Plantation Nicaragua 1998 (42%, Old Reserve, 1H211209, Nicaragua)

Onwards! We will soldier on with yet another Plantation Old Reserve from a few years back. By now, I really hope for a drier expression within this range. Where the Trinidad expression turned out to be quite a low point in the series, so sweet and the true aroma’s of the Rum cloaked in cloying and sticky sweetness. The Panama expression seems to have somewhat found a way up again and seems to have coped better with the added sugar than the aforementioned Trinidad. Quite a feat for a Spanish style Ron, as opposed to a British style Rum, which should be heavier. I hope this Nicaragua expression can even eclipse the Panama expression, just for the fun of it, but I have my doubts by now. You never know. So, vamos again!

Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Hmmm, nice full on aromatics. Lots happening, with lots of fresh butter, vanilla, custard and pudding, but also the Cognac cask is recognizable again. Fresh air and after some breathing this becomes more floral. Hand soap and cold dish water adds to the complexity. Again, these notes may sound horrible, but in reality they aren’t. The Cognac adds a weak red fruity acidity to the nose as well this time. Sharper hints of wood, but also soft wood, and slightly funky wood notes are present (as in bad breath). More fresh butter. You might also want to call this a bit dusty. The nose doesn’t seem to promise a lot of sweetness, which is nice for a change. All aroma’s present, re-enforce each other. The base Ron was good and the second maturation works well. The nose doesn’t seem to be hurt much by the dosage. Maybe the dosage was done sparsely? Yeah right. Quite well balanced for a dosed Ron though. Let this breathe for a while and even some fresh air whiffs by. Smells familiar, Flor de Caña maybe?

Taste: Decent entry, quite soft actually. Not big and sweet, but thinner, sharper and warming. Cognac, coffee, hard coffee candy. Not as sweet as…but it still has plenty of sweet notes to work with. Nice bitter oak notes and even some slightly burned sugar. Both are very welcome in this range of Rums. This has more to it than many of the other Plantation expressions to date. Fairly long aftertaste, with toffee and this coffee-and-oak like bitter note. We are definitely on our way up again once more. Toffee, coffee candy and oak even remain for the aftertaste, how untypical for a Plantation bottling in this series. Towards the end of the body, and especially noticeable in the, slightly dull, aftertaste, is the dosage. Its present alright, only not to the extent of some other Plantation offerings I reviewed earlier. This Nicaraguan expression is not bad at all. Soft, fairly complex and not very outspoken, well behaved. A shame this received dosage, since I’m sure this might have done without it. It could have been much better without it. The dosage flattens the finish, making it of the sugar water kind. Such a shame.

Maybe in reality, compared to other Rums, this Plantation offering by itself maybe just so-so, but by now, scoring quite high for an “Old Reserve”. This, together with the Flor de Caña offerings, do strike an interest into more of these rums, lets see what else is made in Nicaragua. Must make a mental note…

Points: 80

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Flor de Caña Centenario 25 (40%, Nicaragua, 2013)

Sometimes I get lucky, and somebody steps forward and sends me samples of (potentially very good) Rums. Not from the industry, but from a fellow Rum-lover, just to read my opinion. Samples are welcome indeed, since I’m actually running a bit low on my stash of samples for reviewing, and there is only a certain amount of open bottles I can have around the house, and at the same time, maintaining a certain level of normality, or at least, faking normality towards the rest of the world. Well Rik, thank you very much indeed, so here is the first one!

Looking back at older posts, I already reviewed two expressions of Flor de Caña. The 12yo and the 18yo, so how fitting is it to get this 25 (yo). Both earlier reviews were written about Rums still in the old bottle. The labels back then mentioned the age of the Rum. 12 years and 18 years. Since 2014, the Flor de Caña range is bottled in new big, flat, and square bottles. However, this time they only have a number on them: “12” and “18”. The word “years” has vanished. On the company website, they mention that the 18 is almost two decades in the making. So still an 18yo? Do we smell a rat? We know about numbers without a true age statement from Solera Rum producers. No, they haven’t, haven’t they? No. Another surprise is the price. You can easily say that the 12 (yo) and the 18 (yo) are very reasonably priced. The 25 (yo) costs the same as two bottles of the 18 (yo) ánd a bottle of the 12 (yo). It was always said that Flor de Caña ages their Rums for the full amount of time, as mentioned on the bottle, although I remember a 21, that actually was 15 years old and the 21 referred to the century we live in. For now, lets give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

Or shouldn’t we? Early 2015 saw a report by Nina Lakhany, and near the end of 2015, a report by Clarissa Wei, showing that it is not healthy to work for the Nicaraguan Sugar and Rum industry. During the harvest season, the La Isla Foundation held a survey under workers from Chichigalpa showing workdays of 12 hours under extremely hot conditions, without proper hydration and time to recuperate. Workers are poor and are paid per tonne cut, so they work as much as they can to provide for their families under abysmal conditions. A study performed by the Boston University, following workers in Chichigalpa, shows that alarming numbers of planters and cutters are dying of Chronic Kidney Disease from nonTraditional causes (CKDnT). As a response, many bars started boycotting Flor de Caña products.

I urge you, dear reader, to click on the links above and read the corresponding articles, for you to see the dark side of Rum making.

Flor de Caña 25If you still are interested, here is the review of what turns out to be a very good Rum, alas made with blood…

Color: Full gold.

