As massive efforts to rescue and restore Haiti continue, one of the Caribbean island nation’s largest employers, Societe du Rhum Barbancourt, makers of the award-winning Rhum Barbancourt family of rum brands, is looking at ways to quickly resume transporting its products through the now heavily damaged Port-au-Prince. At this reporting, one pier is now open in the port, but is largely reserved for rescue operations.
With an unemployment rate in Haiti of over 70 percent, the sooner the distillery can begin shipping again, the better.
Societe du Rhum Barbancourt, which is controlled by T. Gardere & Cie, exports its rum agricole products to more than 20 countries worldwide. According to Jim Nikola, senior vice president of Crillon Importers, Ltd., which handles the North American market, all of the 250 Rhum Barbancourt employees are safe and the distillery itself was spared.
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“Communications have been difficult, but we know that as of today, damage to the distillery was very light,” says Nikola. “However, everyone at Barbancourt lost their homes, lost everything, and they are doing all they can to support each other through these difficult times.
“Key management is now meeting to assess its operations and deal with the issue of how to transport their products in light of the massive damage to Haiti’s largest working port,” says Nikola. “I am optimistic that Rhum Barbancourt 4 Year, 8 Year, 15 Year, White, and Pango rums will resume shipment as soon as Haiti’s major port, Port-au-Prince, is more fully operational.”
While this is good news for Atlantans who love these popular Haitian rums, it’s even better news for the nearly 20,000 Haitian workers who are indirectly employed by Rhum Barbancourt, including those who sell additional sugar cane to the distillery or help package, transport and load the products on ships.
Haiti also is home to the award-winning Rhum Vieux Labbe line of rums and a family of cream liquors made by Berling SA, also known as Jane Barbancourt. The rum, made from a blend of sugar cane juices and molasses, comes in White, Gold, Red and Black, but is not yet widely distributed in the US. There is no word yet on how this distillery has fared or whether it is operational at this time. (For more on the history of these rum companies and how they came to have the same Barbancourt family name, visit the blog sites of spirits gurus Seamus Harris and Bob Davies.
On a more personal note, Crillon’s Nikola expresses the sorrow so many feel about Haiti, which was just on the verge of finally making economic progress, fueled in part by Rhum Barbancourt’s growth over the last 10 years. “Haiti is extremely proud of its rum exports and the award-winning reputation of its rums,” he says. “It’s a country proud of its history, its culture, its products, and rightfully so.”