Seven years ago, I wrote a review of four rums from Nicaragua’s Flor de Cana, referring to the 7, 12, 18, and 25 expressions with “years old” attached. That was laziness on my part: Flor de Cana has long used only vague numbers attached to terms like “slow aged” rather than providing a real age statement.
This kind of trickery has long been common in the rum world, where age statements don’t always mean what you expect, as laws vary from country to country. Many countries require an age statement to refer to the youngest spirit in a blend, but some allow an age to refer to an average age, the oldest spirit in a blend, or even a “style” the product is trying to approach. Often those numbers mean nothing at all. In fact, Flor de Cana was hit with a class action lawsuit over its labeling in 2021.
But now, Flor de Cana carries true age statements, with “years old” attached to each number on the label. Has that changed the rum’s quality, flavor, or anything else besides a couple of words on a sticker? Let’s find out.
All are 80 proof.
Flor de Cana Centenario 12 Years Old (2023) – A very quiet rum, its innate fruit tempered by a coffee and cola quality, ringed with notes of brown sugar. Increasingly tropically fruity as it develops, things become dusted with a mild layer of spice as it sits on the palate for a bit. The rum eventually finds an equilibrium with some dusky barrel char showing, adding a savory edge to what builds into a character approaching Mexican coffee, dosed with vanilla. There’s still plenty of mixed fruit throughout the experience with this rum, but the 2023 expression feels more balanced and versatile than its not-really-age-stated incarnation, at least slightly. A- / $32 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE] [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Flor de Cana Centenario 18 Years Old (2023) – Richer and more immersive, with notes of almond and hazelnut heavy on the nose, alongside a toasted marshmallow sweetness. Spicy with ginger and nutmeg, plus a smoldering barrel char quality. The palate is immediately thick with coffee notes, well-sweetened with brown sugar and a hint of tarry molasses. Fruit comes and goes, giving the rum a tropical quality later in the game, hinting at coconut dipped in chocolate. More coffee on the finish, well-sweetened but not cloying, making for a versatile, if relatively straightforward mixing rum. B+ / $50 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE] [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Flor de Cana Centenario 25 Years Old (2023) – At the top of the line, Flor de Cana 25 takes on a more oxidized quality, distinctly winey, almost sherry-like on the nose, which pairs well with the heavy nuttiness that rides alongside it. There’s fruit buried in there, but there’s so much wood, brown sugar, and Christmas spice that it’s easily overlooked. The palate is immersive and laden with a panoply of flavors — first creamy cafe au lait, then coconut, cherry sno-cone syrup, and rum raisin ice cream. The sherry notes on the finish are hinted at more than forcefully driven, tempered by notes of toasted sesame seed, bittersweet chocolate, and a dense fig-raisin character. As with the younger expressions, this is sweeter than I’d like — though Flor de Cana boasts it is not dosed with sugar at all — but it’s worthwhile as a sipper, provided you can stomach the price tag. A- / $185 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE] [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]