Original Review 23 May 2011 on Liquorature
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 5, 7, 15 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.