Hailing from the Caribbean via the Caldera Coast, and, now, into your cup, this is your new favourite drink: Ti' Punch - pronounced: "tee-pohn-ch" with an affected French accent, if you wish. 'Ti' is slang for 'petite', which in French means 'small', while 'punch' means... well... punch. So, a Ti' Punch is a 'small-punch'.
"The way people make and enjoy a spirit can tell you a lot about a particular place, which in turn shapes the product itself... So, in Martinique, we drink mostly white, un-aged agricole rum, and we drink it in a Ti' Punch," says Husk Distillers head distiller Quentin Brival, who hails from the Caribbean island of Martinique; the birthplace of agricole rum, and thus, of the Ti' Punch.
"A Ti'Punch is a short drink which doesn't have any ice, because for a long time we didn't have refrigeration on the island. So, you drink it neat, but with a few extra things added," he says.
Husk Distillers is situated on the banks of the Tweed River, nearby the village of Tumbulgum, with an imposing view of Wollumbin (Mount Warning) to the west. Here, much like a vigneron, Husk grows the sugar cane in the same place the rum is made; from fermentation to distillation, and is the first and only rum distillery to do so in Australia. Agricole rum is a style of rum born on the French Caribbean Island of Martinique. Most rum is made from molasses, a by-product of sugar refining, but agricole rum is made straight from seasonally cut sugar cane which is crushed, pressed, fermented, and distilled, in situ; hence the term agricole. The result is an intensely grassy, fresh and earthy spirit that's worlds apart from the standard one-note, sticky and syrupy characteristics of most big-brand rums.
"Sugar cane has been grown in this region for 150 years, but no one thought to make rum from it. We're simply adding another layer of history and opening up the possibilities of what can be done with this place that already exists," Brival says. "To us, this is the only way to make a rum with a sense of provenance... that really tells a story of this special region."
Agricole is a rum with the refined romance of place innate. A Ti' Punch is the best way to drink such a spirit.
To prepare a Ti'Punch, pour 60ml of white agricole rum into a glass, add half a teaspoon of raw sugar and a lime coin, gently squeezed for full effect. To drink a Ti' Punch, swirl the liquid, like you would a wine, smell it and sip it, slowly, preferably with water views. As the sugar dissolves into the lime juice and both infuse into the spirit, your nose is caught by the fresh, clean scents of earthy, limey, cut grass; a little like a refined mojito.
"Technically, you're only supposed to make one for yourself, because, in Martinique, we say, 'you prepare your own death', which just means you're responsible for how many Ti' Punch you drink," Brival explains.
Summer's coming... Here's your new favourite drink.