While the Caribbean is synonymous with the most famous rum brands, other countries around the world distil or blend the spirit too. One of these is Nicaragua, where sugar cane was introduced in the late 1800s and became an important part of the economy.
Flor de Caña (Spanish for 'sugarcane flower') is a premium rum brand, produced and distributed since 1937 by Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua. The fifth-generation family business dates back to 1890, with the rum distilled at the San Antonio Sugar Mill in Chichigalpa at the base of the San Cristóbal volcano, the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua. The fertility of the land, the enriched water and the hot volcanic climate had convinced Alfredo Francisco Pellas, a young adventurer from Genoa, that this was the perfect environment for a rum distillery. It also proved to be instrumental in forging the rum's unique and smooth character which continues to this day.
The company was named IWSC Rum Producer of the Year 2017.
Flor de Caña is the world's first rum to be sustainably produced from field to bottle and is the only spirit in the world to be both Carbon Neutral and Fair Trade certified. Also, for over 15 years, it's been distilled using 100% renewable energy. It's naturally aged without artificial ingredients or sugar and is KOSHER certified.
Renewable energy is generated from biomass to power the distillery. They take the bagasse (leftover residue from the squeezed sugar cane) and burn it to produce steam, which in turn powers a turbine that generates electricity. This way, they reduce waste output and eliminate the need for fossil fuels.
The company has provided free schooling for children of all its employees since 1913 and free healthcare services for their families from 1958. With social responsibility and eco credentials core values, they have also planted 50,000 trees annually across Nicaragua since 2005.
Flor de Caña's 35,000 hectares of sugarcane produce more than 738,000 tons of sugar from one harvest each year. They also create their own yeast with bananas, pineapples and other ingredients. Fermentation takes 36 hours and they make 150,000 litres of base spirit a day.
The distillery in Chichigalpa was completely modernized in 1996. Flor de Caña uses 27-metre high column stills with 92 plates and distillation takes around 4½ hours. "We distil our rum up to five times for maximum purity", explains UK Brand Ambassador Mateo Ortiz Lima. "This give us a clean, smooth and elegant spirit that's very characteristic of a Latin American style of rum." All their rums are aged in ex-Bourbon barrels from a mix of suppliers. Once they finish filling them, they are sealed with plantain leaves.
Flor de Cañ's stunning location
Higher strength rums from the country are typically exported, while locally, the rum always has a lower ABV due to the weather and because it's consumed on a daily basis throughout the day. Mateo explains further. "In Nicaragua, many people mix rum with water or coconut water only, allowing the spirit to shine through the drink. This keeps them hydrated and drinking for longer periods of time, often with some type of traditional food, like local fruit, fish, BBQs etc. It's key to remember that this is a tropical climate with nearly a whole year of warm, humid days and high temperatures. Therefore, the lower ABV white rums, like Flor De Caña 4-year old Extra Lite, Ultra Lite and Ultra Coco, are the ones to go for during the day. Then you move into the 4 or 5 year-old gold rums (affordable for locals) or more expensive/premium older rums towards the evening, pre- and post-dinner."
Flor de Caña produces six categories of rum:-
Flor de Caña rum is exported to over 70 countries.
Colour: Reddish amber.
Aroma: Mild aromas of almond, honey, brown sugar, woody notes, baked apple and a touch of banana.
Palate: Delicate notes of toffee apple, nuts, vanilla honey, a hint of tropical fruit, light oak and a touch of ginger spice.
There are several signature serves recommended, including a selection of easy-to-make-at-home cocktails. The 12-year old works particularly well in a Rum Old Fashioned (1½ parts rum, 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters, 1 tbsp of sugar, a splash of premium mineral water), or with ginger ale (3 parts ginger ale to 1½ parts rum) and an orange twist.
I also particularly like this suggestion for a Basil Mojito, served in a Mason Jar Glass:-
1½ parts Flor de Caña 12 Year
½ part fresh lemon juice
¼ part passion fruit juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 basil sprig
2 parts sparkling water
8 ice cubes
Straight into the glass, introduce the basil, sugar, lemon and passion fruit
Gently mash with a mortar
Add the ice followed by Flor de Caña 12 Year
Fill with sparkling water
So, in the run-up to Christmas, if you're looking for an ethically-produced, warming spirit for the colder months, then check out Flor de Caña 12 Year Rum and enjoy a taste of Nicaraguan sunshine!