Haiti’s oldest distillery – actually, one of its oldest companies – happens to be Société du Rhum Barbancourt, makers of Rhum Barbancourt. Opened in 1862, the distillery is currently helmed by the fifth generation of the founding family. This rum is aged in limousin oak and made from sugar cane juice in the style of rhum agricole, unlike most other Caribbean rums which use the cheaper byproduct, molasses. Rhum Barbancourt’s portfolio includes an unaged white, 4-year-old, and 8-year-old, among others. But the oldest rum in their stable is this bottle, the 15-year-old Estate Reserve. Before the rest of the unwashed masses had their crack at it, this bottle was rumored to have been reserved just for the Barbancourt family.
On the nose, this rum shows a classic agricole profile, dry and punchy with ethanol and laced throughout with a vegetal, slightly rubbery note that becomes more sandalwood as things open in the glass. In turn, sweeter elements of candied pineapple, saltwater taffy, and homemade marshmallow emerge. Some old leather and dark caramel hint at its time in the barrel, but otherwise this one comes across as rather youthful and bright. On the palate, that brightness really shows with butterscotch, peach candies, and orange peel. The mid-palate sees a bit of dry oak tannins, which aren’t as dusty as I would expect from a rum with this much barrel aging. The finish is short and clean with more sandalwood and a bit of clove. The extra barrel-aging seems to have added layers of sweetness and creaminess, especially on the palate, that make it almost like a traditional Caribbean rum, albeit a little drier. I can see why the Barbancourt family didn’t want to share this one.