Jul 092013
 

D3S_7067

 

Butch mixed in with a bit of Ziggy Stardust.

(#173. 63/100)

***

Whisky fans will know all about Murray McDavid, which is part of Bruichladdich, those fine folks who make the many inconsistent (if always interesting) Renegade Rums. It’s actually possible that this rum was a precursor to the whole Renegade line, being made somewhat earlier (mid-2000s) and adhering as it does to many of the principles of those rums: casks sourced from the Caribbean,aged in Scotland and finished in a wine of some kind.

Nicaragua is of course the home of a very decent range of rums, the Flor de Caña line, which I reviewed some years ago (have I really been doing this since 2009?). That series is made by Compañia Licorera de Nicaragua, which was established in 1937 to produce and market the Flor. In 1996 they did a complete factory upgrade which allowed them to attain the coveted ISO 9002 certification, and nowadays they use a 3 column continuous still to produce both the Flor variations, and the bulk rum sold to bottlers and blenders in Europe. Evidently they have done this for a while, since MM bought the distillate back in 1995 prior to the upgrade, and mellowed them in casks selected by Jim McEwan hisself, finally finished in wine casks previously used for Quarts de Chaume Blanc.

D3S_7072

That finishing might have accounted for some of the androgynous flavours that presented themselves on the initial nose, because really, this rum had very few of what one might term “standard” rum notes of molasses and caramel or brown sugar – those were there, but they were extremely somnolent, almost reticent, as if afraid to come forward and take their accustomed position on the podium. Instead what I got was a rather light rum nose, musty, even dry-ish, more reminiscent of honey, ripe pears, cashews and pineapple, wound about with some smokiness and a vague and unsettling plastic bubble wrap fillip I can’t say I cared for.

The taste began with some heat deriving from the 46% bottling strength and then settled down into a rather less than aggressive series of flavours – orange peel, pineapple, fresh mangoes, honey, with a dash of salt. It’s a really subtle kind of rum with very little really positive, clear notes one could easily pick out. In fact, I’d have to say that it’s success rests more on the overall texture on the tongue than it does on taste, because there’s something a little bland about the whole experience, and which made my overall opinion much more middling than it might have been with a more striking, clear-cut profile (but then, that’s my preference in these matters). The MM10 departed the scene with a reasonably long goodbye, a little dry, and here again, while I could sense the underlying textural complexity, the final tastes were so vague as to be absent almost entirely, and on that basis I’d say the finish is the weakest part of the whole.

D3S_7064

Having made these observations on nose, taste and finish, where does that leave me standing with respect to a final summation? Much like the rum itself, I’m afraid…somewhere in the middle. Aspects of it I liked were the nose and the mouthfeel, and some of the tastes. Aspects I was less enthused by were the paucity and lightness of those same tastes and the lack of a decent finish (which, in a 46% rum, is somewhat of a surprise, really). As with the Berry Brothers & Rudd Fijian 8 year old I looked at not too long ago, I could sense quality moving murkily underneath the pieces that didn’t work for me, and I can relate most of them to that placid “I’m good enough” palate that didn’t really get the attention it should have, that would have raised the bar a bit.

The rum therefore doesn’t quite gel for me as a consequence. I guess they could have injected some oomph into it, made the taste somewhat more assertive. That might have not pleased people with sharper, more consequential and perceptive snoots than mine.  But in my review here, at least that would have bumped it up from promising without delivery, to flawed masterpiece.

 

 

A:8/10 N:16/25 T:16/25 F:14/25 I:9/15 TOT: 63/100

 

Other Notes

Bottle provided courtesy of Chip at the Rum Howler so I don’t know how much it costs

1500 bottles were issued in 2006

 

 

Rating system

  • 40-50 Hooch. Deficient in either nose, body, flavour or finish (or all of them), barely worth a mix.
  • 51-60 Decent for a cocktail but not much else. Not meant as a sipping spirit. May make a brilliant cocktail. In this case the rum is soft enough to be taken by itself, as it would probably be shredeed by any kind of single mixing agent.
  • 61-70 You might want to experiment with drinking this one neat. In this case, I think you could, but it’s marginal
  • 71-75 Good sipping rum with a few discordant notes that can still make a good cocktail. I’d prefer to sip it myself.
  • 76-80 Really excellent, top tier drink. May be unique in some way that goes against the prevailing opinion
  • 81-90 No additive or ice should ever touch such a superb offering.
  • 90+ Marriage material. Sell the Benz, ‘cause you’ll have to.

