Rum Review: Flor de Cana 18 Rum

With something like whiskey or bourbon, expensive and luxury spirits are a huge segment of the market with product lines geared specifically toward people willing to throw ridiculous amounts of money at a single bottle of alcohol. But that doesn’t seem to be as common with rum. Luxury rum brands are few and far between, with Flor de Cana being one of the few catering specifically to that market.


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History

Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua originally started as a Nicaraguan sugar plantation back in 1890, complete with a distillery nestled at the base of the San Cristobal volcano. They originally only sold the raw sugar, but in 1937 they decided to switch gears and start producing spirits made from their products as well. Their rum was first only available locally in Nicaragua, but expanded in 1959 to include other countries in the Americas.

The distillery was actually helped (in a way) by the Nicaraguan Revolution that lasted from 1978 to 1990, during which the political climate was too unstable for the company to operate normally, and during this period they ended up sitting on large amounts of rum they would have sold under normal circumstances. When the revolution ended in 1990, the company suddenly found itself accidentally in possession of some of the largest stocks of aged rum in the world.

Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua remains a privately held company, and partners with William Grant & Sons for distribution and importation.

Product

As with all rum, this spirit starts with sugar as the base material. Whether they use raw sugar or molasses isn’t disclosed, so the specific starting point isn’t really clear… but whatever form that sugary goodness takes, it is mixed with water and yeast and then left to ferment.

Once a mildly alcoholic mixture has been created, that liquid is distilled five times before becoming the “new make” white rum. From there, the rum is added to previously-used bourbon whiskey barrels (charred white oak barrels) to age for a period of time.

You could be forgiven for assuming that this is aged for 18 years in those previously used bourbon barrels. After all, that used to be the case. According to some sources, once upon a time, the number on the Flor de Cana bottle corresponded to the age of the rum inside. That no longer appears to be the case, as nowhere on this bottle or on their website does it actually make a claim to how long this spirit sat in a barrel. It’s just a large font “18” on the front of the bottle, but no actual confirmation. So we don’t really know how long it has been aged, or whether it was blended prior to bottling.

Packaging

There are some really good things going on here — but also some things that are annoying me greatly.

Overall, it’s a nifty fancy shape for the bottle. You’ve got a square body with flat faces, rectangular in dimension with longer front and rear faces. This does a great job showing off the color of the rum inside the bottle, which I appreciate. The bottle has a short neck (which can be slightly annoying for pouring, but generally is fine in my experience with it here) that’s capped off with a wood and cork stopper.

The labeling on here is minimal, but with some style. The swooping flow of the label adds some movement and flair to an otherwise sparse sticker which is cool, and the fact that it’s only as big as it needs to be to convey the necessary information is another positive in my book.

At this point, I’d like to once again point out and highlight that, despite a large number 18 on the bottle, and despite that this is typically listed on spirits sales websites as an “18 year rum”, that claim isn’t supported in any way by the label or their own marketing materials. Compared to the highly regulated world of something like a bourbon or a scotch whisky, rum is the wild west. Pretty much anything goes as long as it comes from sugar. And Flor de Cana seem to be taking advantage of that here.

This “18” feels to me like a deception. When numbers like this are placed on a label, the expectation from the buyer is that it’s a representation of the age of the spirit. But here that convention isn’t accurate… and that’s not cool.

Neat

The liquid is a beautiful dark amber color, but the aroma is a bit off. There’s the vanilla and brown sugar that I’d expect, and it’s definitely sweet enough smelling to be a rum, but there’s also a bit of industrial alcohol in there that’s ruining the profile for me.

That said, the flavor is an amazingly dark and rich experience. It starts out innocently enough, with the usual vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon notes that you get from other aged rums, but then it takes a twist into this dark chocolate, tobacco, and coffee region of flavors that is supported by a brown sugar sweetness that doesn’t let it dive too deeply. There are some baking spices in there as well, to make things interesting, but not enough to overpower the other components.

That was certainly not something I was expecting from a rum, but I ain’t mad.

On Ice

With the addition of the ice, the industrial alcohol component of the aroma has practically disappeared. It now smells much more sweet, delicious, and inviting.

Taking a sip, the flavor profile isn’t quite as rich and complex as had been when tasted neat, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. The dark chocolate and coffee have been significantly reduced, and what is left behind tastes like a good creme brulee. There’s the creamy sweetness, the brown sugar, the vanilla, and even a bit of charring and cinnamon from the barrels that really pull the flavor together.

This might actually be the first rum I’ve tried that I would voluntarily sip either neat or on ice.

Cocktail (Daquiri)

I’m a sucker for a darker and richer takes on lighter cocktails, and this fits that bill exactly.

The caramel and vanilla from the rum really does a great job balancing with the brighter lime juice here, but the richer tones (the baking spices and oak we saw on the rocks) are here too, which makes for a more complex cocktail than usual. There’s a unique depth here that you don’t get with a white rum, and that’s absolutely what I’m looking for.

Fizz (Dark and Stormy)

I think this is probably the best dark and stormy cocktail you’re going to get this side of the “spiced rum” divide.

Up front, there’s the sweetness in the spirit and the caramel and vanilla notes that balance out nicely with the ginger beer, making for a nicely balanced and delicious cocktail. But that’s not the only interesting thing that this brings to the table: there’s also some of that delicious richness and deep flavor profile that lingers in the finish, adding a uniqueness to the flavor profile that is deeper, darker, and more flavorful than usual. It’s pretty darn great, actually.


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Overall Rating

Talking solely about the contents of the bottle, this is a solid rum. I think it does better in some areas than others, but I actually like it no matter how it’s prepared — probably not my absolute favorite thing to sip neat, but on some ice it’s darn tasty. A solid four starts out of five.

But that number irks me. The fact that they labeled this as “18” without actually linking that to an age statement rubs me very much in the wrong way. So much so, in fact, that I feel compelled to kick the rating down a half star as a result.

Flor de Cana 18
Produced By: Flor de Cana
Production Location: Nicaragua
Classification: Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $47.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5
A delicious rum that’s got some good age on it, but unfortunately marred by a somewhat deceptive label.


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