The beauty of rum is that it’s one of the most versatile spirits on the planet and every country that makes it has a unique style. Haiti produces a specific type of rum called clairin, which is experiencing a growth in popularity as more bottles leave the island.
I recently tried my first clairin in the form of the awesome Boukman rhum, which taps into the rich history of Haiti and reflects the island’s strong heritage.
What I really love about this rhum is the rich story that has gone into making it. The name was inspired by Dutty Boukman, who led the Haitian Revolution in 1791. Boukman showed tremendous heart by casting off the chains of oppression and leading his people to a better future. This is captured by the script on the label, which reads “listen to the voice of freedom rising in our hearts.”
The brand was started in 2016 by Haiti native Josette Buffaret Thomas and Ireland born Adrian Keogh. Boukman was not only started to honour the island’s rich traditions, but to give rum aficionados an alternative to the more well-known Barbancourt.
Company account manager Garcelle Menos has said that Boukman’s mission is to “showcase Haiti as the lost world of rum. There’s a beauty and drinking culture there that has been left untouched and undiscovered for years.”
“The reason why we emphasise the mission is because it’s important for people to understand that Haiti doesn’t need a handout and we need people to live with dignity and income. We emphasise our partners because we don’t want to be the brand that just bottles Haitian rum. We are creating jobs and making sure they’re not living on two or three dollars a day, and are able to live sustainable lives and be secure.”
Boukman is produced from Haitian sugar cane and has important terroir from two locations. The first is the canefields of Croix des Bouquets in the south and the northern cane fields of Cap Haitien, where Dutty Boukman swore an oath of liberty and started the Haitian Revolution with rum.
The sugarcane is grown without fertiliser and cut by hand. Then, the cane is crushed in a steam engine, which runs on bagasse, providing a sustainable energy source. The fresh sugar cane juice is fermented for three days, distilled into clairin and then infused with barks, citrus peels and botanicals that are native to Haiti.
The ingredients are locally foraged and include boise bande, zou’devant, campeche, bois cochon, oak and bitter orange peel.
As soon as I removed the cork from the bottle, a pleasant spicy aroma filled the air. Hints of cinnamon and lemongrass.
A wave of spice washed through my mouth, carrying notes of orange peel, rosemary, coriander and cardamom. The herbal qualities were a welcome surprise and the sweeter notes of vanilla and caramel tempered the grassiness.
The finish is wonderfully dry and the woody notes really come alive at the back of the mouth. Boukman Rhum definitely makes it into my list of top ten rums for its complexity and smoothness. It’s the essence of Haiti distilled into a bottle.
Nose: Lemongrass, cinnamon, caramel
Mouthfeel: Orange peel, rosemary, coriander, cardamom, vanilla, caramel