PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The earthquake that shook Haiti to its core did not spare the country’s largest rum producer, Rhum Barbancourt— leaving the storied beverage in limited supply worldwide for an indefinite period.
“Everything is uncertain,” Alain Duret, Barbancourt’s human resources director, said. “Hopefully in a week or so we will have a better idea of the extent of the damages and how long it would take.”
Barbancourt, one of the world’s finest rums, is the pride of many Haitians. Its iconic yellow case is a staple purchase for Haitians, tourists, and other visitors to Haiti.
But it appears they the 7.0 magnitude quake and tremors that followed will make those cases scarce for some time. The quake caused extensive damage to the company’s 1,480-acre plant, located in the La Plaine area of Port-au-Prince. The knocked down the historic distillery’s entire wall, damaged equipment, and left other production materials partially broken.
Some barrels fermenting rum at the time were also destroyed.
The day before the quake struck Jan. 12, Barbancourt shipped a large container to its distributor in New York. But, Duret warned, production will not resume for at least one month, meaning the rum will not be available worldwide for a while.
Duret would not reveal’s Barbancourt production level prior to the earthquake, saying that information was confidential.
The company’s staff is also reeling from the human toll of the earthquake. Two employees died in the quake and about 20 percent of the 430-person staff also lost their homes, Duret said.
The sugarcane plantation that surrounds the distillery appears untouched by the quake. Sugarcane is the raw material for rum production.
Barbancourt, a 140-year-old company, is considered among one of the world’s finest rums. Its five star and “Reserve du Domaine” brand is as smooth as a brandy. About a year ago, Barbancourt began producing a white rum that some people say is a perfect mix for mojito.