Food & Drink
Try Barbancourt rum
Rum sour cocktail made with Barbancourt Rum at Hotel Florita, Jacmel
Photo: Mikkel Ulriksen
Barbancourt is Haiti's oldest and most-loved brand of rum - you'll find it all over the island.
While Haitian culture might be distilled down into the Kreyol phrase pa gen pwoblem - translated as ‘have no problem’, there’s plenty of things Haitian culture does have in spades: beaches, carnivals, rara bands, public transport banter and, of course, rum!
Rum production goes back centuries in Haiti, and one of the oldest brands is also the biggest - you’ll see the “Barbancourt” brand wherever you go.
But how did this rum become such a fixture of Haitian culture?
Distilled in Haiti since 1862
Haiti’s most popular rum distillery started in 1862 when Frenchman Dupré Barbancourt set foot in Haiti. With a background of cognac production in southwestern France; the original Barbancourt moved to Haiti to capitalise on the island’s famed sugar production.
That same year, once Barbancourt had learned the basics of making rum rather than cognac, he opened and launched his business. Incorporating his knowledge about cognac-making, Barbancourt double distilled his rum, increasing the alcohol content of the final product.
In the early days, a gallon of Barbancourt rum retailed for thirty cents!
After Barbancourt passed away, his wife Nathalie Gardère took the reigns. The business has remained in the family ever since, and is now into a fifth-generation.
Barbancourt Estate Reserve rum with artwork by a famed Haitian painter Félix Jean
Photo: Franck Fontain
A cultural icon
The company evolved to become the most well-known and celebrated rum in Haiti. By making appearances at all major cultural events - carnival, rara season, patron saint festivals - Barbancourt solidified its iconic presence in Haitian culture.
These days, Barbancourt prides itself on being a Haitian company, employing Haitians to make a product for Haitians. Since its founding, it has been one of the strongest supporters of the Haitian art and culture scene (look closely at the packaging of the Estate Reserve rum and you’ll find an artwork by a famed Haitian painter Félix Jean).
An article about rum in Haiti wouldn’t be complete if we neglected the importance of rum in Haitian folklore and Vodou. At most Vodou ceremonies, carnivals and patron saint festivals, rum is the party-starter, the unifier and unwinder that helps Haitians celebrate togetherness and identity.
Bartender making rum sour with Barbancourt Rum at Hotel Florita, Jacmel
Photo: Mikkel Ulriksen
Which Barbancourt should you try?
The youngest of Barbancourt’s offerings is a powerfully sweet yet strong white rum. Because of its purity and strength, it is very popular in mixed drinks, but also enjoyed on its own.
There is the four year old three star rum, which is more full-bodied and mellow. A step above is the eight year old five star rum, a non-negotiable staple in any and all bars of Haiti. Here, flavor notes are more perceptible, and force a pause to fully enjoy them.
Next is the fifteen year old estate reserve rum, often reserved as a digestive because of the complexity of the aromas from the scent to the finish.
Where to try it
Stop by your local supermarket or neighborhood shop – the supermarkets tend to have both bottle sizes (750mL and 175mL), while the neighborhood shops are more likely to stock only the smaller (175mL) bottle.
Over ice, dry with a squeeze of lemon, or with a cocktail mixer, Barbancourt is a must-try Haitian experience if you want to truly say you’ve been here!
Barbancourt rum distillery, Port-au-Prince
Photo: Franck Fontain
Visit Barbancourt distillery
Just a few kilometers north of Port-au-Prince airport, the Barbancourt distillery hosts tours every Friday from November through May. The tours last about two hours and are run in French or English. Visitors will be walked through the whole process from unloading sugar canes to bottling and ageing, and enjoy a degustation of all the rums up to the 15yo.
You can buy rum from the cellar door starting from USD $17 for the 8yo and USD $45 for the 15yo. Make sure you bring USD if you can - they distillery prefers USD over HTG. Whatever you do, we recommend you reserve your place in advance.
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