First posted 25 April 2011 on Liquorature
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.
My opinions on unfiltered and sometimes unaged white rums went through some evolution, so much so that nearly seven years later, I was impressed enough and happy enough with the variety out there, to make a list of 21 Great Whites.