Haiti occupies the smaller Western part of the Island of Hispaniola (the island is shared with the Dominican Republic. Despite this Haiti is the most populated full-member state in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It is famous for exports of cotton clothing, coffee, mangoes and to a lesser degree r(h)um.
Barbancourt or 5 star as this particular rum is more popularly known has gained popularity (especially in the US) from its associations with hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean who as well as being a successful solo artist was also in the “ground breaking” (doing versions of other peoples songs seemingly) hip hop trio The Fugees. Anyway Ready or Not here we go with the review……..
Rhum Barbancourt is often noted as being an Agricole Rhum. Agricole Rhums are popular on French speaking islands within the Caribbean. As opposed to most molasses based rums they are produced by distilling sugar cane juice (or honey). Barbancourt is produced from sugar cane juice and is definitely a cane juice rum. It does differ in its production to, in particular Martinique agricoles in that it is produced using sugar cane juice and syrup. There is a very interesting article on the Barbancourt distillery here. I would advise reading it very interesting stuff.
My reluctance to try Barbancourt was influenced by dislike, so far of Agricole rhum and other cane juice/honey/syrup spirits such as Cachaca. I just do not enjoy the vegetal/grassy aroma and flavour. Agricoles are pretty expensive as well in comparison to molasses based rums.
The presentation of Barbancourt is either classic or dated depending on your viewpoint. I understand that they have recently updated to a more modern, clean white look with their labelling. I think it will be a while before the UK stocks run dry and we get the newer bottlings.
I’m quite happy with my bottle. I like the retro styling. The rum is actually slightly dumpier than your usual bar room bottle and the neck and cap are much wider. This gives an old school feel to the rum. The writing on the bottle is also, all in French with no translation. It’s all very nice and you could easily think you had a very old bottle in your hands…..if it wasn’t for the pink HMRC duty paid sticker. Never mind.
As a cane juice rum/Agricole I was expecting to get a lot of this when nosing the 5 star. The nose is surprisingly “molasses” like. No not in that it has that treacly molasses heavy smell like Myers’s or an aged Demerara but more in that the more vegetal and grassy notes are very subdued in the nose. The nose has a lot in common with a light Bajan rum. Nice citrus notes, a little lime, a hint of lemon moving onto a more fruity green grapes. In some ways it has a little of a cognac/wine type aroma. It also has aromas of both good oak and ageing and vanilla. The nose is as good as I have experienced and there is a distinct lack of alcohol “fumes” coming from the glass and transferring to the nose. It’s very noseable.
Moving onto the tasting at 43% it has that little extra oomph which seems to give classic rums such as RL Seale’s, MGXO and El Dorado 15 that little punch some others lack. I will state at this stage that Barbancourt does show 6g/L of added sugar. Not a huge amount by any standards but evidence that something is added post distillation.
Barbancourt is twice distilled and the second distillation is performed in Copper Pot Stills. (More detailed info at the link I provided earlier)
Onto the tasting. It is fair to say that I have not tasted a rum like Barbancourt. It is unlike almost any other r(h)um I have tried. I have tried more Agricoles than I have reviewed (and Cachacas) just never in volumes sufficient to merit a review. Whilst Barbancourt stylistically is arguably an agricole rhum it is probably more fairly described as a Cane Juice Rum. I drop the “h” in rhum because tastewise in particular it seems to have more in common with molasses based rums. Comparisons between this other than by sheer quality alone are very difficult. It’s best not pigeon holing Barbancourt.
Barbancourt is a very easy sipping rum. It is just the right side of smooth and is slightly dry. It still gives that rum kick I believe most proper rum drinkers enjoy (as opposed to liquor level smoothness). It’s sweetness is slightly reminiscent of a cognac or brandy. It has a nice oaky layer as well in the profile. The vanilla and citrus remains. The finish is long and despite the slight dryness the oak remains in the palatte and offers a lovely silky smooth exit. There is a spiciness throughout a little hint of ginger and white pepper.
This is not a rum which I would recommend mixing. If you cannot enjoy something as good as this without a mixer then I’m not quite sure what “sipping” experience you are looking for. This is a beautifully crafted rum which is wonderfully well balanced and dangerously easy to drink.
A bottle of Rhum Barbancourt 5 star will set you back just over £30 for a 70cl bottle at 43% ABV. This is an excellent rum and an absolute bargain at that price.
It’s a must try. Please do not delay because you don’t like Agricole. This is very different.