Rhum Barbancourt – Haiti’s Best Known Export


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?

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4 thoughts on “Rhum Barbancourt – Haiti’s Best Known Export

  1. It’s hard to believe you are actually Haitian. Haitians don’t have sex with animals and there are no monkeys in Haiti. The current theory is that HIV travel from Africa to America via Haitian migrants who went to the Congo in the 60′s. But with the American penchant for going to Africa, amongst places, for sex tourism, HIV would have reached America one way or another. Voodoo is not any more devil worship than Hinduism or any other non-Abrahamic religion.
    Robbery, rape, and looting are relatively new to Haiti and are a consquence of the Haitian youth abandoning their culture in exchange for American ghetto culture just like they did in Florida. Haitians are not inherently violent and criminal people. Haiti in those days was known as one of the few places where a foreigner could travel from tip to tip with gold coins clicking in his pockets without being robbed while being offered free lodging and a meal by the poorest peasants. Before the onset of modern medicine, disease was rampant everywhere.

    Oh, and Kim’s but is fake.

    • It appears that you are impervious to humor. Although I am 100% Honky (that’s a humorous reference to my own race. Har, har), ALL of my husband’s family are either straight off the boat or first generation Haitian-American. I showed them this article and they found it amusing. In fact some of them had a good belly roar.

      One “Tante Marie” of the family practices voodoo passionately and even she thought this was funny.
      All of my family are acutely aware of the history and current events pertaining to Haiti. Some of them live there and are visiting. Not one of them was offended (except perhaps for “DiDi,” but he is super old and crabby).

      Also, you spelled ‘butt’ wrong.

  2. @John – thanks for the AIDS history lesson and the correction about primate prevalence in Haiti. I think the author was joking, just like a guy from NY could exaggerate about the number of wise-guys who really live there (everyone knows they all live in Jersey).

    As a fellow Haitian who didn’t grow up around Haitians, I recognize the author’s writing as tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek. He is using humor to illustrate the absurd POV SOME people have of Haiti and Haitians. “Funny, you don’t look/sound Haitian.” I’ve heard that a million times.

    @The Bartender – I’ve got a bottle of Pango, 5 star and Reserve du Domaine behind me right now!!

    Sorry, I’m typing with my feet in my mud hut, so please excuse any typos. I need to run and go beat some drums!

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