Providence: the new adventure of haitian rum
Built in 2018, Distillerie de Port-au-Prince is one of the newest distilleries in the Caribbean. The project was born from a collaboration between the Barbancourt-Linge family, heirs of a strong and historic Haitian rum heritage, and La Maison & Velier, a joint venture between La Maison du Whisky in France and Velier in Italy. This association gave birth to a new rum brand: PROVIDENCE.
A unique family heritage
Louis Barbancourt left Bordeaux in 1765 to settle in Haiti, a French colony known at the time as Saint-Domingue, where he became the owner of a sugarcane plantation. In 1870, nearly a century later, his descendants founded a distillery and produced what was considered at the time to be some of the finest Agricole style rum in the world.
In the mid-20th century, Jane Barbancourt, the last to carry the original name, married Rudolf Linge, a German perfumer who had worked in Grasse during World War II. Together they launched their own brand, which is still run by their son.
The family’s dream had always been to distill again to revive the legacy of their ancestors. The opportunity of the partnership with La Maison & Velier was perfect to create Distillerie de Port-au-Prince, whose operations are managed daily by Herbert Barbancourt-Linge Jr.
What’s in a name?
Distillerie de Port-au-Prince is located on a site that was once called the Habitation Sarthe Providence. This area was at the time planted with sugar cane, which was processed by a nearby sugar mill, and it is believed that some small artisanal distilleries were already using the sugar cane from this area to make rum. When the idea came up to bring back the tradition of double distillation to Haiti, the name Providence, which also refers to a promising future destiny, seemed to fit the project perfectly.
Building the distillery
In 2012, the unexpected and groundbreaking revealing of Clairins – artisanal rums produced in the Haitian countryside – brought to light the incredible potential of the finest spirits produced in Haiti. The fields of organically grown sugar cane, the ancestral agriculture conducted without chemicals, and the authentic agrarian techniques found in Haiti have revealed a true rum-making heritage that had almost disappeared.
Since the mid-2010s, La Maison & Velier already had an aging cellar in Port-au-Prince where Clairins are being matured. The decision to locate the new distillery in this same space was a natural one.
In respect to Haiti’s threatened gingerbread architectural style recognized by the World Monuments Watch, the plans were drawn and executed by local architect William Kenel-Pierre. Detailed with fretted wood and intricate latticework, gingerbreads constitute a uniquely Haitian architectural heritage and an important example of a post-colonial building style, serving as emblems of Haiti’s rich past.
A copper still with a capacity of 1,500 liters adorns the building and was installed in January 2019, in the presence of the expert artisans who designed and built it: from Müller Pot Stills, based in Germany with their 80 years of experience, to the distillation unit which was designed and engineered with master distiller Gianni Capovilla, perfecting it for distilling sugarcane juice.
The first distillations took place in early 2019, paving the way for Providence rum, the very first spirit produced by Distillerie de Port-au-Prince. This first distillation marks only the beginning of the adventure: the production is set to grow and eventually offer a full range of white and aged rums.