Nicaragua. Home to..? Three things stand out: firstly, good coffee, which makes up nearly a fifth of all of their exports; secondly, tarpon – okay, that may be more what stands out for me, one of the world’s greatest sports fish and one on my bucket list to see; but also more importantly, Flor de Cana rum – this producer makes up 2% of the country’s exports (I doubt Bundy can claim anything like that).
Words by Drinks Writer, Ken Gargett
For anyone interested, and aren’t we all, Nicaragua’s other main exports are beef, gold, lobster and cheese. Seriously, cheese?
Well, if their cheese is as good as their rum, I’m keen to try it.
Flor de Cana’s distillery, which is Nicaragua’s only distillery, is situated 120 kilometres outside of the capital of Managua, providing a slightly cooler, drier environment for their rums to age in.
The estate had its genesis in the 1880s as a sugar plantation, purchased by the Pellas family from Genoa, who still own it. Their fields produce molasses with a much higher sucrose level than usual. And while we are learning all these new and fun facts, burning the sugarcane bagasse in steam turbines (bagasse being what’s left over after the cane has the be-juice squeezed out of it) provides 25% of the country’s power, during the season. Perhaps Mr Turnbull should be in discussions with Bundy.
Flor de Cana’s rums are matured in white oak barrels, previously used by Jim Beam. Sales, worldwide, exceed a million cases a year.
The family’s focus was sugar, but they had always produced rum for personal use and for their workers. It was only in 1937 that they began making rum commercially.
However, in the 1980s, the Sandinistas in the Contra War seized the distillery – does anywhere that makes rum not have a history of war and revolution? Thankfully, the family eventually got their farm, distillery and large quantities of rum back, which had been hidden before the usurping and now had an extra decade of age. As a result, today Flor de Cana has extensive stocks of some of the world’s oldest reserve rums.
FLOR DE CANA RUM EXTRA SECO 4 YEAR OLD
Okay, let’s be honest, I reckon 99.9% of white rum is purchased purely on price or because it is made by a producer you’re familiar with. There is nothing wrong with that as most of it will disappear into cocktails and mixed drinks, but this one is worth taking a longer look at. A white rum, aged for four years – making it the old lady of Ron Blanco – it has a touch more balance and smoothness. Sure, into the mix it goes, but the end result will be a drink that is just a little bit better.
FLOR DE CANA ANEJO ORO RUM 4 YEAR OLD
This rum is being phased out and replaced by a five year old, which should reflect its extra age in a slight lift in quality. But if this is in your spirits cupboard, what you have is a fine rum for mixing. Some pleasing honey and butterscotch notes.
FLOR DE CANA GRAN RESERVA RUM 7 YEAR OLD
This leaves rum lovers in a quandary and I’ve seen a number of ‘healthy discussions’ about it. Not about the quality or the value it offers, which is indisputable, but rather whether or not, it’s a top rum for cocktails or a thoroughly acceptable sipping rum? Opinions are divided, but I think that while you can use it as a high-quality blender if you wish, it is more than good enough to enjoy neat. Darker fruits, coffee and chocolate here.
FLOR DE CANA CENTENARIO RUM 12 YEAR OLD
This and the 18 Year Old are both beautifully packaged but, as ever, it comes down to what is in the bottle. We are in rarefied territory here. Nothing should join the rum in your glass, bar an ice cube or dash of water if you like that. Jail should await anyone splashing cola or anything of that ilk into this glorious spirit. It offers brilliant value when compared to the Cognacs or malts of similar class. A rich caramel nose; roast nuts, hints of treacle and teak; it has some delicious white chocolate on the finish, which is very long. A wonderful rum.
FLOR DE CANA CENTENARIO RUM 18 YEAR OLD
Here is your challenge. Find me a malt whisky, Cognac, gin, bourbon, any other spirit, at a similar price that can match this quality (not rum – there are others which just might). This, with a top cigar, is as close to heaven as any of us deserve! There is a floral note with the molasses, vanilla and honey. Complex, incredibly long, concentrated and yet dances on your tongue. Love it.