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by on July 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm
Apr 112013
 

D7K_1222

A very good double-aged Nicaraguan rum, from France.  If this is what a random selection of Plantation rums is like, then I have high hopes for all the others.

(#154. 71/100)

***

Finally, I have managed to start acquiring some of the Plantation rums (long regarded by me as a major hole in the reviews of rum “series”), and if the Law of Mediocrity holds true, then this is a set of bottlings that would remedy all my bitching about the inconsistencies of the Renegade line. If it is true that the characteristic of the parts is a function of the whole, then we’ll be in for a treat as we work our way through them.

The Plantation line of rums is made by Cognac Ferrand of France, based on stocks bought from around the Caribbean and Central and South America, and some of their uniqueness rests in the fact that they are finished in cognac casks prior to final bottling (so they can be regarded as double aged). This gives the rums in the line a certain heft and complexity that many comment on quite favourably, to say nothing of the line stepping away from 40% as a matter of habit – this one from Nicaragua was bottled at a pleasant 42%.

D7K_1227

The bottle itself conformed to the Plantation standard of presentational ethics: a straw-netting enclosed barroom bottle, with the label identifying the year the rum was laid down (2001 in this case), and a map of the source country. I guess they saved the really fancy presentation for stuff like the Barbados 20th Anniversary edition, which was nothing near to this kind of standard (it was better), yet I have no fault to find here, since aside from the lack of an age statement, it provided most of what I needed.

It’s been a while since I tasted the Flor de Cana series of rums (my stocks are long since drained and not renewed), but I remembered the solidity of those, the depth of flavour, whether simple or complex, and they remained among my favourites until supplanted by other Panamanian and Guyanese expressions. This rum brought back all my memories of why I liked Nicaraguan products so much

The nose was deep and rich, redolent of vanilla, oak (not excessive, very well balanced), caramel, citrus (orange peel, even lime zest) and peaches (minus the cream). There were herbal notes flitting around the initial delectable aromas, and I revelled in the lemon grass scents which reminded me somewhat of crushed lime leaves in spicy Thai cuisine. There was no offensive astringency or bite here, just solid, complex notes I spent an inordinate amount of time admiring.

The palate was lovely. 42% ABV sent a pleasantly heated, medium bodied spirit to announce its prescence with a smoothly powerful fanfare. Honey and caramel flavours led the charge, with subtler tastes of pineapple, a ripe-but-firm mango and vanilla rounding things out. The Nicaragua 2001 was not overly sweet, slightly dry without being either cloyingly sugary, or acerbically briny. The rum was all well-balanced flavour and profile, speaking well for more expensive and older rums up the chain of the Plantation line. And I had little fault to find with the finish, which was longish, slightly dry and gave me some oak and vanilla that was not exceptional, just well put together

 D7K_1228

What’s not to admire about a rum like this? Much like the Dictador 20 written about some weeks back, it displayed a solid mastery of rum-making fundamentals. It’s probably the finishing in cognac casks that gave it that extra note of complexity and balance I so enjoyed here. Perhaps I’m being overly romantic, but in part, I see the production of these limited edition bottlings by European makers as an act of homage for the traditions of the old rum makers and their lost arts. W.G. Sebald, whose works often concerned the loss of memory, once wrote about journeys made through the half-abandoned remainders of the past, through signs that men had once been here and are now forgotten. When you try the Nicaragua 2001, you see what rum can be, once was…and maybe what it will aspire to in years to come.

