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Stogie Spirits: Rhum Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale Five Star

12 Aug 2008

No self-respecting rum devotee would admit he’s never tried—or worse, never heard of—Rhum Barbancourt, one of the world’s most decorated brands. As the back of each bottle reads, this is “a true sipping rum of unsurpassed quality.”

Barbancourt has amassed an impressive array of 22 medals since the family business was established in Haiti in the 1860s, most recently a Santé Gold Star Award in 2006. Here’s a bit of history from the label’s website:

“In 1862, Dupre Barbancourt, a native of Charente in France, put the finishing touches to a recipe for rum that still bears his name today. Using his homeland’s double distillation method usually reserved for cognacs, he distils a unique product which will regularly be recognized and receive the highest international distinctions.”

That last line is a recurring theme you’ll find again and again when researching the company. Barbancourt repeatedly and proudly boasts that it is not made from molasses like industrial rums, but rather “pot-stilled from fresh sugar cane juice and aged in oak casks in a method similar to the finest cognacs.”

You can appreciate the cognac-like qualities when you pour the Réserve Spéciale Five Star selection into your glass, either neat or on the rocks of course. Aged eight years, the clean, bright golden rum bursts with orange peel, vanilla, and honey. I am told more refined palates can also find notes of green apple, ginger, and caramel.

I find the taste to have a sharp, biting spice followed by a smooth, warm flavor of syrup and hazelnut. The consensus among connoisseurs seems to be this rum is soft and silky with a complexity that ranges from apricot, barley, nougat, and nut.

So, as far as rums go, Barbancourt is pretty delicate. I tried a myriad of cigars with Réserve Spéciale—including a new Arganese ML3 Robusto (review forthcoming)—and predictably found that it pairs best with milder sticks. My recommendations include Ybor City Handmades, an Oliva Serie G Cameroon, a Montecristo Classic, an Isla de Cuba Classic, and a Cuban Crafters Cameroon.

Prices range from $22-35 per 750 ml. bottle (43% alcohol). No matter what you pay for Rhum Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale Five Star in that range, I think you’ll be pleased.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

4 Responses to “Stogie Spirits: Rhum Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale Five Star”

  1. Marc E Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 6:37 am #

    Great review. I'm from Haiti and grew up on this rhum…simply the best I've had even after trying many many brands from many countries. I was looking to find out which kind of cigar pairs best with this and once again you've guessed what I was needing and delivered 🙂

  2. furious Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 8:46 am #

    A delicious and light sipping rum indeed. My favorite rhum happens to be from the forbidden island though. Yet another product we aficionados are officially deprieved of by that archaic embargo.

  3. Aubrey Smith Friday, July 3, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Very helpful review! I agree that Rhum Barbancourt is very cognac-like. This review highlighted the 8 year-old Special Reserve; any recommendations and pairing suggestions with the 15 year-old Estate Reserve?

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