Haiti. Most of you had never heard of it before the earthquake a couple of years ago. Following that disaster, the ravaged island was been plastered all over CNN and other major news networks. Celebs like Sean Penn and Kim “The Butt” Kardashian have seemingly taken over Haiti’s public relations – making the poorest country in the Westeren Hemisphere their latest “cause célèbre.” Mr. Ciccone-Wright-Penn is prolly still big pimpin’ in his outboard-motored aluminum skiff, pump-shotgun at the ready, while tossing out cases of rice and beans. Makes the heart warm, don’t it? K.K. on the other hand, seems perfectly content, simply parading her perfectly juicy ass around for additional photo ops and exploitation. They’re not the only ones
taking advantage of the poor trying to help a brother out; they’re just at the forefront of attention is all.
Those who did know a little somethin’ about Haiti prior to the Earthquake, at least knew that it was Columbus’ first stop in 1492 (then known as Hispaniola). Questioned further, most of those folks would rattle off mindlessly degrading and crazy myths like (a) “Oh yeah. Those dudes like to get their beastiality on with monkeys. That’s where A.I.D.S. came from” (b) “You’re Haitian? You practice Voodoo, right?” and (c) “Hades? Isn’t that where the devil kicks it?”
Well folks, time to get your edumacation on straight. People everywhere like sex with monkeys, not just Haitians – so don’t hate. Secondly, I’d practice me some Voodoo if the shit worked. There are some old frienemies I’d definitely like to torture from a distance with pindolls, if I only could. Sadly, it’s a giant hoax and misconception. Haiti was initially colonized by Europeans (Spanish, French, Dutch and English) then ravaged in every way ever since. The latest folks to rape the island have been (a) the United States [on/off military occupation of the last 80 years] (b) a dozen well-connected, U.S.-based manufacturing corporations, and (c) corrupt Haitian leaders and low-level Haitian thugs themselves . The result is that the island is overwhelmingly poor, uneducated, effectively lawless, and Catholic. The missionaries proved very convincing. Yes, there is a small minority that gets down with rain dances, fire-walking and devil worship. Lastly, It’s fucking H-A-I-T-I, not Hades or Haides - The Underworld. Didn’t you take world geography in 3rd grade like I did?
One bright spot of hope and prosperity on this otherwise fucked up island, is the story of a special little rum. This fermented sugar-juice was first distilled by a dude named Dupré Barbancourt in 1862. Dupré was a French bro from Cognac, France. He emigrated to Haiti. Why? I can only speculate that he was looking for fortune and fame like many others of the era. Personally, I would have kept my ass in the lovely French countryside rather than risk (1) disease, robbery, rape, and looting on some unknown land and (2) sinking on some termite-infested 1800′s wine crate they called a “ship” back then and relying on
technological wizardry drunk captains and seat-of-your-pants mechanical navigation.
For the last 60 years or so, Barbancourt’s operations have been based in the Plain of the Cul-de-Sac (South-East); a fertile, lowland portion of the country extending into the Dominican Republic. The company has been operated, nearly continually, by the same family. The rum’s flavor profile is exceptional, in my not so humble opinion. They still adhere to old standards and haven’t (yet) sold out by neglecting quality in the name of global domination. It makes all the difference in the world come a hot Summer day; when you desperately need a fruity/cold Mai Tai, Planters Punch, or a deceivingly simple Cuba Libre. Try the Barbancourt instead of your usual hooch.
Don’t get be wrong, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Jamaica and a handful of other Caribbean islands produce “good” sugar cane-based rums. The gamut of what you find marketed in America, however, is cheap, mass-produced colorless piss-water – white rums mostly. They’re cheap to produce.
The poster-child for rum globalization, mass-market selling out, and utter crap is Castillo rums of Puerto Rico. Coincidentally, Castillo is a Bacardi brand but usually sells for nearly half the price. Wholesale, it can be had for as low as $5 a fifth (standard 750ml bottle). Do yourself a huge favor (1) avoid any bar that carries this shit in their wells. It tells you tons about the owner’s commitment to his/her customers or (2) if you absolutely must patronize that establishment, order call or premium booze. It’s well worth a couple of more bucks.
When I mention “cheap” and “mainstream,” I’m talking about none other than Bacardi Light – the most popular rum on the planet. Even Bacardi “dark” is not all that dark or flavorful. If you ask me, I’ll take tasty, aged, molasses and old oak barrel-infused, small-batch rum over the rum equivalent of a Toyota Camry every single time. That doesn’t mean your rum has to cost an arm and a leg. Barbancourt (5-star), Goslings Black Seal, Appleton Estate, and Brugal Anejo are my favorite rums – in order. You can find them at the majority of distributors and neighborhood liquor stores. None of them cost more than than $30 retail.
I don’t know a single Haitian, or son/daughter of a Hatian, that doesn’t have at least one bottle of this stuff stashed away at their house somewhere – including me (that’s my bottle up above). Why more New York City bars don’t carry it, I’m not sure. It’s typically a big hit for the bars that do have it – likely due to novelty, obscurity or both; stuff hipsters kill for. Time for little variety, huh folks?