 

***

 Other notes

The Law of Mediocrity isn’t quite what it sounds like: it basically takes the position that if one takes a random sample from a set and that sample is good, then it suggests that others in the set will also be.

There is no literature I can find that says precisely how old the rum is. Of course, since it was casked in 2001, it has to be less than fifteen years old. One German site stated it was six years old, but I dunno…..

There is some confusion in the online literature as to whether this is pot still or column still distillate. However, the Cognac-Ferrand site notes it as coming from a columnar still.

A:6/10 N:21/25 T:18/25 F:16/25 I:10/15 TOT: 71/100

 

Rating system

  • 40-50 Hooch. Deficient in either nose, body, flavour or finish (or all of them), barely worth a mix.
  • 51-60 Decent for a cocktail but not much else. Not meant as a sipping spirit. May make a brilliant cocktail.
  • 61-70 You might want to experiment with drinking this one neat
  • 71-75 Good sipping rum with a few discordant notes that can still make a good cocktail
  • 76-80 Really excellent, top tier drink.
  • 81-90 No additive or ice should ever touch such a superb offering.
  • 90+ Marriage material. Sell the Benz, ‘cause you’ll have to.

 

 

 

 Posted by on April 11, 2013 at 5:04 pm
Mar 272013
 

A deep and relatively dark medium bodied rum that isn’t quite sure what it wants to be.  Decent mixing agent, a shade too uncouth to sip…springing for the seven year old sibling might be a better idea.

(#115. 52/100)

I must have squirrelled the Flor de Caña 5 year old so far behind all the other bottles of hooch in the casa that it simply drifted out of sight and memory. Not too difficult when you consider my house is packed with piles of books, DVDs, computer gear, cameras and photo equipment, children’s toys (and children), camping gear, extra stuff for visitors and furniture I’ve given up trying to persuade my wife to get rid of. We once couldn’t find my son in the basement for a full two hours after he fell asleep under some bedding materials. So no surprise I lost track of the blocky, round-shouldered bottle of Nicaraguan five until I was neatening the rum shelf last week. On the other hand, maybe I’m just sinking into geriatric decrepitude.

Too bad this dark 40% product of Central America wasn’t really worth waiting for and discovering to an accompanying choir of heavenly bliss. Maybe it was my bottle, but after cracking the cap, it did give off whiffs of too-sharp oakiness and a faint rubbery scent that I didn’t care for, and, unlike the Rum Nations where this settled into a rich, deep melange, here it just assaulted my nose with about as much forgiveness as a third world dictator. At best I can tell you it had a certain richness to it, and gradually as it settled down, caramel, molasses and dried raisins allowed themselves to be made known, with a whiff of citrus rounding things out.

If I had to comment briefly on the arrival, “chewy” – which I may never have understood properly before now – would be the best single adjective. No other word described it as well unless it was “heavy” – a word a lot of West Indians would snicker over, given its relationship to “t’ick” when describing buxom attributes of the distaff side. Red grapes, sharp oak and burnt sugar, some tangerine coiling behind it all (but not much). Oddly dry. Middling sweetness, leathery notes, all wrapped up into a rather raw package that scraped its way morosely across the palate. I cannot tell you that the overall balance worked for me – that it was cut above the four year old white is unquestionable, I just didn’t think it was ready yet…couple more years in the white oak barrel would make it both better and a seven year old (and I liked that one a lot). Not entirely coincidentally, that’s my son’s age too.

Finish is heated, medium long and dry with some faint cinnamon notes, not too bad for an entry level rum that is the first in several further steps of ageing. I think it was a little too hot for me to pretend it can be a sipping rum, and recommend it as a cocktail ingredient, while remarking that its overall depth would present an intriguing challenge for the bartender looking for flavours which it enhances. Something lighter, I would suspect. The rum itself is aged in white oak barrels that once held bourbon and here I should make a remark on the “slow aged” process…a bit of a meaningless term, really.  What is of merit is that the column-still distillate is aged without artificial flavourings or additives, and in traditional barrel houses built without air conditioning…that may account for the uniqueness of what can be termed the “Flor taste.”

