News / Americas

Haiti's Iconic Rum Maker Back in Production

Barbabcourt Rum
Barbabcourt Rum

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Jeff Swicord

One of Haiti's most well known exports and a symbol of national pride is back in business.  Barbancourt's rum was first distilled in Port-au-Prince in the 1860s by Dupre Barbancourt, a French cognac maker.  The company maintained production through Haiti's turmoil of the last century-and-a-half, but January's earthquake was devastating. The factory sustained extensive damage.  After several months of repairs, Haiti's prized rum is back in production.  

Thierry Gardere is the fourth generation owner and manager of the Rhum Barbancourt factory in Port-au-Prince.  Barbancourt is considered one of the finest rums in the world.  The company has survived dictators and hurricanes.  But, it was the earthquake last January that brought production to a halt.

The earthquake sent large fermenting vats and 100-gallon casks of rum, some aged 15 years, crashing to the floor.

"The top of them fell down," recalled Gardere.  "That is one that was outside that we are trying to recuperate, to repair also.  And now there are almost four so, things are coming back, slowly but things are coming back."

Rum spilled everywhere.

"The rum is alcohol, it killed the grass," he added.

Gardere estimates losses at close to $4 million, about a third of his yearly sales.  

"We have about 400 small farms; small farms who sell sugar cane," he noted.

Barbancourt rum is made solely from sugarcane, not molasses.  In 1862, Founder Dupre Barbancourt developed a recipe using a distillation process similar to cognac. He then aged his rum in fine oak casks from France.  

Gardere ordered new casks from Europe to replace those damaged by the earthquake.

"We are preparing them and testing them with water.  Then we are going to put them back on the shelf again and fill them with rum," he said.

Barbancourt produces more than 300,000 cases of rum a year.  About 20 percent is exported to the U.S.  

Gardere says it will take at least four years to recoup his losses, but he is quick to point out that Barbancourt lost more than just business in the earthquake.

"We lost two or more employees who died in their houses.  And a lot have lost families, sons, children or parents.  And I must say that 40 percent of our employees lost their house," he said.

The Barbancourt Foundation, which funds non-profit groups, has also suffered.  The foundation has worked in the Croix des Missions neighborhood that surrounds the factory.  

The foundation put in this basketball court and solar array for electricity.  And a well for water.  After the quake, neighbors took over the company soccer field.  Jean-Marc Clairemont oversees the sports facility. He called Gardere.

"The field belonged to the Barbancourt Foundation," said Clairemont.  "And after the quake, I was the one who went to him and told him that people were taking over the field.  He didn't do anything.  He called some friends to ask for help in finding them some tents."

There are now 2,000 people living here.  The foundation pays for 24-hour security.  Mauril Desir, who lost her home, is grateful.

"Mr. Gardere did a lot of good things for us.  He allowed us to stay here and provided security for us so that we can sleep in peace without worry," she said.

Gardere says it may take four years for production to get back to pre-earthquake levels.

"Some of them are very aged rum.  It will take time to be back with them.  Some are 15 years old and three years old," Gardere explained.

Barbancourt is small compared to large rum manufacturers like Bacardi, but the award-winning spirit has an international circle of loyal fans.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Jailed American Aims to Leave Cuba 'Dead or Alive'

In Havana after visiting Alan Gross, attorney Scott Gilbert say his client has lost some vision in his right eye, walks with a limp due to hip problems, has lost a tooth and is 50 kilograms lighter than at the time of his arrest
More

Oldest Living Pro Ballplayer Dead at 102

Conrado Marrero's grandson confirmed the death, which came just two days before the centenarian's 103rd birthday
More

Summit to Protect Oceans Opens

Oceans called fundamental to life
More

Actress Lupita Nyong'o is People's 'Most Beautiful' Woman

Oscar winner, 31, lauded for role in '12 Years A Slave' says she 'never dreamed' she would be praised for her looks and land on cover of weekly magazine
More

Violent Protests Erupt Near Rio's Tourist Attractions

The rioting was sparked after word spread that the body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a dancer on Brazil's Globo television network, had been discovered
More

Russia Expels Canadian Diplomat

Reports say first secretary's expulsion in Moscow is in retaliation for deportation of Russian military attache from Russian Embassy in Ottawa
More