Flor de Caña 25-Year-Old Rum: The Volcanic Spirit Of Nicaragua
by Ken Gargett
Nicaragua. Home to . . .
Yes, I had to check as well (apologies to our Nicaraguan friends, but up until now rum and tarpon fishing about covers it for me).
Exports? A quick search revealed that knitted t-shirts and insulated cable rule the leading exports for this Central American nation. Coffee (and some is superb), tea, and various spices are pretty close, as are meat and gold.
Then fish – probably not tarpon, as much as that might sit atop my bucket list. Cigars do well, as does sugar, and then various dairy products. I’d love to hear from anyone with experience with Nicaraguan cheese.
Around about now in this list rum steps in, making up about two percent of the country’s exports. Flor de Caña is not the only rum producer from this country, but it dominates in a massive way, which makes that export figure all the more impressive.
Flor de Caña: from sugarcane to run
The Flor de Caña distillery is situated 120 kilometers outside of the capital of Managua, in the Chichigalpa district. This region helps to provide a slightly cooler, drier environment for aging the rums. The decision to situate the estate at the base of an active volcano may result in ideal conditions for growing sugarcane, but one does ponder the long-term viability of the distillery.
The estate began back in the 1880s as a sugar plantation, when it was purchased by the Pellas family from Genoa, Italy. It is still in family hands. The estate’s fields produce molasses with a much higher sucrose level than usual – the volcanic influence?
And if I may add to the fun, new, and fascinating facts about Nicaragua that we are learning today, burning the sugarcane bagasse in steam turbines (bagasse being what’s left over after the cane has the be-juice squeezed out of it – sorry, a pun I have used before and it really wasn’t that funny then) provides 25 percent of the country’s power during the season.
Flor de Caña’s rums are matured in white oak barrels that have previously been used by Jim Beam. Sales, worldwide, exceed one million cases a year.
Even though the family’s focus was sugar, it had always produced rum for personal use and for that of its workers. It was only in 1937 that the estate began making rum commercially.
It was going well until that favorite Central American pastime – “time for a revolution” – popped up. In the 1980s during the Contra War, the Sandinistas seized the distillery. In fairness to Central America, does any place famous for making rum not have a history of war and revolution?
Flor de Caña: recovering large quantities of (nicely aged) rum
Fortunately, the family eventually recovered its farm, the distillery, and most importantly large quantities of rum they had hidden before the usurping.
Meaning that these Flor de Caña rums now had an extra decade of age – a silver lining?
As a result, Flor de Caña has extensive stocks of some of the world’s oldest reserve rums. These ageing rums have no added sugar, additives, or artificial ingredients.
It makes a good range of rums, and for me these excel at every level. Even the basic 7 Year Gran Reserva makes a worthwhile sipper, while if you want a quality white rum for cocktails and blending, the 4 Year Extra-Seco is ideal.
But here at Quill & Pad, we go pointy end. With that in mind, I’d have no hesitation in sneaking the 12 Year Centenario in as our focused rum of the day, or especially the magnificent 18 Year Centenario with its floral notes, molasses, vanilla, and honey. It is complex, incredibly long, concentrated, and yet it dances on your tongue. I love it and at around AUD$130, it is a ridiculous bargain.
We are, however, going even pointier (if that is a word). Think of it as a surprise upgrade from an excellent business-class seat to first class for a long flight.
The slow-aged, single-estate 25 Year rum, which goes through distillation five times, is a truly special spirit. At AUD$400-$500 it is not being given away, but neither should it. This is a magical elixir.
And, yes, supply is most definitely limited. Australia’s entire allocation was a mere 59 bottles (well, technically 60, but I have taken one out of play). This sits with the very finest rums on the planet.
For me, a wonderful array of flavors: figs, caramel, candied orange, honey, and white chocolate. It is rich and yet offers an ethereal gossamer-like texture that is impeccably balanced. There is sweetness, but it is clean, gentle and certainly gives no hint of cloying. A complex, brilliant rum with great length.
If one had to score, 98.
For more information, please visit www.flordecana.com/en/product/25-years.
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Also published on Medium.