Case study: Rhum Barbancourt
Source: FT (excerpts)
By Andres Acipani
April 17, 2015
The day after the goudou-goudou, the name locals gave to the devastating earthquake on 12 January 2010, Thierry Gardere rushed to his distillery in the northern outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince. Bottles had crashed to the ground, some barrels of French limousin oak had cracked and there was rum across the floor.
"When I arrived I started to cry because of the alcohol vapours, well, and because of the tragedy," says Mr Gardere, the general director and fourth generation in his family to run Rhum Barbancourt. "I was in shock, it was terrible," he says referring to losses of some 40 per cent of his ageing stock.
Five years later this company, founded in 1862 by his great-great uncle Dupre Barbancourt, is back on its feet with a new branding and a $20m expansion plan. "I have an obligation to my employees, my family, my tradition," says Mr Gardere. "Barbancourt, as many here say, is a national patrimony. We couldn't just let that go."
Connoisseurs agree, as they enjoy his pure sugarcane rum - a favourite of the novelist Graham Greene in the past - in 30 countries around the world. "It would have been a shame, as Barbancourt is on my top-three list of the world's best rums," says a well-established competitor.
The brand is so ingrained within Haiti, where some 70 per cent of its sales take place, that the product is even sometimes used in voodoo ceremonies, a popular religion in the country.
Mr Gardere, who employs 400 people, says word-of-mouth has proved effective as Haitians, at home and abroad, are always keen to promote the rum. "They are very proud of the product," he says. "This is the only real Haitian international brand."
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