I said this rum wasn’t worth discovering…perhaps that was being too harsh. I think it may just be too young (and not enough trouble was taken marrying the barrels’ output together) – the seven is for sure a better buy. Then again, it may be that I put together my tasting notes in conjunction with three other rums, two of which were simply better, and so I am being snooty. It’s a strange thick-legged sprite of a rumlet: diminutive, aggressive, determined, loud, eager, winsome, but—given its nose, stiff palate, dearth of a decent finish and an oddly discombobulated overall balance—also a trifle uncoordinated. It’s like Sheldon Cooper on a Starbucks bender, or Doc Emmett Brown having a real drink. On its own I’d use the Flor de Caña five year old Black Label as a mixer, sure, but on balance, I must simply say this rum, for all its familial cachet up the ladder, doesn’t quite have its poop in a group.

A:5/10 N:11/25 T:11/25 F:16/25 I:9/15 TOT: 52/100

 

 

 Posted by on March 27, 2013 at 8:10 pm
Mar 262013
 

Original Review 23 May 2011 on Liquorature

(#077. 58/100)

Outclassed by its older siblings as a sipper and given better dollar value by its younger ones for mixing, Flor de Caña 12yr old’s singular characteristic may be its quickness: the experience of having it is like sharing a bed with some youth (of either sex but over the age of consent) who doesn’t know the benefits of taking one’s time. This isn’t to say you won’t enjoy yourself, or that you’ll have a bad experience – just not a lingering one.

***

Clint of Liquorature very kindly  allowed me to pilfer his bottle of the Flor 12 in order to write about it, once the March 2011 session wound to a close.  We’ve looked at the 5715 and 18 yr old variations here already, and it was time to do one of the last of the aged versions before I seriously began tackling the younger ones.

Flor 12 shares the same brown coloured bottle as the 18 year old, short and blocky, as squat and heavy bottomed as a Bourda fishwife on a Saturday morning. A no-nonsense sort of bottle with the brand etched into the glass, very workmanlike.  Note the plastic cap – the seal it makes is tight fitting and yet easy to remove.

The legs of this medium bodied dark-brown rum were strong and slow, reminding me of the gams of an over-the-hill barkeep (of indeterminate gender, whose half-hearted clutches I evaded with nimble footwork of my own) in a riverside shack on the Puruni River where I had once worked.  However, though the dark brown colour of the rum  promised a rich scent, I was unmoved with the nose, which managed to be both soft and sharply assertive –over and above what one would expect – simultaneously.  I smelled burnt sugar, nuts, perhaps a hint of honey, but that was all.  It struck me as being somewhat of a blunt instrument instead of something subtler – it didn’t last at all, but flashed into and out of my nose so fast that whatever quieter or more elegant scents might have existed, were not noticed.

The taste was of burnt sugar and caramel, again nuts and honey (and perhaps baking spices like cinnamon), and some kind of tangy cheese.  For a rum containing such pleasant flavours, the lack of oiliness which would permit a more lasting taste profile, was a disappointment – the experience is just over too damned fast. Just as I was getting a handle on it, it disappeared. And for my money the oaky back end spoiled what could have been an excellent taste there.  The rum trended to a slightly heavier body approaching the el Dorados, and maybe that extra sugar or caramel ingredient was an attempt to mute the sharpness of the oak tannins which were still in evidence here, but with their own effects on overall balance and quality.

And as for the finish, well, it was a good one – smooth and clear, with a few bright notes of caramel and brown sugar coming through – yet over too quickly, gone too fast. I was left with relatively little taste and fumes to savour after a second or so. Made me want to have another shot, real quick, just to try it again and ensure I knew what I was actually experiencing.  And indeed, that’s exactly what I did.

