When I was in college, I used to drink a lot of Rhum Barbancourt. Back in those days, I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur of rum, let alone any spirit. At that time I was searching for the cheapest palatable hooch I could find, and Rhum Barbancourt was then priced just a few dollars above the bottom-shelf vodkas.
Other than its after effects on a not-yet-seasoned drinker, my memories of the Hatian rum have always been fond. I remember considering it a great value at the time, and feeling perpetually surprised by its low cost.
So it was with trepidation that I poured myself a glass of Rhum Barbancourt 3 Star earlier this week. Like movies I loved or authors I swore by in my college days, I was afraid to return to Barbancourt, lest I discover that it was much lower quality than what I remembered. The only way to find out was to give it a taste.
But first: a peek below the hood. Rhum Barbancourt is made in the French style, meaning that it is distilled from sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Afterward, it is aged in French oak casks: In the case of the 3 star, it gets a four-year nap.
Its nose is faintly grassy with touches of oak spice, bright citrus, a trace of smoke, and something like a floral, vanilla-scented potpourri. It’s light in body yet round and welcoming on the tongue, and begins with bright tropical fruit followed by citrus peels and orange blossoms. Mild oak spice pops up at the back, and is joined by brown sugar and vanilla as the spirit turns from slightly sweet and floral to dry with measured spice.
The lingering spice that marks its finish provides a small reward to those who prefer sipping their rum neat, but won’t turn off those more used to mixing, either. Once the spice has faded on its own time, a final wisp of vanilla emerges to cap off the experience.
When used in a Daiquiri, its floral and fruit notes really shine, and there’s also a detectable vanilla flavor. It’s a lighter, lusher Daiquiri to be sure, one that’s likely to prove refreshing on the hottest days and please any taker.
So unlike “The Boondock Saints” or edgy postmodern literature, Rhum Barbancourt is a college-era fixation I can fully enjoy in the present. And while it’s a few dollars more expensive than I remember it being in the first Obama term, it’s still a remarkably good value.
— 86% ABV