, you might get bit!
A Storm on the Bayou is a riff on a classic and is made with our Bayou Select Barrel Reserve Rum, ginger beer, and a squeeze of lime.
STORM ON THE BAYOU
1 part Bayou Spiced Rum
3 parts ginger beer
Serve over ice. Garnish with lime wedge.
Mosquitos are famous for stinging you in Louisiana in the Bayou regions, so we like to call a mojito made with Bayou Rum a…
2 oz. Bayou Rum Silver
5 mint leaves, muddled
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1 tsp. of raw sugar or ¾ oz. simple syrup
2 oz. sparkling water
Garnish with sugarcane stalk prepped for chewing (if you can get it)
Combine mint leaves, sugar and a splash of sparkling water in a tall glass. Muddle well to dissolve sugar and release mint flavors. Squeeze lime into glass and drop in half of it, add Bayou Rum and stir well. Fill glass with ice and add remaining sparkling water.
New Orleans is filled with tales of voodoo and black magic. How about one for the Tiki fans:
BAYOU MAI TAI
1 1/2 oz. Bayou Rum Spiced
3/4 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. Bayou Satsuma Rum Liqueur
1 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. orgeat syrup
3 drops Bittermens Elemekule Tiki Bitters
Shake and strain over ice. Garnish with lime wedge.
Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure rum cocktail?
A: When pressed, a classic Bayou Daiquiri made with Bayou Silver Rum, raw Louisiana cane sugar syrup, and fresh squeezed lime juice is one of my favorites. When you get the balance right between tart, sweet, and rum there is no better drink!