HomeCultureInside the Napa Valley of Sugarcane

Inside the Napa Valley of Sugarcane

The Wildcat Brothers have taken the age-old process of distilling rum and refined the craft to create a smooth-tasting liquor. Their distillery, based in Lafayette, Louisiana, uses local ingredients such as sugarcane cut in the fertile fields of Cajun country. These high-quality rums are made from pure sugarcane crystals and are aged in charred white oak barrels. The variations of rum created by the Wildcat Brothers are sippable and full of sweet, grassy flavors. 

David Meaux, chief distiller, and Tait Martin, president and CEO, started Wildcat Brothers Distilling in an act of serendipity in 2011. Meaux, who started making rum as a hobby, collaborated with Martin, a long-time friend and fraternity brother, to start the distillery. With family ties to the oilfield industry in Lafayette, the distillery’s name originated from the term “wildcat” used to describe drilling a discovery well. In 2019, the founders purchased the property Gator Cove where they could create a craft cultural center. Gator Cove is a well-known local venue that hosts everything from tours to crawfish boils.

Where’s The Rum?

It is required that all types of rum be made from the one common ingredient—sugar. The Wildcat Brothers started the rum-making process with sugar sourced from local sugarcane. All the sugarcane used to make the rum at the Wildcat Brothers’ distillery is harvested within a 50-mile radius of Gator Cove. The distillery buys its sugar from M.A. Patout & Son Ltd., the oldest family-owned sugar mill in the United States, which is located only half of a mile down the road. 

“I often tell people we are the Napa Valley of sugarcane; the best sugarcane in the world is right here,” Martin says.  

The Wildcat Brothers distill a French-style rum made from pure sugar crystals. They bottle and sell their rum in various flavors and recipes. The Heritage line consists of Wildcat Brothers’ top three rums: Noire, Sweet Crude and Fifolet. Sweet Crude is used as the precursor to all the rums Wildcat Brothers makes. This rum is sippable and perfect for a cocktail such as a daiquiri. Wildcat Brothers’ Noire is a dark rum that is aged for five years and is considered “bourbon’s Cajun cousin.” Noire is the distillery’s top-selling rum. The third rum in the Heritage line, Fifolet, is a spiced rum flavored with vanilla beans, allspice, cinnamon, coffee and black peppercorns. Fifolet is great for apple flavors or ice cream combinations.  

“I tell people, in 25 years, if you come back, those recipes are going to be the same,” Martin says. “You are going to be able to taste those and recognize them.”   

Rum Distilling A to Z

The basic distillation process is an interesting journey. Sugarcane is cut down and then taken to the processing plant where it is squeezed producing sugarcane juice, which is extremely sweet and often compared to the taste of coconut water. Rum made from sugarcane juice is called Rhum Agricole, a French term, that has a natural, grassy flavor. It is boiled to create syrup and then spun in a turbine that separates the liquid. The process is repeated four times yielding pure sugar crystals and blackstrap molasses.

Rum-making begins with the fermentation process of placing sugar in a vat with water and yeast. The yeast begins to eat and metabolize the sugar to produce alcohol. After three days, the result is a frothy liquid close to the consistency of beer. During the distillation process, this solution is boiled, turned into a vapor, and then condensed into clear rum. A steel barrel creates the clear rum from the vapors. Rum is put into charred white oak barrels to be aged. The length of time rum is aged varies according to the desired flavor. The type of wood barrel the rum is aged in creates the color of dark rum. 

On The Horizon

The Wildcat Brothers are constantly experimenting and creating new rums. In 2021, the distillery crafted 12 assorted varieties known as “Snake Oil” that ranged in flavors from honey to pumpkin, cinnamon and coffee. The distillery offers the opportunity for people in the local community to blend their own taste of rum. There are also seasonal and special rums available such as a rum made specifically for a Bloody Mary. 

The Wildcat Brothers are currently working on a new project that ages rum in several types of wood barrels such as cherry wood, pear wood, persimmon wood, hickory wood and plumb wood. The Heritage line is sold at over 1,000 locations and in 37 states. Gator Cove is also offering bookings for events and rum tastings. The President’s Rum School is a special event limited to eight people for rum-making education and tasting that lasts three hours.  

“We want people to come and experience Wildcat Brothers and Gator Cove here because we’re proud of the products we’re making but especially we’re proud that we use good Louisiana ingredients,” Martin says.  

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  • Gothic Apparel / January 9, 2024

    Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I love to read such a nice article.

  • fnaf / February 25, 2024

    The basic distillation process is an interesting journey. I have learned a lot about it but have never participated in the experience