Flor 12 is, like the El Dorado 12 or the El Dorado 15, something of a bridge.  In these variations we see the cheaper, lower-tier rums being left behind and the painstaking care that characterizes the older offerings of the makers coming into prominence, but without actually being complete yet. Flor de Caña 12 year old is an essay in the craft, a wannabe that aspires to the quality in the 18 yr old and the 21 Centenario (a 15 yr old), and both benefits and suffers from that fact.  Is it good?  Yes it is.  It won the 2010 Gold Medal and Best in Class Award at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, and has been praised up one hill and down the other (a good reason why you should just take this view here as an informed opinion of my own).

Those of adventurous spirit and love of fine rums won’t have much to quarrel over – except perhaps that peculiar quickness. Quickness of dissipation, of taste, of finish, and, for this writer, quickness of desire to get to the quality of its older brothers – which are promised here, but not (to me) entirely delivered.

A:8/10 N:12/25 T:12/25 F:18/25 I:8/15 TOT: 58/100

 

 

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 10:15 am
Mar 262013
 

First posted 25 April 2011 on Liquorature

(#075)

Astringent as a Brit’s sense of humour, shot and sharp and crushing as Mrs. Jagan’s put-downs in primary school when I was being a smartass, this is not a rum to have by itself; but in a mix of any kind, it rises to the occasion and emerges as one of those quiet and unsung stars that one’s bar simply should not be without. It’s that different, and that good at what it is.

***

Right out of the bottle, Flor de Caña’s white rum bats you with one malicious spirituous paw (is that a real word?). It has a nose and a taste that is so out of line with just about everything else Flor makes, and is so different from the rest of the lineup I’ve tasted, that I’m left wondering whether this isn’t the equivalent of the red haired child.

Even though I always had a soft spot for white rums, I never really paid them much mind…they always seemed to lack some of that yo-ho-ho cachet that gold or brown or black rums had, some of that air of disrepute and feloniousness. There was no cutlass in there, no screaming willies of a drunk bastard out to get you. You never got the impression that such rums, which have been filtered up to wazoo to remove any trace of colour, were, well…real. Like the underproofs, they always seemed more for cocktails, or for the mild and meek. I mean, if it wasn’t an overproof 150 or some such brawny white lightning, it obviously couldn’t be taken seriously. Right?

Flor de Caña out of Nicaragua makes ten rums, three of which are white, and all of these are four years old. I was presented with this bottle by the apple of my eye, my daughter, on my birthday, together with the appropriate insults regarding my advanced age, incipient case of the dodders, deleterious aspersions on my antecedents and my utter lack of taste (this passes for love between us – heaven forbid we actually share a compliment).

Let’s get to it, then.

Now, as noted, white rums are ferociously filtered and this usually gives them both a smoothness and a bland taste somewhat at odds with what we might expect a rum to both look like and taste like. In point of fact, there are times when you would be forgiven for thinking you’re tasting a vodka. So, partly because of this youth and filtration, I wouldn’t recommend the Flor 4 as a nosing rum, and indeed, I don’t believe this is what Flor wanted either (some more delicately long-schnozzed tasters may disagree). The Extra Dry pulled no punches, and after the spirit sting faded, there wasn’t much there beyond some fruit (which I couldn’t identify) a quick flirt of molasses that disappeared faster than a strumpet’s smile after business is over; and for me, that was it.  Others have noted a buttery and vanilla scent – me, I missed it, since I was busy trying to ignore the phenols and medicinals that also pervaded the rather sharp nose.

But it was dry.  Extremely so. In fact that driness allowed strong spiciness and burn to overwhelm what seemed, underneath, to be something quite intriguing and a shade more complex than I had expected. Consider: sure there was the healthy alcohol of a standard 40% rum; and yes, after some time, there was light vanilla and oak (lots of oak), and again, that bit of molasses.  It was just so faint, though.  The medium heavy body of the colourless white, even the slight sweetness (not much, but some) was bludgeoned into insensibility by the fists of the spirit: and that, oddly enough made it less a rum, to me, than a cognac or – as noted above – a vodka. And the fade was astringent, acerbic and not for the faint of heart. A good burn, a shade sharp again, and also somewhat raw.  Others may like it neat – I know some reviewers did – but I wasn’t one of them. So I’ll say it again: Flor de Caña 4 year old Extra Dry is not for sipping.

On balance, would I mix this? Hell yes. The tastes are delicate and so not much addition is needed, and a one to one mix with the old standby is probably just right. The filtration process did smoothen things out somewhat, and ageing is ageing, so it was not something as raw as, say, Coruba, or even an Old Sam’s.

Neither, I must say, was it unpleasant to drink with a little something added. It was simply different. If I wanted a competent base for cocktails of all kinds (and my wife makes some mean ones, as several intoxicated guests of ours over the years have discovered when they suddenly couldn’t find their knee joints), or a simple mixer for the standard stand-by the rum and coke, this non-sipper would not be my last choice. Red haired stepchild or not, blandness and phenols or sharp finish or not, it’s simply too well made, even for its youth, to ignore.

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 10:12 am
Mar 262013
 

First posted 18 January 2011 on Liquorature.

A better than average presentation, for a rum that supercedes its age 

(#062. 69/100).

***

The Flor de Caña 21 is a good example of ensuring you know what you’re buying before you fork out your hard earned pieces of eight.  I’m being redundant here (most other online reviews make mention of this), but I note the matter because all other Caña products have their age statement clearly and unambiguously front and centre: 4 yr old, 5 yr old, 7 yr old, 12 yr old, 18 yr old.  You can hardly avoid that: it’s on the front of the bottle and if you miss it, you aren’t paying attention in your hurry to peruse the price information.  But the veinte uno doesn’t habla in this manner. The 21 doesn’t refer to the age, but the century for which it was bottled, and it’s actually a fifteen year old, which is noted in small gold lettering on the back. And this may in fact be reflected in the price: I paid ~$70 for it, and one would expect a 21 year old to be closer to, if not exceeding, a hundred.

Presentation was first rate – while I would have preferred a box or a tin for something this aged, I could live with the blue bag and the matching opaque blue bottle, since I’m a sucker for originality (and recall, the brilliant 18 year old doesn’t even have the bag, let alone a box). The rum itself pours into the glass in a tawny amber colour; it presents slow fat legs, for which I’m beginning to run out of amusing metaphors to describe: let’s liken it on this occasion to a Bourda fishwife’s plump gams

The nose in this thing is, quite frankly, outstanding.  It’s deceptive as well, because it starts out as a caramel-molasses scent, very smooth and hardly stinging your schnozz at all…and then morphs into a clear, clean floral and herbal scent that is delicate and assertive at the same time (I know no other way to express this lovely nose – most dark rums are either medicinal or overwhelm with burnt sugar and molasses, but not this one).  In fact, I liked this so much that I spent an inordinate amount of time dipping my beak into it just to revel in its pleasures.

The body is medium (the bottle says full-bodied, but I’m not entirely convinced of that), just enough sweet mixed with just enough flavour and alcohol.  The profile on the tongue is something else again: rich, caramel and sugar undertones, bound together by molasses and – once more – that unique hint of clean flowers, just faint enough to draw attention and balance out the muskier sugars, yet not so much as to overwhelm.  The balance really is quite good. The 21 exits in a smooth and gentlemanly fashion, with barely a sting, and yet here’s a bit of a letdown: the finish is shorter than one might expect. An excellent nose and taste and coating on the tongue and throat, you understand: just short, as if the gentleman was visiting a house of ill repute, and now, having completed his business, wishes only to put on his hat and depart the premises with all due dispatch.

Flor de Caña (flower of the cane) rum is made in Nicaragua, and is one of the most consistently good dark rums I’ve ever had, at any age (I simply adored the 18 year old). The Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua was founded in 1937, though workers of the San Antonio sugar refinery had been distilling their own festive hooch for local celebrations for maybe half a century before that. The success of the distilling company led to expansion and to exporting rums to other countries in Central and South America by the late 1950s. Following on the heels of the trend established by DDL in 1992, they began to issue aged premium rums (though stocks were surely laid down before that…after all, when was the 18 year old I had in 2009 put into a barrel?). And since 2000, these rums have been recipients of numerous awards for excellence. No argument from me on that score.

