[Hexagonal rums] Nitos, the organic Catalan rum made from pure cane juice

Developed using sugar cane grown by the Arts verts family in Toreilles in the Pyrénées-Orientales, this 100% Catalan rum will soon be in its second batch. Its creators, Nicolas Paye and Daniel Rouffart, intend to improve with each passing vintage, and in the future might even release single-varietal and aged rums. Watch this space!

Nicolas Paye and Daniel Rouffart

As is often the case, distillation is a story of friendship. That of Nicolas Paye and Daniel Rouffart began on the benches of the Lycée Clos Banet in Perpignan in the Pyrénées-Orientales, where they were studying industrial mechanisms and automation.

At the end of their studies, the two friends had an idea in mind: to set up a brewery, but it never got beyond the project stage. So they each began their own careers as industrial designers. That was until Nicolas had the opportunity to change careers in 2019. But even at that time, there were already a lot of craft beer breweries,” he recalls.

So Daniel and I opted for spirits, as he was a rum fan and I was a gin fan. Unfortunately, there’s often a time lag between making a decision and actually doing it. In this case, it’s a long time, since their Nitos distillery only started smoking a little over a year and a half ago.

The business is more complicated than it looks on paper, with a number of administrative and regulatory stages (premises, still…) to go through.


Local gins

The distillery nevertheless set up in Claira (66 530), in an old watermill, and acquired a 150-litre Holstein bain-marie still. In 2022, Nicolas and Daniel (who continued to work on the side) brought out their first gin, then several, as well as a liqueur. “I like Dutch-style gins. I wanted something that was easy to understand, and not to enter the race to see who could use the most botanicals,” explains Nicolas.

So we opted for juniper alcohol with a local ingredient each time: sweet almonds from Roussillon, honey (for the Christmas gin aged in oak barrels), poncire collioure (a citrus fruit endemic to the Côte Vermeille that looks like a large citron and is somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit). For the latter, we use the zest for the gin, and the pulp and juice for the liqueur.

This white rum is made from sugar cane grown in the Pyrénées-Orientales region.

The first pure Catalan cane juice rum

So much for gin, but what about rum? Well, as you can see, it’s one of the rare rums made from pure cane juice in mainland France, since Guillaume Ferroni’s rum is produced in Hyères (Var), and the U Massicciu distillery is planning to make a Corsican version. In any case, this is the first 100% Catalan and 100% organic rum.

To make rum from pure cane juice, you need sugar cane. And that’s just as well, since a hectare of sugar cane grows just a few kilometres from the distillery! In Torreilles, Les Arts Verts has been growing exotic fruits, spices, condiments and sugar cane for over 20 years. “Up until now, they’ve been producing sugar cane juice, but they were looking for distillers nearby, and that came in handy because we were looking to make rum”, says Nicolas.

So the non-hybrid bourbon cane, big tanas, tamaras and other black cane (other varieties are currently being tested) were pressed, then fermented (between 10 and 20 days depending on the period and the Brix level) before the vesou obtained was distilled.

The level of alcohol coming out of the still depends on the brix level we manage to obtain, but it can come out at 80%,” explains Nicolas. For the first batch, we’ve reduced it to 41%, but for the second we’re expecting a higher level. We’ve had some feedback from rum lovers, which will help us to improve.



Car l’ambition de Daniel et Nicolas n’est pas de venir concurrencer les gros producteurs de rhum des DROM, juste de trouver leur style et de proposer un très bon rhum catalan, bio et pur jus de canne.

Et peut-être un jour de sortir des rhums monovariétaux, ou des rhums vieux. En attendant, si vous êtes dans les environs de Claira en décembre, la prochaine «campagne» de coup et de distillation devrait avoir lieu en décembre, selon le temps qu’il fera d’ici là.

Sinon, Nitos étant aussi bouilleur de cru, n’hésitez pas à leur apporter de la matière première (cerises, abricots, melons, vin…) Daniel et Nicolas auront à cœur de la sublimer en une belle eau- de-vie.

One day, single-varietal and aged rums?

Daniel and Nicolas’ ambition is not to compete with the big rum producers in the French overseas departments and territories, just to find their own style and offer a very good Catalan rum, organic and made from pure cane juice. And maybe one day to produce single-varietal rums, or aged rums.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Claira area in December, the next coup and distillation ‘campaign’ should take place in December, depending on the weather between now and then. Alternatively, Nitos was also a distiller, so don’t hesitate to bring them your raw materials (cherries, apricots, melons, wine, etc.) Daniel and Nicolas will do their utmost to sublimate them into a fine eau-de-vie.

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