The Rum Howler Blog

(A Website for Spirited Reviews)

  • Copyright

    Copyright is inherent when an original work is created. This means that the producer of original work is automatically granted copyright protection. This copyright protection not only exists in North America, but extends to other countries as well. Thus, all of the work produced on this blog is protected by copyright, including all of the pictures and all of the articles. These original works may not be copied or reused in any way whatsoever without the permission of the author, Chip Dykstra.
  • Cocktails and Recipes

    Click Image for Awesome Recipes

  • Industry Interviews


    Click the Image for Great Interviews with the Movers of Industry

  • The Rum Howler Interview (Good Food Revolution)

    Click on the Image to see my interview on Good Food Revolution

  • The Rum Howler Blog

  • Rum Reviews

  • Whisky Reviews

  • Gin Reviews

  • Tequila Reviews

  • Vodka Reviews

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,066 other subscribers
  • Subscribe

  • Visitors

    • 14,378,547 pageviews since inception
  • Archives

  • Follow The Rum Howler Blog on

Barbancourt Reserve Speciale 8 Year Old Rhum

Review: Barbancourt Reserve Speciale 8 Year Old Haitian Rhum   (83/100)
a review by Chp Dykstra (AkA Arctic Wolf)
Posted March 08, 2017

Rhum Barbancourt is distilled and produced by Societe du Rhum Barbancourt,  in Port Au Prince on the Isle of Haiti. The Haitian company (founded by Dupré Barbancourt ) began producing rhum on March 18, 1862, distilling their spirit directly from sugar cane juice rather than using molasses. After Dupré’s passing the company was manged by his nephew Paul Gardère. The Gardère family directed the business for four generations until the recent passing of Thierry Gardère (Wednesday, February  27  2017). At the time of this writing it is unclear who will be taking the reins of the company.

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).

Barbancourt Reserve Speciale Haitian Rhum or Barbancourt 5 Star as it is often referred to is an 8 Year Old spirit bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4/5

The Barbancourt 5 Star Rhum arrives in the medium tall with a professional label and pressed on metal cap. This style of bottle is easy to grip, easy to pour, and fits on any bartender’s shelf. However, as many of my regular readers know, I have railed against those pressed on metal caps for about many 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. An eight year old rhum perhaps deserves a better closure.


In the Glass 8.5/10

I was surprised as I poured the rhum into my glencairn glass. The spirit is the colour of pale straw, slightly brown and slightly yellow. It looks more like a young whisky, than an aged rum. The nose, however, is very much like rum, with mild brown sugar aromas mixed with butterscotch. When I tilted my glass and gave it a slow twirl, I noticed the rhum imparted only a very light sheen on the inside of the glass the crest of which releases skinny fast-moving legs.

As I let the glass sit, I notice smells of banana, orange peel, almond, vanilla and mild oak spices. The light butterscotch and brown sugar notes move into those light oak spices bringing yummy toffee forward and a few scattered baking spices. The almond notes I noticed initially are moving towards marzipan, and the orange peel is moving towards marmalade.

The breezes in the air above the glass are light and inviting and it is time to take a sip.

In the Mouth 50/60

The rum has a very light buttery mouth feel and this impression perhaps is tricking me into believing I can taste butter alongside the light brown sugar and butterscotch flavours within the rhum. The spirit carries some fine wood spices alongside light impressions of cinnamon and oak sap. A touch of orange peel is present as is a light banana-like flavor. A light winding almond flavour and soft vanilla complete the flavour profile.

I find the flavour pleasant, but it is perhaps not assertive enough to engage me as a sipping rhum. Fortunately the 8-year-old spirit mixes well with cola in Cuba Libre style cocktails (I love Cuba Libre’ mixed drinks) and with some experimentation I also found it quite acceptable for short cocktails (see recipe below).

In My Throat 12.5/15

The light bodied rhum has a short dry finish with perhaps a light musty quality which I overlooked in the other areas of the review. The fine oak spices also give the spirit a mild astringency through the exit. The dryness and the oak spice in the finish bode well for cocktails.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Barbancourt Reserve Speciale 8 Year Old Haitian Rhum is very pleasant indulgence. Sipping the rhum neat is enjoyable, but when mixed, it becomes outstanding, especially in Cuba Libre’ and short cocktails.

