“I can’t finish this,” said a Nicaraguan woman in her native tongue after taking a sip of the 18-year aged Flor de Caña rum during the tasting session at the factory tour.
“I can’t either,” was a common response for many of the people, most being from Central America. I looked over at my European comrades and we all happily downed the rest of our beverage. It burned as it settled into my shoulders and warmed the rest of my body. This would be a fun day!
In Chichigalpa, about thirty-five minutes away from the colonial city of León, is the Flor de Cana Rum Factory.
The Flor De Cana Rum Factory Tour
The factory is in the middle of rich sugar cane plantations surrounded by Nicaraguan volcanoes, mountains and tropical soil. Our tour started outside in front of an old-timey train car emblazoned with the Flor de Caña logo. After giving the tour group a brief synopsis of the factory’s history, the guide passed around a sifter where a thick, brown molasses substance was housed so we could inhale the sweet aroma of the sugar in its purest form before it was distilled and aged in wooden barrels.
We were transported on long, electrically-powered cars to different sections of the factory grounds so we could view the barrels, stocked 20 long and 4 high. After a short briefing we were taken into a building to watch a video of the rum’s history, modern day innovations, and how the company gives back to Nicaragua.
Here are some things I learned on this visit: (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it all so you will have surprises when you go!)
- Flor de Caña has been in the Pella family since it’s founding in 1890
- It is so pure that if you rub the liquid on your hands no sticky feeling is present since there are no artificial sugars or additives used in the distillation process.
- The sugar is used from only Nicaraguan plantations
- The company recycles all of its aluminum, plastic and glass
- The company gives back to Nicaragua through money, supplies and grants to schools and hospitals (it basically sponsors the country).
The barrels are all 100% Nicaraguan wood, sealed with Nicaraguan plantains. After a short video, we went off to sample the aged rum and then view the barrel storage facility where no photos were allowed. The industrial-sized unit was kept at 84°F, had minimal lighting and stocked floor to ceiling with barrels towering overhead about 15-20 high and 40 (maybe) long. The odor was so strong it tingled in my nostrils and I almost felt second-hand drunk from being in such a highly proofed space (or maybe I was just a little bit tipsy from the rum sample).
The final destination was the Flor de Caña museum and gift shop. Our tour guide informed us that the museum itself was built inside a rum barrel, making it the largest in the world, a fact he was proud to share. The museum housed articles and artifacts that dated back to the start of the company and up to the present day. It had rum advertisements from decade’s past and even a framed summary that Mark Twain had written about the rum trade routes during the early 1900’s that were being opened up throughout North and Latin America.
Lastly, the tour finished at the Flor de Caña bar where everyone was treated to a Cuba Libre (rum, coke, and lemon juice) that emptied into the gift shop, score! Being a bit tipsy, I looked at all the rum paraphernalia and wanted to buy everything.
As a rum consumer and someone who enjoys tours that involve both history and alcohol, I really recommend checking out the Flor de Caña factory!
Reservations for the tour were made through our hostel. Since it is a popular destination for many travelers staying in León, most hostels will make arrangements for you since it requires taking a 30-minute taxi ride to the factory. Tour times start at 9:00, 11:00, 2:00, and 4:00 and are given in both English and Spanish. The entrance fee is $20 and the taxi ride will cost between $4-$8 depending on how many people you split the fare between.
You can find out more information on the Fleur de Caña website
Have you gone on a booze & history tour before?