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Barbancourt 15 Year Old Estate Reserve

Review: Rhum Barbancourt 15 Year Old Estate Reserve   90.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 28, 2012

Rhum Barbancourt is distilled and produced by Societe du Rhum Barbancourt,  in Port Au Prince on the Isle of Haiti. The word “rhum” is the French spelling for our English word “rum”. However, the differences between Rhum and Rum are often much deeper than just a twist in spelling. This is because the traditions of making rhum in the French West Indies differs from the traditions of rum production in the rest of the Caribbean. The major difference in the production of Agricole Rum is that it is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice rather than fermented molasses. As well Rhum Agricole is usually single distilled to 70 per cent abv., and then brought to bottling proof after it is aged. At Rhum Barbancourt, things are done a little differently, as a second distillation brings their rhum to 90 % abv. after which it is reduced to about 50 % abv. before being aged in oak (in both large oak ‘vats’ and smaller barrels). The Rhum Barbancout Estate Reserve is bottled at 43 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4/5

The Rhum Barbancourt Estate Reserve bottle has me a little disappointed. The Haitian Rhum is presented in a tall brown bottle with a professional label and pressed on metal cap. I have railed against these pressed on metal caps for about three years now. They are flimsy, they strip easily and once they are opened by breaking the metal perforations they do not reseal the bottle well.

In the Glass 9/10

In the glass the rhum displays a sandy mahogany colour. The initial scents in the breezes are of butterscotch and sandalwood oak. As the glass breathes the aroma becomes more complex with some light baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon and cloves) and both citrus (orange peel) and dry fruit (dates, apricot and raisin) evolving. The aroma is sweeter and carries more butterscotch than a typical Rhum Agricole, probably due to differences in production between the Haitian style and the Martinique style which I am more familiar with.

In the Mouth 54.5/60

The flavours in the mouth are very similar to that which I noticed while nosing the glass, with butterscotch and toffee flavours accented by sandal wood and oak. As a 15-year-old spirit, I expected more oak in the flavour but perhaps the use of large wooden vats (as has been reported) to age a portion of this rhum has allowed less interaction with the oak and mellowed its effects. (I am not complaining as I personally like this mellowed effect.) As it was on the nose, as I let the rhum breathe I begin to taste more rich fruitiness (canned apricots and pears) and some nice baking spices building. Caramelized brown sugars, dashes of cloves and cinnamon, some marmalade and marzipan, and even a light smokiness of dark tobacco are all apparent in the taste profile. Although I would not describe the rum as being full-bodied, I would describe it as being full of flavour nuances which impresses me greatly.

In the Throat 14/15

The exit is full of those flavour nuances which I spoke of earlier. Candied fruit (in particular apricot), baking spices and peppery wood spices, and a lasting impression of butterscotch leave me well pleased. It is rather easy to refill my glass.

The Afterburn 9/10

I went to some lengths in my preamble to explain the differences between the Agricole Rhum style and the Spanish/English style of rum. Yet, the Rhum Barbancourt 15 Year Old Estate Reserve based upon flavour alone could easily be mistaken for rum rather than rhum. It is a little sweeter with more of a caramel/molasses flavour than what I have experienced in other Rhum Agricoles. I really like this Haitian style of Rhum, and my score reflects that appreciation. This Barbancourt 15 displays good balance with a more mellow style of oak which allows the flavour nuances within to shine.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

2 Responses to “Barbancourt 15 Year Old Estate Reserve”

  1. Harvey Levitt said

    I am not able to put in words why, but this is the best rum I have ever had the privilege of drinking. I don’t really care about bottle or how it looks in the glass, but I do value your last three parameters and particularly in the mouth. To me it was just pure bliss in the mouth. Sorry I can’t be more specific, but maybe someone else can.

    • My “In the Glass” parameter is not really about what it looks like, but more what it smells like. I thought about calling that section “In The Nose”, but I for obvious reasons I decided that “In the Glass” sounded better.

      I do agree that “In the Mouth” is the most important category. How good a spirit tastes is paramount in the review which is why it garners the lion’s share of the points.

      I also agree that the Barbancourt 15 year is a fabulous rhum.

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