It all started with one sample.
About a month prior to this moment I had spent a week with a couple from San Francisco,
like everyone I’d met from San Fran they were quirky and lovable.
By night three they had decided we all needed to do a rum tasting, so they arrived back from the super market with a small clear bottle of $2 rum & medium sized bottles of a golden seven year rum, a teak colored eight year rum & a deep chocolate colored fifteen year rum. It was hear I was to be introduced to the worlds premium sugar free rum, Flor de Cana.
It seems Nicaragua has a swath of hidden gems I was unaware of like active volcanoes you’re allowed to ride down and one of the worlds highest standard premium rums. As they say “when in Rome”, or in this case Nicaragua,
do as the Nicas, ride hard & enjoy the rum.
I’d planned to tour the facility at some point during my three weeks in Nicaragua & would happily keep sampling product leading up to the date. I thought I’d tried a respectable gamut of the selections available over the last month, until one night during our stay on a private tree house island we were having drinks on our host Davids handmade boat.
David came over with some locally made cigars and a bottle of 7 year Flor to have a quick after dinner drink, or five as it turned out to be. As per my previous experience the drinks were served neat with a side of good company.
David is the kind of guy who enjoys the finer things in life & he mentioned if we ever had the chance, to try the 25 year old rum. So I spent the next week looking for it in every store and restaurant only to find 18 year to be the oldest. I was thinking David may have been embellishing a little here.
Here’s what you’ll find at the rum factory.
The Flor de Cana factory is located on it’s own 42000 acres of sugar cane fields not to far from the city of Leon. You need advanced reservations to attend, and after security checked some paperwork and then me dropping the overloaded bike in the parking lot we would find our tour group. This plant was huge and we would take a sort of golf cart limo to tour the plant, it all seemed very Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
There are two available tours; one being the $10USD with a bunch of other tourists, one group of Spanish speakers and a group of English speakers, about fifteen in our group. The other available tour was $100USD, it was private and at the end you were given a bottle of 18year rum personalized with your name on it along with some other little perks along the way. Damn I wanted the personalized tour and the bottle; however on this Americas road trip $100USD equals a new rear tire in order to keep the trip going. $10 tour it is!
Our tour guide was charismatic and showed us around the place including some videos on the history of the family and other interesting facts. The plant is self sufficient using the sugar cane extract as fuel to power everything, thus making themselves a more efficient renewable resource & more profitable. They use the molasses of the sugar cane rather then the cane sugar, thus sugar free rum. It’s distilled five times, aged in one year old whiskey barrels from Jack Daniels that pump out twelve varieties for sale from a
4 year old to an 18 year old and it’s the most awarded rum in the world totaling over 150 awards.
Ahh ha I thought in my head, the oldest is an 18 year old! David you just sent me on a wild goose chase for your
mythical 25 year old non-existent rum.
What happens in the tasting room, stays in the tasting room.
We leave what once was the film room for the workers to the private family cellar that doubles as a tasting room, no photos allowed. You see a buffet of specialty barrels behind glass walls, it is the premium reserve selection of what is already premium rum. Not for the public and it’s not for sale. The room is hand crafted eloquently from old barrels for furniture and atop glass tables are over sized snifters filled with about four ounces of 18 year old for all of us to sample.
It’s here that our guide has us swirl rum around like red wine, then smell it to get a good nose, then look at the color for purity then just when you think it’s sample time he says pour some in your hands and act like your washing them.
He wants to prove its quality by pouring it in our hands? I’m thinking to myself shouldn’t we be pouring this into our mouths to be proving its quality??
It quickly evaporates leaving exactly zero residue, no sticky feeling and the smell left on my hands is that of smoked wood, not rum at all. Wow, I’m actually very impressed this is more like nice cologne with benefits then any run of the mill liquor.
Eventually the rum hits my lips and I’m kissed with a wet pallet of lightly woody notes and caramel with just a hint of bite and that warm rush of blood your body gets when enjoying it straight. The whole group seemed to be enjoyably happier after this
section of the tour.
Inside a warehouse of rum.
A few other stops and we land in the ageing warehouse, the doors are designed to look like massive rum bottles and for dramatic purposes a large skeleton key is needed to unlock the door by someone in our group. Upon entering a blanket of alcoholic mist washes over me, the room is literally oozing with rum fumes or the evaporation of rum from the barrels. There is no electricity here and no photography allowed as any small spark could ignite the entire facility.
Our guide goes on to explain about the evaporation and how roughly 4% is lost each year to what’s known as “The Angles' Share”. The barrels are stacked about five high and three wide on various pallets, labeling on the outside for all of their prudent information. All except one barrel that is lying on its side on its own pallet. It’s hear where the $90 difference is explained.
The one barrel on its side is accented with a long steel rod that has a small cup welded to the end, what is inside this amply located and lazy looking barrel??? It’s a barrel of unreleased twenty five year old rum; the one David had tried on the $100USD tour. The $10 tour gets only to smell it as though I am on a strict no-rum diet. I was a little impressed and a little devastated all at once.
To put this together I did a quick scan for some photos I could use & seems my good friend Flor de Cana is in the back and foreground of a lot of photos since we first met earlier this year.I even sprung her from my bike luggage last night so we could enjoy dinner together with the giant toads that
were also enjoying dinner around us. It seems a new friendship has been forged.
Click on the image if you can't see the bottle, there is an arrow to make it easier in a few.