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


Suggested Cocktail

sam_3054Haitian Gentleman

1 3/4 oz Barbancourt Reserve Speciale
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur (Bols Triple Sec)
1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
2 dashes of Bitters (Fees Cocktail Bitters)
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Orange Peel Twist

Add the ingredients into a metal shaker with plenty of ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of Grapefruit

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

And if  you are interested in more recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for my mixed drink recipes!


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)


10 Responses to “Barbancourt Reserve Speciale 8 Year Old Rhum”

  1. mford said

    This is a great review. I’d only follow by saying you should use the Barbancourt 3-star for your Cuba Libres. It’s almost as good and cheaper. The best Barbancourt 5-star cocktail involves 2 shots + the juice of several key limes (hand-squeezed of course), some ice, and maybe a half teaspoon of sugar. That’s all you need on a hot day I say! Cheers.
    P.S. Get your hands on a bottle of the Bcourt 12 year (look for the most colorful box in your high-end spirits store). Then get back to me.

  2. mark said

    You must try Barbancourt White and the 15yr for posterity…in a mojito, the former’s spiciness is unique.

  3. Sendral said

    I have an equal number of bottles of RB 8 and RB 15 and was thinking of mixing them to see what happens. Any thoughts?

  4. Old Rick said

    Forty years ago the expats at the Grand Hotel
    Olaffson would order a drink they secretly
    (there was no other way) called a “Papa Doc.”

    Essentially a Cuba Libre, but with Barbancourt
    and Dr. Pepper. You may laugh, but try it; the
    sympathetic fruitiness in both make a fun

  5. Gramps Philip said

    Barbancourt 8 yr. is a very pleasant change from my
    usual dark and gold rums.
    The nose is missing, the palate/taste refreshing
    and the finish – lasting rum uniqueness. Very good
    as Fresca highball.

  6. Capn Jimbo said

    Hello again. I’m pleased you finally got around to one of the very finest rums in the world, and available here for a mere $19.

    Barbancourt is assuredly a cane juice rum that as Dave Broom put it “They don’t only produce rum; they make rum with a finesse that is almost unsurpassed in the world.”

    Barbancourt is rarely entered into the commercial competitions and really doesn’t need to. If you click on my name (above) you’ll find a number of reviews of this incredible cane juice rum at The Project.

    As far as mixed drinks go, Five Star is a bit too refined for them we’d say. The Three Star – much more reedy/caney – better represents the cane juice aspect which would be best represented in a Ti Punch.

    Which should be the mixed drink of choice.

    • Hi Capn

      This reply of yours ended up in my spam box, (probably a result of the link). I apologize if you had posted this much earlier but I rarely look in the Spam Folder.

      I admit I was suspicious of Rhum Barbancourt until I tried the 8 year. There is much conflicting information (or misinformation) regarding this spirit out in cyberspace. I am glad I tried it for myself, and made up my own mind.


  7. Aphelion said

    Very glad to read the same rum I had just picked up by reccomendation will not dissapoint! I was fearing I wasted my money (it always so easy to judge by the bottle/label and someone elses opinion). I’m particular thrilled that this is a sugar cane rum made in the French style, because I had read about the Rhum Agricoles of Martinique (through Savuer magizine), but have never wanted wanted to pay so much for something I had never tried. So thanks for the reassurance by a great review!

    I am surprised to see you have not ventured futher into Barbancourt’s older offerings, or into the world of Rhum Agricole. Since you seemed to like the Barbacourt so much, it must be calling your name.

    • Hi Aphelion

      I know the perils of purchasing a rum (or Rhum) when the contents are unknown. I believe you will find the Barbancourt 8 to be a worthwhile purchase. I suspect I will eventually wonder into the older offerings from this distillery, but there are so many rums…and so little time to enjoy them all!

      Welcome to my Blog! Your comments are always welcome.

%d bloggers like this: