While passing through Panama’s very pleasant airport en route from Haiti to Guatemala I picked up a sample pack of Nicaragua’s Flor de Caña rum. While I had heard lots of good things about this rum I had never really tried it.
I have to be honest and say this rum did not exactly grab me. Mind you, I do not have anything very bad to say about it either. Flor de Caña make nice smooth rums. But while they are fine rums, to me they are not especially interesting.
Flor de Caña Extra Dry (4 year old rum at 40%): Light, dry, honeyish nose. Tasting reveals a pleasant, somewhat honeyish rum. There seems to be a faint hint of chocolate. Despite the honeyish profile this rum is not cloyingly sweet. I like this. There is a little burn, but I would consider it a smooth rum. Although the rum goes down quite nicely, I get an odd plastic note I do not much care for – this flavor seems to hang around in the background of both the nose and the taste. Overall, a smooth, unexciting mixing rum that is not offensive when taken straight, and that strikes an interesting balance between sweet and dry.
Flor de Caña Gold (4 year old rum at 40%): Similar honeyish nose to the Extra Dry. The palate is a little sweeter than the extra dry, the honey is stronger, and there seems to be a faint hint of caramel. Unfortunately I also get an unpleasant suggestion of something astringent, on top of the same plastic note I got from the Extra Dry. I like this less than the Extra Dry and would not want to drink it unmixed. However, it mixes smoothly enough with coke.
Flor de Caña Black Label (5 year old rum at 40%): The same honey nose as above, but more intense and now carrying light floral notes. The palate is significantly smoother and fuller than the two younger rums. There is a fairly deep honey flavor, along with a hint of sharpness, and a suggestion of some kind of blossom – maybe orange blossom. I still get a hint of the plastic I found in the two younger rums, but it is no longer distracting. This borders on being a sipper, and is undoubtedly a flavorsome mixing rum.
Flor de Caña Grand Reserve (7 year old rum at 40%): Rich honey nose with an underlying spiciness, perhaps wild honey rather than generic mass-produced honey. The palate is full-flavored honey, with a rich toffee undercurrent. These smooth sweet tastes share the stage with some spicy, woody and vanilla notes. While the rum itself is not especially syrupy, flavorwise it is all about sweet and simple tastes – basically there is not that much going on. Incidentally, the plastic note from the younger rums is gone. This rum strikes me as too boring to sip, but I can see it working for those who appreciate smoothness and subtlety. As a mixer this stuff is clearly quality. Save it for drinks that will show up its rich smoothness. Makes a sensational rum and coke for those times when you want something smooth, but go easy on the coke to avoid drowning this rather tasty rum.
Flor de Caña Centenario (12 year old rum at 40%): This rum was not part of my airport sample pack. I tried it a couple of times in a bar in Antigua. Unlike with the above rums I never did a side-by-side comparison. In any case, the Centenario did not strike me as a radical step up from the Grand Reserve. This is another rich, smooth, honeyish rum. Alongside the honey I got a little spice and woodiness, but there were not exactly layers upon layers of flavor to explore. I need to try this rum again. However, for now I will rate it similarly to the Grand Reserve – i.e. a sipper for people who appreciate subtlety and prefer a mainstream and inoffensive taste, and perhaps a high quality mixer for drinks that showcase the rum.
My conclusion? I would be pleased to find the Flor de Caña rums at hand, but I probably wouldn’t make a huge effort to seek them out. That is, I can see myself buying them from my local liquor store, but I can’t see myself hunting them out when traveling and stashing them in my luggage to carry home, ordering online, or doing anything too extreme to get hold of them. I do not find them interesting sipping rums, but they all make for a pleasant rum and coke of the smoother variety (i.e. rummy richness rather than rummy bite). As mixing rums, the longer aged offerings would work well in rum-heavy drinks that require smoothness and silkiness. I can see the Black Label or Grand Reserve making a great El Presidente. I tend to favor more assertive rums, but Flor de Caña should work nicely when something smooth, rich, and undemanding is required.