Interview with Raff Carter Founder of San Francisco’s Bay = Raff Distillery – Producer of Barbary Coast Rhum Agricole

Raff Carter 
Founder of San Francisco’s Bay = Raff Distillery – Producer of Barbary Coast Rhum Agricole  

1) Who is Carter Raff?

Hi, my name is Carter Raff I’m the owner of Raff Distillerie a small craft distillery on Treasure Island in the heart of the San Franciscan Bay. I’ve been making wine for over 25 years and distilling for 15. I started Raff Distillerie in 2011 and launched my first products in October 2012. Right now we’re in 8 states and over 1500 locations across the country, over 300 just in San Francisco. All the equipment used to make my products aside from the label machine I fabricated from scratch. I’ve been working with metal my entire life. I made all the stills, pumps, filling machines and associated equipment. I’m 5th generation San Franciscan and base all my labels off San Francisco History. I’m very proud of my labels. They we’re actually hand illustrated and designed by Anthony Auston of Auston Design Group located in Emeryville.

Barbary Coast Rhum Agricole. Regular rum is made from molasses which is a byproduct of refining sugar cane juice into white table sugar. Agricole Rhum is made from the entire juice of the sugar cane so terrior has a lot to do with the flavor. Terrior is a French wine term that means the flavor has hints of the environment. What’s in the soil, what’s in the air and the surrounding flora and fauna. In the early 1800’s when France developed beat sugar it drove the price of the sugar cane in the French West Indies to pretty much nothing so they started using the entire juice of the sugar cane to make rum, spelling it Rhum. When you smell Rhum Agricole you get much more vegetal notes. Sometimes you smell artichokes and the like. Rhum Agricole is way different tasting than regular rum. It’s a lot drier and makes mixed drinks more savory instead of sweet.

Barbary Coast Rhum Agricole is named after the famed 9 block area on San Francisco’s waterfront. It was made famous by the gold rush of 1849 and was notorious for being one of the most violent and debaucherous places on the planet.

2) Biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplish for the rum industry.

I’ve only been making Rhum for a little over six months so I haven’t had the opportunity to achieve anything in the industry other than releasing my product.

3) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

Rum is one of the staples of the cocktail word and learning to use it and reinvent it makes it an interesting product. Popularity of rum comes and goes over the years, but is ever present. I’ve always been a fan of rum and when it came time to release a product of my own I didn’t want to make the same old stuff. So I did my research on Rhum Agricole and started there.

4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?

The fact that most people, mainly Americans, only know about regular rum makes it easy to continue to product Rhum Agricole. I want to educate people about what Rhum is. Since Rhum Agricole is so different than regular rum it’s fun to see how people react.

5) Favorite Rum Drink + Recipe?

That’s a tough one. There are so many cocktails with rum and when you substitute it with Rhum Agricole it makes it more dynamic and less sweet as Rhum Agricole is drier. Jungle Bird is a great old recipe.

1 ½ oz. Barbary Coast Rhum Agricole
¾ oz. Campari
½ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz. Simple Syrup
1 ½ oz. Pineapple Juice

Combine in shaker with ice > strain into glass filled with crushed ice > enjoy!


6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?

The rum industry in the next five years is going to be the same road as before where rum will be in fashion and then recede into the shadows again, but with one difference. Rhum Agricole will gain some attention as craft distillers like myself will bring some unique products to market. And as those people discover Rhum they will inevitably seek out new and different brands.

7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have help you. 

I’m completely self-taught. I started early on at the beginning of college making wine and mead. When it came time to distill it’s not something one would seek help with as it’s illegal in the US to distill at home. So I had to rely on books. Some of the books I’ve had for 25 years and some are internet based.

8) What 3-5 things do you have in your bucket list for the next 12 months?

 I would like to start aging my Rhum Agricole and my barrel age my Bummer & Lazarus Gin as well. I hope to develop my Rye too.

9) Any last words?

My philosophy is that craft distilling is going through some growing pains. It’s still very new and there are so many out there. I’m glad people are starting to realize that some are real distillers and some are just bottling bought product. As a craft distiller no matter if you like a distillery’s product or not it should be unique.

10) How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?

You can find us at
Instagram: raff_distillerie
Twitter: @raffdistillerie

Author: Fede

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