Rhum Barbancourt is a Haitian Rhum Agricole (distilled from fermented sugar cane juice rather than from molasses)that is regularly included at the top end of lists of the world's greatest rums.
Rhum Barbancourt is one of the most decorated rums in history as witnessed by a gallery of awards it has won.
The Barbancourt Tradition
Mr Dupre Barbancourt takes Nathalie Gardere as his wife, but the couple have no children. At her death, Nathalie Gardere leaves the company to her nephew, Paul Gardere, who will direct the company’s destiny until 1946. La maison Barbancourt incorporates itself as a limited simple partnership in 1932. Rhum Barbancourt’s distillery, located on Chemin des Dalles in Port au Prince, remains there until 1949. At Paul’s death, his son Jean Gardere takes up the baton, furthering the family’s tradition until 1990.
Entrepreneur and visionary, Jean Gardere was the instigator of Rhum Barbancourt’s modernisation. In 1949, he decides to relocate the distillery to the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac on l’Habitation Mouline, near Damien, where it is located to this day.
Work began in 1949, and in 1952 the plant began producing cane juice from the sugar cane grown on its own plantation on the Domaine Barbancourt. This decision propelled the company from small cottage industry to true industrial production.
Thierry Gardere takes over the company at his father’s death in 1990 and continues to direct it today. Societe du Rhum Barbancourt’s ever-growing distribution network is now solidly implanted in over 20 countries.
A short history of rum
Sugar cane (saccharum officinarum) was introduced to the Americas by Christopher Columbus during his second trip in 1493. Imported from the Canary Islands, it was first cultivated on Hispanolia Island. Rum's history begins somewhere around 1640. Cane spirits first made their first appearance on Barbados, an English possession at the time. To Father Labat (circa late 1600's), we owe the improvement of the distillation process with the use of the alembic. Rum quickly made its way to Britain to please its aristocracy and in Rum Punch Houses. At the time, the world production of sugar was split between the two colonial powers, France and England. The English flooded New England with rum, which had become a unit of currency with America's Native Peoples. This dark period of history sees the development of the large plantations and the trade in Black slaves.
The first official mention of the word "rum" appears on an Order issued by the Governor General of Jamaica dated July 8, 1661. Thought to be a panacea, rum becomes obligatory in the Royal British Navy (1655) where all, from the highest officer to the lowliest tar, received their daily ration of rum.
The consumption of rum increases sharply in the XVIIth century with colonial rivalry. At the end of the XVIIth century, the French begin using the word "rhum" (with an "h") to designate sugar cane spirits. The popularity of Rum had begun to worry the French distillers so Colbert sought to protect the production of alcohol in France, to the loss of its colonies.
On January 14, 1713, a royal decree prohibited the sale of molasses and its derivatives in France. Over the fifty years that the decree held, the black market in rum became a flourishing business.
The colony of Santo Domingo, until 1789, was very prosperous and provided France with two-thirds of its oversea revenues. In 1862 was founded La Maison Barbancourt. Two events give a helping hand to the rum market: in 1876, phylloxera ravages French wine producers and the worldwide overproduction of sugar, in 1884 and 1892, prompts the conversion of sugar transformation plants into distilleries.
Today, rum has become a spirit of life, infused with Island warmth and the carrier of dreams, a fine, noble product with incomparable flavors that has conquered the world in a market with an affinity towards aged rums with body and with white rum drinks.
Culture and crop
Over 600 hectares of sugar cane fields are dedicated to the production Rhum Barbancourt including about 20% on Domaine Barbancourt own plantations. More than 200 large and small growers from the Plaine du Cul de Sac contribute to the production of the sugar cane. In Haiti, where the rate of unemployment is estimated at 70%, cutting the cane is always done by hand. While its hard work, reaping by hand has the benefit of creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs. This places Barbancourt at the forefront of economic players in Haiti. The cane is reaped, depending on climatic condition, from November to June.
Extracting juice from the cane
Once cut down, its leaves and top removed, the sugar cane is cut into short logs and bundled for transport to the distillery. The cane must be crushed as soon as possible to avoid drying and the deterioration of the sugars. The cane is cut into small pieces prior to processing in the mill to facilitate juice extraction. The extraction process can now begin. The cane passes through 3 successive millings stages. Water, a small quantity to avoid over diluting the juice, is added to the mash after the first milling to ease subsequent extractions of juice. Twenty thousand tonnes of cane are milled every year. The residue, called bagasse, is recycled as a fuel for the mills. Steam recovered from the boilers is used to heat the stills.
Sugar cane juice obtained by crushing is called vesou. Mixed with a secret yeast formula prepared in Barbancourt's own laboratories, the vesou is placed into special vats for the fermentation stage. Maintained at the optimal temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, yeast initiates the process of transforming the sugars into alcohol. Approximately 72 hours are needed to obtain cane wine, called a moult, with 7% of alcohol, and the inheritor of the Rhum Barbancourt's rigorous specifications. The moult will quickly be sent for distillation.
While most rum producers are quite content with a single distillation, Barbancourt uses a double distillation method known as the Charentaise method, from the region of France where the Barbancourt family finds its origins. The Charentaise method is usually reserved for the very finest of cognacs. The first stage consists of separating the cane wine from the water through heating and evaporation in distillery columns. The spirits obtained at this stage are called clairin and test out at 70% by volume. The second distillation allows the producer to select the alcohols to retain only the noble and homogeneous spirits in keeping with the criteria of Barbancourt's 140-year-old tradition. The spirit obtained by the second distillation tests at 90% by volume.
The ageing process
The spirit from the second distillation is mixed with water to reduce its level of alcohol to 50% by volume. It is then stocked for ageing in barrels warehoused in special rooms called chais. Barbancourt uses only "limousin" oak for its barrels: its larger pores facilitate the exchange between the spirit and the oxygen in the surrounding air. The choice of wood is quite important in the ageing process because it contributes to the development of each rhum's unique characteristics. Rhum Barbancourt undergoes many tests throughout the long ageing process to ensure that quality matches tradition.
Technicians in Barbancourt's Haiti laboratories, assisted by cutting-edge technology equipment, watch over the quality of Rhum Barbancourt. Whether controlling the quality of the sugar cane, of sugar levels, of the level of alcohol, color, or taste, nothing is left to chance in maintaining the Barbancourt tradition. It is in these same labs that Barbancourt's yeast is grown in keeping with a secret traditional recipe.
Whether white or dark, the rum is filtered prior to bottling: this rids the rum of undesirable particles resulting from the ageing process as well as improving the purity of its color. Barbancourt improves on the conventional filtration technique by finishing with a cold filtration technique. The last technique is used for rum exported to non-tropical countries to avoid the climate change causing some deposits. Rid of its impurities, all that's left to do is to bottle it for the pleasure of connoisseurs.
Aged for years on the Domaine Barbancourt, brought along with care and love through its long maturation process, Rhum Barbancourt is ready for consumption. Barbancourt's bottling plant produces around two million 750 ml bottle, shipped locally as well as to the four corners of the world. A favourite of connoisseurs, the special Réserve du Domaine Barbancourt rum, aged 15 years, is produced in limited quantities.
Character and Style of Barbancourt
- Dried Fruit