This article was originally published in our May 2021 issue. Backcountry booze has a lengthy history in Missouri from moonshiners in the Ozarks to speakeasies in St. Louis and Kansas City, but as far as unfiltered, unadulterated, unflavored cane-to-glass rum goes, Nobletons Distilling House stands out. Like so many great origin stories go, Demetrius Cain’s, too, sprung from a dorm room—at Benedictine College in Kansas, just outside of St. Joseph, to be exact. That’s where the Oregon native landed on a football scholarship in 2007. After succumbing to injuries on the gridiron, Demetrius began experimenting with various distillation and fermentation methods on top of his already busy school and bartending schedule. Fast forward to graduation, and, well, his closet was full. “At the end of college, I had about 150 bottles of all different types of stuff—whiskey, rum, you name it,” he says. But his heart was always set on producing a top-notch rum. “It’s the spirit of the Americas. Rum was made by the poorest of the poor and drank by the wealthiest of the wealthy. There’s something romantic about it for me.” But unlike most commercial rum brands, which use molasses—the byproduct of sugarcane—Demetrius opted to distill with fresh-pressed sugarcane juice, the traditional mode of the French West Indies. There, the spirit is known as rhum agricole, or agricultural rum, a nod to the nuanced, terroir-forward taste it delivers. For years, Demetrius honed his craft while simultaneously starting a family and juggling a day job. In 2018, Demetrius and his wife Laura bought a farm in Beaufort and built Nobletons Distilling House. Laura, a biochemist, oversees the health of her husband’s fermentors, the vessels where fermentation happens. A year later, Duckett Rum, named for Demetrius’s late grandfather, hit cocktail menus in St. Louis. Not long after, two new rums were born: Duckett Golden Rhum—a dry, lightly smoky rum aged in French oak—and Duckett Rhum 103, a caramel rum that sips like a bourbon.

Demetrius Cain says Nobletons Distilling House gets its raw sugarcane from small family farms in Louisiana.
By definition, Demetrius’s rum is, in fact, rhum agricole, but you’ll never see it on his labels. “It’s a protected term like champagne, and I respect that,” he says. Demetrius does, however, use the French spelling of rhum on some of his bottles. “We had to petition the court of appeals in France for that one.” Demetrius also makes an authentic curaçao using dried lahara orange peels sourced from the island of Curaçao. A coconut liqueur and Barbados-inspired falernum—a syrup used in tropical drinks—are also in the works. His pride and joy, of course, is his rum. Sugarcane juice, yeast, and mineral-rich limestone water are used to lower the proof of the drink for the consumer. “Nothing done, nothing taken away,” Demetrius says. “Everyone said good rum can’t be made in Missouri. To me, it’s the purest rum on the market.” And it’s all made on a farm in the heart of Franklin County. Call 314-252-8990, or visit Nobletons.com to find where to purchase Duckett Rum, available statewide. Photos // R.J. Hartbeck Photo