It’s an overworked and abused cliche that 20% of Americans can’t find their own country on a map, but this is surely not an issue with anyone who knows his rums.  Within the subculture of us Cane Lovers, the great spirits of the small nations in the Caribbean and South America stand out as beacons of light and pride for their makers…and none of us who ever taste one of these great drinks is any doubt where Venezuela, Guatemala, Guyana or Nicaragua is.  We know the nations, we know the geography and we know the history.  We know of and care about, above all, the premium products of these small states, and what makes them special.  In increasingly disconnected, fragmented world, rums like the Flor de Caña 21 are almost like national symbols in and of themselves: they have the power to bring us together and educate us beyond their fleeting, ephemeral tastes.

A:9/10 N:20/25 T:17/25 F:11/25 I:12/15 TOT: 69/100

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 8:50 am
Mar 242013
 

Solid, even excellent, full-bodied, full-tasting mixing rum (some with stronger constitutions than mine may disagree).  I’d take it neat only with some caution, and would simply not advise it this way, though you are welcome to try.

(First posted 21 July 2010 on Liquorature. #030)

***

When you’re going on a deliberate bender, or attending a bash where you know the drinking will be copious, there’s about zero point to being pretentious  about it.  You dress like a peon, you bring some cheap stuff with you (or supply it), and you don’t waste a whole lot of time snooting, tooting, gargling, tasting and spitting. You’re there to have a good time, and having a professional demeanour regarding your booze is about as useful as taking Granny’s silverware to a backyard barbie.

This was the frame of mind in which I decided to take something simple to a gathering of the Old Farts last Saturday.  Normally referring to ourselves as the Great Scholarly Gathering (a hyperbole if there ever was one) we meet after work about once a quarter at the Unicorn Pub in downtown Calgary on a wing night, and quaff beer (rum in my case), discuss work and cast deleterious aspersions on the escutcheons of our former employers, long may their management bowels fester. The Bear, being a founding member of the esteemed society, decided to have it at his place last week, given that he had space and time; and never being one to pass up wings and ribs and booze, I enthusiastically accepted. And brought along this low end Flor, to see how it ranked up against their very excellent 18 year old.

Flor de Cana is a Nicaraguan rum (points to Doug McG for recommending its older sibling), produced by Compañia Licorera de Nicaragua, which was established in 1937 to produce and market the Flor.  In 1996 they did a complete factory upgrade which allowed them to attain the coveted ISO 9002 certifiction, and nowadays they use a 3 column still to produce both the Flor variations, and the bulk rum sold to bottlers and blenders in Europe. It’s of interest to note that while the political unrest of the ’80s and ’90s was going on, the conmpany maintained production, and hedged their bets by storing their rum production in oak casks (I assume in some safe location) – and now they have one of the best stores of aged rums anywhere, so look out for great rums to come in the years ahead.

Flor 7 is darkish gold brown with red tints, and medium bodied. It is not on par with the dark density of, say, the Kraken Black, or the almost oily opaque caramel of the El Dorado 21 year old, but it’s not light, and had anorexic legs that disappeared down the sides of the glass fast. Having had the 18 yr old, I expected something less sweet than the norm, perhaps some fruitiness to it.

The nose did not disappoint, once you got past the alcohol sting: slightly fruity, hints of caramel and toffee…yummy. The more you smell the thing in warm weather, the more you may find…I swear I smelled a bit of leather and oak in there (maybe that was the saddle some fool left draped over the Jack Daniels barrels this was matured in, back in the old pais).

Neat, the taste in the mouth is like a lesser version of the older rum: not quite as smooth or dense, and a bit rough, but not enough so to disappoint. The caramel, toffee and vanilla tastes are balanced by the lack of sweetness in a manner that is surprising, because normally I expect a bitchslap of bitterness when the sugar is toned down – but not here. No medicinal taste at all, just some sting and burn.  There’s a mild kind of spiciness, perhaps nutmeg or cinnamon (pepper?…naaah), that I liked. On ice this almost disappeared, but came back like the cavalry over a cola (in this case a pepsi might be better if you like your sweets up front). And the finish is crisp and sharp and sudden, with the burn there for sure, but in a way that reminds you this is a younger product of a more distinguished line and so is allowed a little more freedonm to be untamed.

