Drinking Haitian Rum is a delicious thing to do, in Haiti or in the United States. Visiting the Barbancourt Rum Castle however, is not only delicious, but is a memorable experience as well. Getting there is easy and takes less than an hour from Port-au-Prince. You take a camionette to Petionville and get off at the last stop at the turn-around circle. Turn left and walk through the market, the Kenscoff camionettes line up on the first street on the right and they leave when they have enough people. The Barbancourt stop is a dirt road a few minutes after the Baptist Mission.
Walking down the white sandy road in the sun is definitely a sensation to remember. Another is walking down the steps into the Barbancourt Castle because the lighting is sparse and you must pause to let your eyes get accustomed to so little light. The chandeliers are characteristic of the place, though, they are made out of 35 empty rum bottles. The clear bronze bottles are much a part of the decor inside, from lining the bar to lining the walls in cement blocks.
Pictures of the Barbancourt family and raving newspaper clips from around the world line the walls enclosed in gold frames. The main colors inside are red and black, with the clear bronze bottles never too far out of sight.
The main attraction at Barbancourt is free rum tasting, the decor is just an added plus. You may taste as many flavors as you wish, and there are many to choose from: regular, lemon, banana, mango, spices, papaya, nougat, anise, hibiscus, cocoa, mint, coffee, apricot, orange, coconut, special, and white special. If you are not a big fan of rum you can ask for "PITIT" and receive half the normal portion. Also, free ice-cold water is available if you ask. As you taste the many flavors of rum, you may sit inside on chairs made out of rum barrels or outside on the shaded balcony.
Trees and flowers line the balcony, which is also decorated with rum bottle designs in the concrete. The balcony overlooks the first machines used the rum factory, which were brought to the castle piece by piece forty years ago. Barbancourt sits high on a mountain, and from the balcony it is easy to see the contradictions of Haiti in the surrounding mountains. Children frequently line up at the bottom of the mountain to yell for spare change.
Off in the distance in the tree-lined mountains, an occasional house can be seen complete with satellite dish.
When you get ready to purchase your favorite flavor of rum, you can do so at the bar. The Barbancourt family proudly displays all the awards their rum has received above the bar.
The rum is world famous, having won contests in Haiti, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, USA, France, Italy, Portugal, and Holland. Currently the Barbancourt family exports rum only to the West Indies and US Virgin Islands. However, by the end of May the company hopes to have its rum available in the United States and Canada. By the end of the summer it hopes to export rum also to Italy, Germany, and Japan. Louis Barbancourt, a Frenchman, came to Haiti when it was colony of France. The Barbancourt family has made rum liqueurs since 1765.
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