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Flor de Caña 12 vs Flor de Caña 12 Years Old - Rum Review

Flor de Caña is a rum brand by Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua. Their story starts in 1890, when Italian Alfredo Francisco Pellas Canessa, who had moved from Italy to Nicaragua in 1875, started a distillery at the base of the San Cristóbal volcano. The very wealthy Pellas family still owns the business, now in its 5th generation.


They are carbon neutral and Fair Trade certified and have been through massive struggles in their recent past, with many workers suffering from chronic kidney disease. Click here for the article that revealed this tragedy. Apparently, the company has done much to improve the situation for their workers since. I’m no expert on this matter, so I’ll leave it at that…..plus I don’t want to spend a lot of time writing about this company in general.


They distill fermented molasses in a 5 column still. Depending on the alcohol percentage they distill to, this could mean the rum straight off the still is nearly flavourless. The flavour is purely derived from barrels and/or additives in that case. This is very common for rums made in Central and South America. Flor de Caña has always communicated that they don’t add anything to their rums and I have never seen a hydrometer or lab test to the contrary.


The other day, I read the following in an interview with an FdC rep:” We only use three elements: alcohol of maximum purity, premium bourbon barrels and time.” This fascination with the purity of alcohol is something that I can’t really wrap my head around. It’s either something lost in translation, or a completely different way of looking at what rum should be and how to get to that result. Brugal reps about the same thing and so do many South American producers. It sounds like vodka marketing. “Our vodka is the purest in the world and no less than 5 times distilled, it truly has no flavour whatsoever!” What message is FdC trying to convey to the consumer? That it’s safe to consume? That by distilling it to such a degree they are left with a near flavourless liquid that has had all its “impurities” removed? Those impurities that provide flavour? To me it isn’t a statement of quality. Quite the opposite. It’s cheap and uninteresting. They basically put cane vodka in a barrel, wait for the wood to give it some flavour, blend it, colour it, bottle it and put a label on it with a misleading age statement. It’s a recipe for maximum profit that has been adopted by many producers. I could be (slightly) wrong though, as I read here and there about them producing heavy and light rums. Unfortunately, they are not generous in providing details about their production process online.


Whatever it is, I do believe they deserve some harshness. They’ve been misleading consumers for as long as I can remember with vague numbers on their labels and terms like “slow aged”, “aged naturally” and “centenario”. Let’s look at “slow aged”. I think I understand what they are trying to say with it. They don’t interfere with the ageing process, let nature run its course and take its time to get to the end result they are looking for. But let’s be the Devil’s advocate and look at it from a different perspective. Most distilleries that are located in a hot climate, like the Caribbean for example, tell us their rums age a lot faster than ones ageing in a cooler climate. They say it results in a more mature spirit in a shorter time. Nicaragua also has a hotter climate. But they are ageing it slow. For fun….and to get some clarity on this, I once asked an FdC rep to explain me what slow aged means. She said:”well, here you have a bottle that states 12 years on the label, and that other one is 18 years old…..that’s why it’s slow aged.” Right! Why didn’t I think of this?! She had no clue.



Let’s move on to the numbers on the labels. For years FdC has put a big number on all of their labels. A number without the word “years” or “años" attached to it. Which makes it a meaningless number. 12 what? Months? Weeks? Barrels? Donkeys? To better understand this, I’ve asked a few FdC reps for clarification. One of them said:”It’s an average age. They can’t keep up with the demand, they are running out of older rums and can’t guarantee an age statement.” If that is true, then why is there a number on the label? It’s a younger spirit, cheaper to produce and therefore doesn’t have the same value as the one with the true age statement. It should sell for a lower price, but it doesn’t. Obviously, that’s where the magic of the number comes in. These producers know many consumers trust that a large number on a rum label is an age statement. Retailers assume the same, or take advantage of the confusion. There are so many examples of this in the rum world, like Zacapa 23, Plantation 20th, Dictador 12 solera, Centenario 30, Kirk & Sweeney 18 etc. The number is purely there to create the illusion of quality and enable the producer to charge a high price for a cheaply made product.


I’ve seen another FdC rep on social media state the following about the age statement that’s not an age statement: “We blend it to a 12 year rum profile.” Excuse me? What was supposed to be an actual 12 year rum, is now blended with younger rums, but it’s still a 12 year profile? What is a 12 year profile? According to who’s palate? I’m imagining someone sitting in an office at Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua with 5 samples on the table in front of her. She tastes them all and then says:”number 3 tastes most like a 12 year old”. The blender starts smiling and responds:”That’s great. It has the most 3 year rum in it of all the samples! We are going to make a killing on this one”. They start yelling and jumping out of excitement . They pop a bottle of Flor de Caña 25 and polish it off with the company’s CFO. Seems extravagant, but they know the average age of that one is only 9 years, so it’s cheap.


Things might have gone slightly different than this. However, there is no doubt Flor de Caña have been misleading consumers for a long time with this nonsense.


Today it’s looking a little different, luckily. “Slow aged” has vanished and more importantly, they use proper age statements on their labels now. That must mean FdC have enough old rum in stock again, despite the spike in alcohol consumption during the pandemic. Strange. When I heard about this change, I immediately went to the store and bough a Flor de Caña 12. Once the new bottles came in, I also bought a Flor de Caña 12 years. Both of these are bottled at 40%. Let’s see if there is a difference.


Nosing


Rum 1

Nice. I’m getting oak, vanilla and a little tobacco. It’s creamy and easy going.


Rum 2

A bit lighter, but basically the same. If I hadn’t known these supposedly were 2 different rums, I would have thought they came from the same bottle.


Tasting


Rum 1

For 40% it has a bit of a burn. Might be a sign of youthfulness. Soft tasting profile though with some wood, vanilla, grandma’s cake and a little fruit way in the distance. It’s mostly woody water without much of a finish.


Rum 2

Similar, but it seems to have a bit more body. More oak spice than rum 1, some tobacco, vanilla. Again not much going on, but I like that it’s heavier.


Reveal


Rum 1 - Flor de Caña 12

Rum 2 - Flor de Caña 12 years old


Conclusion


I realize these tasting notes are rather minimal. However, there simply isn’t much to these rums. Very light and dull with no body or finish to have a conversation about and I’m not going to make up stuff to sound like one of them connoisseurs.


They are not unpleasant sippers and I bet you can make a decent rum and Coke with it. However, for something that’s been aged for 12 years, I’d expect a lot more body and depth of flavour. There are better, cheaper options out there. I’d take Appleton 12 and El Dorado 12 over this any day. If you’d like to stay within a similar style, try Santa Teresa 1796 or La Hechicera…..or be bold and get a Holmes Cay Belize.


I secretly wanted to like the fake 12 more than the real 12 year. This is why I tasted them semi blind. In the end, I preferred the one with the true age statement. Less burn, bit more body and character. This could indicate it really is a 12 year old rum…….or……well……who knows. One thing is for sure, these Flor de Cañas are showing once again that an age statement doesn’t mean much in many cases. Fact is that you pay for that number while there is no guarantee that on the palate it won’t be like having a cup of coffee that was made by shooting a single coffee bean into a mug of luke warm water.


Scores


Flor de Caña 12 – 52

Flor de Caña 12 years old – 60


Click here for info on the scoring method.

Click here for the complete list of reviews & scores.

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