Flor De Caña; Sustainably produced, no sugar, gluten free, no artificial ingredients, naturally aged, and the world’s first spirit to be carbon neutral and fair trade certified.
According to their website, Flor De Caña has planted 50,000 trees annually since 2005, distills with 100% renewable energy, and captures all of their CO2 from fermentation. They also provide school for the children of their staff as well as employee healthcare and are the largest donor to APROQUEN, an organisation that helps children who are burn victims as well as those with cleft lip/palate. They have also spent 15 years supporting the American Nicaraguan Foundation to help alleviate poverty in Nicaragua.
Just from taking a look at this wall of achievements, you may not expect a company with this kind of pedigree to also court controversy.
A few years ago, there was a publicized issue within the bar industry regarding the company’s treatment of its workers citing that many had chronic kidney disease (CKD) from not getting enough rest or hydration. More specifically, a study done on workers in the town surrounding the distillery found that, “from 2002 to 2012, the disease caused 46 percent of all male deaths and 75 percent of the deaths of men aged 35 to 55.”
This news led to a boycott of their products, a PR nightmare, and the company quickly tried to set things right. Since then, they have worked with different independent agencies to build their reputation back up and to try to atone for these issues. I want to mention that this issue is very complicated and it is certainly not easy to make a specific call on it, so I reserve any opinion or judgement. If you want to delve deeper, I highly recommend Cyril Hugnon’s nuanced and insightful essay overlooking the aftermath of the topic.
If we just look at the rum itself, it is a light, multi-column distilled spirit, the product of a 36 hour fermentation, bottled at 40% across the board, except for the focus of today’s article, which is bottled at 45%. As most countries now require an age statement to refer to the youngest spirit in the blend, the brand has since removed the word ‘años’ (years) from their numbered bottles and have replaced it with their unique term ‘slow-aged’ attached as a suffix to their numbers to attempt to avoid legal issues.
Ironically enough, a class action lawsuit against the brand was started very recently, specifically citing the highly ambiguous wording of age on the label of their ‘18 Slow-Aged’. Understandably, even retailers do not see the ambiguity of the branding and many will still often list the spirits as ‘years old’ despite the change.
All this meant I was very intrigued to see a new premium bottling, the V Generaciones, a single cask with 400 bottle output and a true age statement of 30 years. This one retailed at $1600 CAD where I am locally, but I’ve seen it for around $1200 USD south of the border, making it one of the highest retail value rums I’ve ever seen.
As I usually convert my savings into liquid form and let them sit on a shelf, this was not something I could really afford; however, I was in luck that a friend decided to buy one of the two bottles that came to our province and let me have an ounce at cost for this review.
I wasn’t sure of my biases, so I decided to do a semi-blind tasting, including their 12 and 25 bottlings and skipping the 18.
Flor De Cana 12 Slow Aged – review
Colour: pale gold.
On the nose: Aromas of green twiglings are coaxed out of the glass with much work; some coffee residue in the bottom of a mug, with a little vanilla and powdered ginger. A passing whiff of banana bread with walnuts. This one is also visually the lightest, so I suppose based off of sight and vision alone, this is probably the 12.
In the mouth: mild, inoffensive, light caramel and a hint of molasses, but more of that green twiggy wood, almost like a Canadian whisky-esque profile. Quite watery, but at least it has an even, lingering heat. I’m not personally a big fan of the flavour as it really is like sucking on a small twig. Having said that, I don’t think it’s a bad spirit, just one I’m wholly uninterested in
Flor De Cana 25 Slow Aged – review
This is available from Master of Malt for £124.95, or the Whisky Exchange request £122 of your hard-earned cash.
Colour: burnished gold.
On the nose: No aroma? Is my nose fried? Is that possible at this proof? I dive into one of my regulars. Nope, not my nose. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and assume my friend’s bottle that I sourced the sample from was open for a little while. I dig deeper, and do my best to uncover a slightly stronger coffee profile than before, maybe a few dregs of cold coffee, and some cocoa powder. There is a touch of leather and some vanilla as well.
In the mouth: I enjoy the taste of this one more, A little zippy on the front of the tongue, but we’ve left behind some twigs that were unfit for kindling and have exchanged them for a heap of wood destined for the fire, but I suppose a jump in an average of thirteen years will do that. There is an incredible amount of tannin for a spirit bottled at minimum proof. I would bet they definitely are putting some very old stuff into the blend. The lasting heat is more enjoyable, with some dark chocolate and a couple of fig newtons, dates, and a hefty bit of barrel char. Better, but I expect more from a spirit of this ‘age’ and price
Flor De Cana V Generaciones 30 Year Old – review
On the nose: Interesting. This one smells like a low proof Foursquare, like a Doorly’s or Real McCoy. Oh, but then a big hit of leather, very nice! Vanilla, buckwheat honey, toasted coconut, some hazelnuts, a few walnuts, and then, oddly enough, some plain, unsweetened Cheerios.
In the mouth: a sip reveals…a very big leap from the 25. Somehow we have a lot less tannin, perhaps those averages are not hard and fast. We get a bit more dried fruit and real, actual coffee beans; tobacco, some eartiness, more dark chocolate, nutmeg, vanilla, and a sharp, peppery finish. Oddly enough, going from 40% to 45% actually reveals an uncomfortable heat on the palate and it even seems almost unbalanced. However, a dip into something higher proof and then a return to this one seems to have dealt with that. Perhaps it’s like the feeling of a cold pool; trying to wade just a few inches deeper is worse than just jumping in.
So I’ll admit, this isn’t bad. It’s not the best in the world, but certainly a decent sip and is certainly different enough from the 25 that you would appreciate it. I would point out, however, that if you are very used to drinking spirits at no more than 40%, this jump to 45% may actually be uncomfortable and you may not like the perceived heat at all.
Having said that, this is still the most expensive rum at retail I’ve ever tasted in my life, but it falls disastrously short of other rums at even a third of its price in terms of uniqueness, depth, and complexity; if value is important to you, subtract at least two points from my final score.
I’m generally not a fan of this style of spirit, that is, those that are created to be very neutral and rely almost entirely on barrel aging to provide character; however, in my humble opinion, there are other rums in this style that will easily outperform it and at much more palatable prices.
I doubt anyone who would spend this much on a bottle would bother to read a review, but if anyone ever has a spare $1600, I will happily show you some of the best rum ever created, slow-aged or otherwise.
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