Brand: Rhum Barbancourt
Origin: Société du Rhum Barbancourt, Port-au-Prince, Ouest, Haiti
Age: 8 years
Finish: French Limousin
Rhum Barbancourt is likely a familiar name to most rum drinkers; the Port-au-Prince, Haiti-based distillery has been pumping out quality, unadulterated rhum since 1862, and can be found on most store shelves.
Because we're talking about a rum produced in a French-speaking country, we'll be using the word "rhum" (the French spelling) instead of "rum" (the English spelling), even though in this case there is not a distinction between the two terms. Plus, it's kind of fun!
If you haven't looked closely at this brand, you may not think much of their nuanced style of rum, and perhaps may think they're just another large-format distillery pumping out molasses-based, light-bodied juice. But Rhum Barbancourt is more than meets the eye.
For one, similar to many other Francophone Caribbean countries, Barbancourt actually distills sugarcane juice-based rhum, not molasses. Unlike those other countries, this rhum is not funky, vegetal, or briney, like agricoles may be described as. Instead, their juice is much more similar to molasses-based rums, and carries some mild, yet enjoyable notes, as we'll see below.
Rhum Barbancourt also utilizes French aka Limousin oak, instead of ex-Bourbon American oak, for most of their cask aging. Limousin oak is often described as having "silky" and "spicy" effects on distillates that age in such barrels, which could range from rum, to varieties of wine, and cognac.
On to Rhum Barbancourt 8 year! This rhum was distilled at Barbancourt's Port-au-Prince distillery, and is a blend of component distillates that were aged at minimum for 8 years in French Limousin oak casks. After blending, the rhum is bottled on-site at a strength of 43% ABV, free of additives.
Gold, high clarity, medium viscosity
Fresh-cut sugarcane, red apple skin, butterscotch, hint of vinegar, ethanol
Honey, red apple, butterscotch, rye spices, vanilla, tobacco
Long, warming, balanced; spiced oak, vanilla, tobacco smoke
Rhum Barbancourt 8 year is also known as "5 Star", which is a reference to the grading system for brandies, and is fitting given my personal rating of this rhum. Barbancourt has rhums that excel in showcasing what sugarcane juice can accomplish outside the setting of a more vegetal/earthy agricole-style rhum (or Clairin), and this 8 year is an example of that. But that aspect does not quite counter some of the abrasiveness of the sipping experience.
In my glass, Barbancourt 8 is a gold color, with high clarity and medium viscosity.
The nose is quite light, offering just a hint of fresh-cut sugarcane, some red apple skin, and butterscotch. Further on, a touch of vinegar comes into play, before a heap of ethanol makese its presence felt. Definitely not a strong nose like other sugarcane juice rhums, unless you count the raw ethanol. It is worth mentioning that this has more notes one would traditionally find in molasses-based distillate.
The palate is similarly light, with some sweet honey and butterscotch notes leading the charge, which lends an almost syrupy texture when sipping. The French Oak imparts some rye spices and vanilla onto the flavor profile, while some slightly smokey and bitter tobacco comes through on the rear palate.
The finish is warming and balanced, leading with spiced oak and vanilla, before trailing off into tobacco smoke.
Barbancourt 8 just doesn't have enough character for me to rate this higher, unfortunately. It sits at a price point that is acceptable enough to use in cocktails, and while I have marked it as abrasive and unrefined in certain aspects, it's a rhum that I would choose to sip neat, even if that's not my first choice in preparation.