Launching the Summer of Punch: Zenna Bar Tasting Evening

We have labelled Summer 2011 as the “Summer of Punch” as we head into the season of light evenings and warm summer nights. The proud sponsor of our themed season is our award winning Nicaraguan rum,  Flor de Caña! To kick start the “Summer of Punch” was a great tutored tasting at Zenna Bar, underneath Red Fort Restaurant on Dean Street. Guy Topping talked the 20 guests through a brief history of rum, its production and aging process, using Flor de Caña as an example.

Guy started by introducing the beauty of Nicaragua, the fact that it accounts for 10% of the worlds biodiversity, is the world’s most volcanic nation with 7 active volcanoes, and it played a key role in the development of the Americas being the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Granada is the oldest city in the Western hemisphere being established in 1524.

The Ingencio San Antonio sugar mill is located in the northwest of the country, on an extensive plain of fertile, volcanic soil, which all sugar cane growers will note as an ideal environment for growing the plants. The mill dates back hundreds of years, first noted by by French pirate William Dampier in 1685, on his way to plunder Leon. The mill crushes 2.5m tonnes of cane as it remains the successful home of Flor de Caña rum.

The founders of the distiller, the Pellas, were an Italian family from Genoa. They set up the distiller in 1890, launched their Flor de Caña brand in the 1950’s and began exporting in 1990. The brand is now exported to 45 different countries and is the leading rum in Central America. With continuity in their master distiller having been there 39 years and being able to produce enough molasses from their own sugar mill, the distillery has incredibly control over the quality of the rum.

To produce their rum, Flor de Caña dilute their molasses before fermentation and oxygenised for 7 hours. 24 hour fermentation occurs in open-air stainless steel tanks, followed by continuous column still distillation with 8 separate stills. After this the spirit goes straight into small used American oak barrels from Jack Daniels, Heaven Hill and Canadian distillers. Then comes the all important slow-ageing process that adds to Flor de Caña’s high quality. Unhurried maturation in original brick barrel houses with no artificial means of altering the conditions creates the desired undisturbed environment. The barrels are topped up twice a year with spirit of the same age, reducing the liquid exposed to the air and minimising evaporation. When they reach their required age, 20-30 barrels are generally dumped at any one time for a blend of same aged spirit, known as ‘Batch’ blended. No additives or caramel are added and the rum is always exactly the age stated on the bottle due to their being no blends of different ages – unique to the UK market.

Here are some tasting notes of the rums tasted at Zenna Bar:

Flor de Caña 4yr old Dry White: toasty, coconut cream and tropical citrus aromas. A soft, round entry leads to a smooth, dryish medium-bodied palate with vanilla, coconut flesh, and a dash of bourbon barrel spiciness. This product was originally gold but has been filtered through Charcoal to take out the colour but maintaining the smoothness that comes with 4 yr ageing in small oak barrels.

7yr Grand Reserve: Sweet vanilla aromas follow through to a plush dry medium bodied palate with buttered toffee roasted nuts and brown spice flavours, finishes with a nice nutty fade of caramel spice.

12yr Centenario, produced because at this age the Rum shows the most effect of the wood and in particular the effect of the tannin, which dries out your mouth. This means the 12yr old is a perfect digestive rum; dried fruit and nut notes, deeper scents of oak, black raisins, cinnamon, prunes, vanilla bean and honey. Stately and semisweet; nougat, almond butter, molasses and sherry abound.

In comparison the 18yr Gran Centenario is a classic rum-drinker’s rum. Smooth entry leads to a dry, light to medium bodied palate, with golden raisin and fruity toffee flavours; A very long, warm, spicy finish. The World’s most awarded rum has 85 medals since 2000 at top International Competitions level.

As the evening drew to a close and people sipped their cocktails and revisited their favourite rums. Guy took questions and closed by emphasizing the strengths of Flor de Caña:

• Unrivalled range of Premium / Super Premium rums

• Unique origins – only distillery in Nicaragua

• San Antonio Sugar mill produces all the molasses required

• Family company – 117 years of history

• Unique ‘Slow-Aged’® maturation

• 100% Single Aged – eg 18yo is 100% 18 years old

• The World’s most awarded rum (85 medals since 2000 at top International Competition)

Stay tuned for some of Dan from Zenna’s great cocktails using Flor de Caña!

By Amathus


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