In Voudon it is understood that the lwa need to be fed. The lwa were once people, just like us, and their need for sustenance – though it has changed – has not left them. They all have a special morsel that they are particularly fond of and those who have a devotion to any given lwa will often be instructed, usually in dreams, to offer certain foods or drinks. Because of this, long lists of what foods suit what lwa can be instructive but only if the individual lwa’s needs are not overlooked in their favor. The spirits will speak up and anyone who works with them had best pay attention.
For the Ghede in general and the Barons and Maman Brigitte in particular, one specific offering is universally understood as welcome: Barbancourt rum.
Sometimes referred to as rhum agricole (although, technically, only rum from Martinique can be so designated), Barbancourt is made exclusively from sugarcane grown on Plaine du Cul-de-Sac in Haiti. The House of Barbancourt was founded in 1862 and the process for making this rum has not changed since that time. The cane is crushed and processed immediately after harvesting. The juice is stocked in vats, yeast is added and then the mixture is allowed to ferment. The result is a kind of sugarcane wine that is then distilled and aged in French oak casks. This is unique as most rums are aged in the same type of barrels as American bourbon.
The result is a dry, oaky taste similar to a full bodied Chardonnay or champagne. The Barbancourt bottle is usually adorned with stars, their number being a key to the years the rum has been aging in those divine oak barrels: three stars mean it has been aged four years, five stars mean eight years. The Reserve Domaine has been aged fifteen years and is very much the rum equivalent of Dom Perrignon champagne.
Other lwa who are particularly fond of rum in general and Barbancourt in particular are Papa Legba, the Lord of the Gate, Ogou, the warrior and Erzulie Danto, his warrior spouse.
Because it is delightful, and prohibitively expensive in a place where many families survive on a dollar or two a day, Barbancourt is a seductively generous gift to the lwa. Though difficult to get in more out of the way parts of the U.S. (like up here in Alaska) nothing is truly out of reach in our Internet age. Consider giving it a try yourself, and find out why the spirits are so fond of this hand crafted indulgence.
Header: Rhum Barbancourt modern label