In 1857 a young wine and spirit merchant called Paul Bardinet began blending and ageing the “tafia” (as it was called at the time) or sugar-cane alcohol, which arrived in Limoges, France from the far flung islands of the Caribbean.
Legend goes that Bardinet worked on taming the firewater, which arrived on French shores with various blending and ageing techniques until he was producing something comparable to the Rhum Negrita which is now commonly available across mainland Europe. In particular France and Spain.
Negrita is a Spanish term of endearment to describe a black girl. It is not intended to be offensive. However, with slavery so intrinsically linked to rum production it does seem slightly out of step with current political thinking to have a “Negrita” so prominently a part of this rums marketing. I don’t personally find this particularly racist or offensive but I can understand why some may find it so.
Not only does Bardinet Rhum Negrita have a little back story going back to the 1800’s it also has historical interest for yours truly.
In September 2010 I visited Torrevieja in Spain. Bored with vodka and unable to get anything remotely Cider-like I decided to buy a bottle of Dark Rum. At this stage I must point out that the only Dark Rums I was consciously aware of were Lamb’s and Captain Morgan. I had dabbled on and off with Bacardi but had really tried little else.
The Rhum Negrita was around 4Euros for a 70cl bottle back then. The bottle I have up for review today was purchased for me by a work colleague (Craig Gabbatiss – I’m name checking him because I know he reads the site). It is a 20cl bottle, slightly smaller than my usual sample sizes but plenty enough to reminisce about this rum.
In all honesty, how good the Rhum Negrita actually was will have been lost on me back then. It was drank in rather copious amount mixed with some local Spanish cola brands and whilst 3 or 4 bottles were consumed that week, I didn’t have the skill or capacity to recall what it tasted like. I bought more so it must have been ok (or very cheap).
Rhum Negrita is an Agricole rhum, hence the spelling. This quite surprised me, as since first having it all those years ago I have not really enjoyed any Agricole Rhums. Closest I have come is Barbancourt which is slightly different to Agricole Rhum despite being produced from cane juice rather than molasses.
The presentation of Negrita hasn’t changed in the intervening years, it does look quite old fashioned. However it does have some nice touches like the coloured screw cap and a little coat of arms type etching on the bottle. Rhum Negrita is quite popular in Spanish and French supermarkets and is available in a variety of shapes and sizes. It doesn’t state outright it is an Agricole Rhum (it does have “Appelation D’Origine on the front label) so it may well straddle the line like Barbancourt does. Maybe a touch of molasses based distillate is lurking in the mix.
Looking at the Bardinet website it is noted that they produce both a Gold and Silver Rhum Negrita and a spiced variant. This is the gold version. The rum has won awards at IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition) Silver 2013 and Bronze in the International Spirits Challenge. Personally I don’t pay much attention to most awards.
When poured Rhum Negrita is nice golden brown colour. Without doubt Caramel has been added for colour. It is lighter than it appears in the bottle when poured in the glass. It has a very powerful nose. Slightly vegetal grassy like Agricole notes but also has quite a strong pot still like element to it. It’s got that Jamaican funk almost. It’s not a hugely pleasant nose to be honest and is quite off putting in many ways. It smells a little medicinal and is a little cloying almost syrupy. It’s kind of like a kind of almost sickly sweet rotting fruit like aroma. There is a lot going on in the nose but not a lot to recommend!
I guess I’m not really selling this rum. I think we best move onto the tasting.
As a sipper its pretty strange to drink. The vegetal agricole notes come to the fore, leaving behind the Jamaican funk. It’s actually quite strange bitter sweet rhum. It has notes of marmalade. Despite the relative rough nature of the rhum (I don’t know how aged it is but I suspect no more than 2 years) it has a fairly nice finish. It’s quite hot but not at all sharp it certainly exits a lot more smoothly than it enters. The finish is probably the best thing about this as a sipper. All in all its not something I think many people would savour on its own.
Which is just as well as even Bardinet market this a mixing cocktail style rum. They have various cocktail suggestions on the website. I’ll go for my baseline Cuba Libre cocktail and see how we get on with this.
Rhum Negrita certainly mixes better than it sips. The rough edges are still there with youthful grassy almost vegetal like flavours, almost savoury at times a little like green beans or peas. However, Rhum Negrita is a little puzzling as like Barbancourt it does have a kind of Molasses like note to it as well. It’s not thick and rich and treacly like the molasses heavy Myers’s or Gosling’s but it does definitely have an almost Jamaican dunder heavy feel to it. It certainly reminds me of a Monymusk or Hampden rum.
Rhum Negrita is actually really a bit of a bargain. It’s not classy and refined like many Agricoles or even as silky smooth as Barbancourt but it does have its merits as quite a rummy mixer. Despite being cheap supermarket rum it is a pretty decent rhum. Certainly a cut above Captain Morgan or Lamb’s. You feel you are drinking something authentic at least.
It’s not outstanding by any stretch of the imagination but it offers a slightly unrefined yet authentic rum experience. If you are in France or Spain it is definitely worth the few Euros it will cost you to try it. It won’t blow you away but you will find a competent and really pretty complex mixer.
It’s slightly better than average. Cheers Craig!