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12/06/2012

The Haitian Pride

If you travel in the plains between Leogane and Grand Goave, so in our areas of intervention, you will see plenty of fields with a kind of high green plant. These are sugarcanes, that are obviously used to make sugar, but that are also eaten by people. For one Haitian dollar (5 HTG, so 1/8 of US Dollar approximately) you can have your piece of hunger-killer.

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Nevertheless sugarcanes, including Leogane’s ones, are above all the main component of something much more important for Haitian: Rum. Rum is the true Haitian pride. Especially the most famous one: Barbancourt . Certainly one of the only things Haiti exports all around the world. If Japan is reputed for its whiskies, Haiti can be considered as one of the best rum producer worldwide. If you have the chance, once, to test Barbancourt rum, you could never think it is coming from one of the less developed place in the world, the America’s poorest country. Others rums exist, as in the whole Caribbean islands, such as the Bakara one, but they do not reach the level of quality of Barbancourt.  The basic Barbancourt is 4 years old (called 3 stars). There is also the 5 starts bottle (8 years) and the 8 stars (15 years, almost impossible to find in the country). All aged in oak barrels.

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Quite surprisingly, Barbancourt rum is one of the only things that has resisted to years of deliquescence of the Haitian economy. There are certainly many reasons. But consumption is not one of them. Indeed, very few Haitians drink Barbancourt, which is too much expensive. Most of them drink clerin, which is the first result of sugarcane’s pressure and can be drunk almost immediately. The 3 stars’ Barbancourt bottle of 75 cl of is not sold less than 300 HTG (more often around 375 HTG) while a gallon of clerin (around 4 liters) cost 325 HTG.

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Rum or clerin are of course firstly used to be drunk, as any alcohol in the world. They are sufficiently strong to be quite successful on this issue, whether you add something (such as prune or ginger). It’s not rare to meet people fully drunk, sun and heat supporting the rum to reach the goal of the drinker. A Haitian legend exists about one Japanese who would have been the victim of Haitian rum, but who knows if a legend is true or not?
Another rumour says that drunken people eat cats to recover. Yet experience in the country has shown that cats are not only eaten by alcoholic people, but this is another story.

Rum is also used in some religious celebrations or to fight diseases through mystic celebrations.
To have a sense of cultural adaptation, expatriates of course drink rum. Very often they arrange rum with several flavors. It is then called arranged rum. In Grand Goave, since 2010, regularly rum awards are organized. The last one occurred very recently and JEN team tried to worthily represent the organization with a very specific rum. Unfortunately we could not find anyone to present it as the name of the rum suggests. This is certainly the main reason why JEN did not win this recent competition. It could definitely not be for any other reason.

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We have to be better prepared for the next rum awards. JEN team cannot remain on a failure.

Are you ready to come to help us? Good rum is such a pride for Haitian people that we need to respect them.

December 6, 2012 in Haiti |