Archive for the ‘French/agricole’ Category

Rhum Barbancourt Distillery Visit

Saturday, October 25th, 2008


Barbancourt is an interesting distillery. Calling the House of Barbanourt eccentric would be a stretch, but it is definitely an anomaly in the rum world. Standing out as it does from the pack, Barbancourt attracts more than its share of controversy. While few deny that Barbancourt produces delicious and quality rums, some question the raw materials used.

The marketing blurb goes that Barbancourt distills exclusively from fermented fresh sugar cane juice, following the seasonal rhythms of the sugar cane harvest to produce a Haitian version of Martinique’s famous agricole rums. However, some say Barbancourt takes a less discriminating approach, feeding its fermenting vessels and stills with sugar syrup and molasses during the seasons when fresh sugar cane juice is unavailable, producing a delicious but odd hybrid that is quite unlike the rums of Martinique. Through visiting the distillery I hoped to learn about how Barbancourt is made, what makes it unique, and where it fits in comparison to other rums.


Barbancourt Rum, Jean Barbancourt Liqueurs, and Berling Rum: Sorting out a Haitian Confusion

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

In Haiti I was surprised to find all sorts of obscure products bearing the Barbancourt name.  Besides the well known Barbancourt rums there was a comprehensive range of Barbancourt liqueurs, and a rum called Berling, also produced by Barbancourt.  In fact, most of these ‘Barbancourt’ products have nothing to do with the internationally famous Rhum Barbancourt.  Haiti has two rum and spirits producers, both legitimately using the Barbancourt name.


Barbancourt Rum Tasting

Thursday, October 16th, 2008


Barbancourt in a coconut on the beach, an excellent reason to visit Haiti.

Strangely though, I only tried Barbancourt once before visiting Haiti*. I first tasted Barbancourt while in Cambodia, a trip on which I seem to have tried a lot of interesting products. For a small and poor country Cambodia has a surprisingly good selection of imported booze. This must say something about the type of foreigner Cambodia attracts. In any case, that Cambodian taste of Barbancourt made a big impression. I do not recall which of the Barbancourt products it was (probably the 5 Star), but it tasted unlike any other rum I had tried.

On my trip to Haiti I wanted to see what Barbancourt products were available there, which ones were popular, and how the locals drank their rum. I also wanted to visit the Barbancourt distillery and learn more about how Barbancourt rum is produced. I will write about the Barbancourt distillery later. For now lets just look at the rum.


What is Clairin from Haiti? And is it going to make a great drink?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

When the world thinks of Haitian rum it generally thinks of Barbancourt, an exceptional product compared by some with the finest cognac. Barbancourt is universally well received and can hold up its head in the finest of company. Few care to know Clairin, Haiti’s ‘other drink’, Barbancourt’s rustic and alcoholic cousin, a relative frequently found incoherent and exhibiting delirium tremens.

While traveling in Haiti I made an effort to get to know Clairin. It was no easy task. Requests for information were often met with nonsensical babbling, contradictory answers, and invitations to have a swig of something horrible. Only occasionally was I rewarded. At the end of it all I was left thinking Clairin is probably a waste of time. I would like to be proved wrong, but for now that is how I see it.


Santo Domingo Rum Flight: Zacapa Centenario 23 Anos, Karukera 1995, and J.M. Martin

Thursday, August 7th, 2008



I dropped by Sofitel in Santo Domingo a few days ago trying to track down Brugal Siglo de Oro. I did not find the Siglo de Oro, but I did see they were offering interesting rum flights. I went back last night for their “Rums of the Caribbean” flight, comprising Zacapa 23 Anos, Karukera 1995, and J.M. Martin. I have no idea why Ron Zacapa, a Guatemalan rum produced near the Pacific, is included in a Caribbean rum flight. Maybe someone in the Caribbean is feeling jealous?





Pineau des Charentes: an overlooked cocktail ingredient?

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Retrospective photograph of my bottle of pineau - it looked nicer full

It looked better full. . .

Pineau des Charentes is an interesting aperitif from France that I have only recently tried. It seems to be relatively unknown outside of France. Pineau des Charentes is generally drunk straight rather than being used used in cocktails. However, since I am interested in aperitif wines as cocktail ingredients I picked a bottle up to try it out. (more…)

Passion Fruit Cocktails III: Rum and Rhum

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Having tried passion fruit with pisco, my next experiment was to try it with rum. Ed Hamilton mentioned that one of his favorite drinks was rhum agricole, mixed with passion fruit, lime and a little cane syrup. So rhum agricole was my starting point. . .




The Affinity Cocktail #2

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

I found this one while searching online for cocktails using agricole rum. Apparently it was created by Philip Ward of the Pegu Club in NYC. The drink stood out to me because of the use of Chartreuse. Agicole rum has a soft, grassy flavor, not unlike the sugar cane juice it is distilled from. Chartreuse is a strong herbal liqueur but could also be described as grassy. Combining agricole rum and Chartreuse made sense to me on paper, and it works in the glass too. The use of dry vermouth introduces yet another layer of grassy, herbal flavors, and also tones the drink down and cuts the alcohol a little.


The recipe:

2 parts white agricole rum (I used St. James)

1 part Green Chartreuse

1 part French Vermouth (I used Martini Rossi)

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint if you happen to have one handy. Introducing a little mint scent via this garnish, or perhaps even by rubbing the rim of the glass with a mint leaf or two, could improve the taste a notch. I didn’t have any mint handy and the drink tasted pretty good without it.

This drink good should go down well with people who like Chartreuse. It is also a good one if you are looking for a complex tasting rum drink that does not require fruit juices. The aroma is mild, like sugar cane, but the taste is full of complexity from the herbals in the liqueur and vermouth. The sugar cane character of the rum, plus the large dose of sugar in the Chartreuse, help tame the strong herbal flavors and make the drink almost gentle.

I have no idea why it is called the Affinity Cocktail #2. The original Affinity Cocktail was a mixture of equal parts scotch, French vermouth, and Italian vermouth, with a touch of orange bitters, and does not seem to be a common drink. There is no obvious connection between the two that I can see.

The Heart of Darkness

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007


There is a club in Phnom Penh called the Heart of Darkness where I spent a couple of memorable evenings back in August. I drank Guinness and Tequila Slammers. The environment was a confused medley of Cambodian elites and their gun toting body guards (the doormen were very selective when searching customer for weapons), local foreign residents, higher class working girls (since the working girls apparently had to pay a fee to get in), and bemused looking tourists. It was lots of fun, but not really a sit-back-and-savor-your-drink type of environment. I have no idea if Heart of Darkness served Martinique rum. I discovered the dry and complex tasting Martinique rums at some other bars in Cambodia, most notably Riverside in Battambang, which gives huge pours of the excellent St. James Ambre for just US$1. (more…)

Trader Vic’s and my Mai Tai

Saturday, February 10th, 2007



Last night I dropped into Trader Vic’s recently opened Shanghai restaurant for a Shanghai Expat hosted cocktail party. The service at Trader Vics is five star, the Polynesian decor takes you a world away from the grime and grind of Shanghai, and the food and drinks are not half bad. However, you can’t help thinking the cocktails could be better. The drinks are by no means bad, but it is depressing to patronize the joint that invented the Mai Tai only to find the great drink a mere shadow of what it could be. (more…)