How did Rhum Barbancourt Reserve Speciale—also called “5 Star” due to the five stars on the label—earn its extra stars? Like the brand’s flagship 3 Star rum, Reserve Speciale is distilled from sugarcane juice, but it spends a full eight years napping in French Limousin oak casks (compared to the 3 Star’s four years of aging), making it a more premium offering from the Haitian rum maker.
Its nose features tropical fruits like banana, guava, and mango, as well as a more interesting note that’s green and slightly savory, like cooked banana leaves and lemongrass. It’s very light to the point of thinness on the palate, and opens up with those tropical fruit notes, which turn more interesting at the middle with a hint of bitter vanilla extract and dry-sweet bubblegum—like a piece of white-dusted chewing gum that might have come with a comic strip.
There’s a flash of burnt, bitter caramel as the dry bubblegum sweetness creeps towards the back, and the palate grows increasingly woody. What’s interesting is that oak doesn’t show up in a spicy flash, but is rather a gradual crawl that increasingly dries out the palate without ever turning it hot. As it dries, those earlier tropical fruit flavors darken to ginger and apricot, until we’re left with oak notes. The oak never quite rids itself of that faintly sweet bubblegum flavor, even at the long, dry, and slightly spiced finish. As a result, I couldn’t get the visual of pink bubblegum stuck to a Limousin oak cask out of my head.
I enjoyed Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star as a neat sipper, which subverted my expectations thanks to its exceptional dryness. But that same dryness, coupled with its thin palate presence and lack of heat, might underwhelm those who are looking for a richer mouthfeel or more kick from their sipping rum. If 5 Star is anything, it’s subtle—which could be viewed as a drawback or an advantage, depending on your own preferences. But at the excellent price of $29.99, it should be hard to be disappointed.
— 43% ABV
— $29.99 Price