Now you must not get the impression that I took a delicate sniff, a prissy little taste, swirled and swallowed and then came up with all of this at once. Truth to tell, I finished half the bottle over the course of many hours (Keenan had retrogressed to Heineken, polishing off maybe fifteen or sixteen in the same timeframe). The thing is, the rum kind of opened up as the evening wore on, and I tasted more in it as I drank it more of it and didn’t eat anything except my wife’s ferocious hot wings (aptly named “Satan’s Crotch” to warn the unwary and tender-tummied).  And since I was neither completely drunk nor completely sober – I passed my time in a sort of pleasant haze in between either of these precipitous extremes – I was able to remember most of what I detected in order to write this review.

Mind, I’m sure you can understand why I waited a few days to write the thing.  Any fool can drink for eight hours, but it takes some skill to write something coherent when in that condition. I’m not entirely ecstatic with this single digit rum, but I will concede that it put me into my haze without bang or burn or serious after-effects, tasted pleasant and was a good drink.  So my take is that for a low end mixer, this one isn’t half bad at all, and if I didn’t have another 1400+ rums to look at in the course of my life, this one would probably take up residence on my “bender shelf” quite often.

 Posted by on March 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm
Mar 232013
 

First posted 25 January 2010 on Liquorature. #007

***

Memory fails as to who introduced me to this Nicaraguan gem. I have a feeling it was Dougie from the office when he went down there. I was initially a bit doubtful, but since I was trying to scare up some good stuff for the first non-whiskey night of Liquorature, which thus far had been exclusively a Scottish binge, I felt it was necessary to pull out the stops: I had already bought the Appleton Master’s Blend and the Zaya, and this one’s price point fell somewhere in between.

The oldest of the Flor de Cana rums made from molasses, this sweeter than average dark brown rum is aged for eighteen years in used whiskey or bourbon barrels, yet somehow avoids that harsh bite so characteristic of rums aged in whiskey casks (like Renegade’s offerings). Because it is younger than the Appleton Master’s Blend, it isn’t quite as pretentious either, and so I deplored the similarity of the bottle with the 12 year version somewhat less. This is also the darkest of the rums we had that night, a rich clear brown with a slightly red tint; and, poured, it releases a nutty, smoky aroma, with hints of burnt sugar.

The taste in the mouth is superb (but note that my own predilections run slightly more to sweet than the average, so I won’t pretend this will work for others), sweet and spicy – those caramel notes really start to come out if you can hold it on the tongue – and a bit of oak flavour that begins to dominate after a bit. Actually, more than a bit. As you sip, the oak overpowers everything else and though the finish is smooth and fine, I felt that for an 18 year old, this was not quite the standard I expected. I think I’ll have to go back to this.

The issue for me is that the 12-year and even the 7-year Flors are fantastic for their ages, and the balance that I found tipping to the oak here, is better handled in these younger offerings. They are simply better on the texture and body, while their finish is a little less. Now I’ve been accused of taking one sip, passing judgement, and drowning the poor baby in coke at the first hint of distress (a holdover from my plebian past where a flattie and a bowl’ice plus pepsi was all I needed to go with the curry goat I had an hour before), but unfortunately here it was almost necessary. I’d take the 12-year neat, and the 7- with some coke, but the 18-year old, sadly enough, and good as it was, did not move me to treat it with the great degree of reverence I initially thought it deserved, and therefore I shrugged and bastardized the poor thing.

Again, I stress this is one of those I have to go back to, so my review may change; right now I’ll place it in the first tier, just not right up at the top. Second shelf, perhaps. I’m hoping it’ll move up.

 Posted by on March 23, 2013 at 7:33 am