Nose: Yeah funky with a dry, spicy and woody backbone. Very chewy smelling and high on esters. Isn’t this Jamaican? Definitely well-integrated banana, coconut, vanilla and a whiff of lavas, dried salty vegetal mix and mint. Slightly burned (brown) sugar and fresh, slightly moist brown sugar. The sugar seems to be attached to the wood aroma. Nice. Love this smell. These brown sugar notes combined with the wood notes make it an absolute dream to smell. If this tastes anything like it smells, this will be an amazing Rum. Nutty and waxy. If smelled blind I would have never thought this was a Flor de Caña, especially with the experience of the old 12yo and 18yo behind my belt. Give it some time to breathe, and this will give off some fruity and floral notes as well. Wonderful. Well balanced and well made.

Taste: Sugary, but not overly sweet. A bit thin on entry, although the mouthfeel is syrupy. The way down takes some time and there are some wonderful burnt notes emerging. It has hints of burnt spicy wood, cask toast, maybe even some charcoal and tar. The spicy and peppery wood note stays with you throughout the whole of the body. Burnt sugar as well, but the amazing part is how toned down these notes are. Nothing overpowering, just well blended together. Not to sweet too. Nutty and again some hints of banana and sugared yellow fruits, but again so well-integrated, that the point this Rum tries to make isn’t about fruitiness. By the way, I don’t get the florality from the nose here. There are definitely some old Rums in the mix, but I doesn’t taste like everything is 25 years old. Medium long finish, but not a lot stays behind for the aftertaste. Sure, the nose is stellar, but the taste isn’t far behind. Marginally weaker and simpler, but still very good, even when reduced to 40% ABV.

I wasn’t blown away by the old 12yo mentioning that is was “not for me” and luckily, the old 18yo was already a bit better “Pretty light yet well-balanced”. More than a year and a half have passed since writing the review of the 18yo, and more than three and a half years since writing about the 12yo. A lot of Rum has flowed under the bridge since then and a lot of experience gained, I hope.

At this price-point, this should have been higher in ABV. I feel it is a direct competitor to the Abuelo Centuria, which is even a bit higher in price. Yes, the jump from the 18yo to this 25 is quite big, mind the gap, but compared to the competition, the price may not even be that bad. All things considered, this should have been way more expensive than it is… Don’t buy it…

Points: 90

Heartfelt thanks go out to Rik, for providing this and several other samples soon to be reviewed on these pages. Cheers mate!

Flor de Caña 18yo Centenario Gold (40%, Nicaragua)

A long time ago in Master Quills Rum Week, I already reviewed the Flor de Caña 12yo Centenario, and as far as Rums go I wasn’t too impressed by it then. Funny enough, another rum from that week, The Diplomático 12yo Reserva Exclusiva, really grew on me over time, and is one I like a lot better these days. Flor de Caña actually is said to be a Rum for Whisky drinkers, since it isn’t too sweet. So almost two years later, and a lot more experience with Rum, lets give another, even older, example of Flor de Caña a chance. By the way, the looks of this particular bottle have been revamped lately, so this is a review of an older bottling (Code: AE-020U10CG/X), so take it away Master…

Flor de Caña 18yoColor: Orange Copper

Nose: Sweet sugared oranges mixed with nice wooden notes. Caramel and toffee. Vanilla, like you have finished your ice-cream dessert and the rest of it dried out in the bowl. Not very complex. It’s about wood, toffee and a little bit of vanilla (and some citrus skin). Good balance though.

Taste: Much drier than expected, well maybe not from Flor de Caña. Wood. Oak and cedar. Vanilla again, and actually pretty light. Tree sap and the slightest of bitters. Very easily drinkable and in no way would I have thought this was 18yo. Most rums at this age have more wood.

No over the top sweetness, nice woody notes and good balance. Pretty light yet well-balanced. That’s Flor de Caña 18yo in a nutshell. Good sipping rum. I think I should have another go at the 12yo, to see how I would like it now.

Points: 81

Rum Week – Day 6: Flor de Caña 12yo Centenario (40%, Nicaragua)

Flor de Caña is made by Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua that is based in Managua. Their first distillery was built in 1890 in Chichigalpa that lies some 120km from Managua. Flor de Cana was only introduced in 1937. The Chichigalpa distillery was modernized three times in 1963, 1965 and 1996, and in 1973 a second distillery was built in Honduras. I’m not sure if distillate from this Honduran distillery finds its way into Flor de Caña.

Color: Orange copper.

Nose: Vegetal, leafy and spicy. Lemons combined with fresh air. Unripe strawberries. Dry and cardboardy. Old books, musty. Hot water with hints of wood. Average balance.

Taste: First cardboard, and decent sweetness, Dissolved sugar cubes in lukewarm water and brown sugar. Quite a lot of wood. Half-firm body. The taste is even less balanced than the nose was. The finish is rather light after the woody body.

This one is not for me, not my style of rum. It doesn’t bring a lot into the fold. Lots of wood and cardboard and a short finish. Do I want to say some more about this? Nope.

Well yes, actually. I come from Single Malt Scotches, so I will most definitively look at these rums with a specific baggage of knowledge that is very different from a rum-buff’s. This Flor de Cana Centenario and The Diplomatico I reviewed first are both multiple award-winning rums. They just don’t seem to match up with my palate. So keep this in mind, when reading these reviews.

Points: 74