In 2017, Nicaraguan premium rum brand Flor de Caña reached the pinnacle of the spirits industry when it was named Best Rum Producer of the Year by the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London, No. 1 Sipping Rum on the Planet by HuffPost and Best Rum of the Year by the International Rum Conference in Madrid.
But getting there wasn’t easy. Through its history, the brand, company and family have lived through a plane crash, dictatorships, civil war, nationalizations, hyperinflation, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Throughout all this, and against all odds, the company has also been able to remain a family business for five generations. For context, only .03 percent of family businesses make it to the fifth generation.
The story of this iconic rum began more than 125 years ago with a young explorer and visionary from Genoa, Italy, Alfredo Francisco Pellas Canessa. In 1875, at the age of 25, he risked everything by leaving behind his family and comforts of the old continent to travel to the relatively unknown country of Nicaragua.
At the time, everyone wanted to get to California for the Gold Rush, but it took up to six months to cross the entire U.S. territory on horseback or sail around southern tip of South America, through Cape Horn. Savvy as he was, Alfredo Francisco saw an opportunity and invested in a steamboat route to transport passengers and goods from the East Coast of the U.S. to the West Coast, passing through a dry and wet canal in Nicaragua. This route was a huge success, as it took only 35 days.
Quick historical note: In 1902, when the U.S. Senate was debating where to pursue an interoceanic canal, lobbyists sent a stamp of Nicaragua with an illustration of an erupting volcano to the senators as evidence that the country was not a good choice because of the risk posed by its nearly 30 volcanoes, lava lakes and frequent earthquakes. Incredibly, the ploy worked, and the Senate ended up voting in favor of Panama.
But when news broke about the construction of the Panama Canal and as the U.S. drew closer to completing a coast-to-coast railroad, Alfredo Francisco knew it was time to sell his stakes and set out on a new chapter.
Alfredo Francisco had good reason for aging rum at the base of an active volcano.
In 1890, he came across the most fertile lands in the country and decided that was the perfect spot to establish the Flor de Caña distillery, right at the base of the San Cristóbal volcano, the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua. He chose this location carefully; the fertility of its soil, enriched water and hot volcanic climate to which the handcrafted barrels are exposed during the aging process contribute to the rum’s unique flavor.
Today, with a portfolio of rums aged from four up to 25 years, Flor de Caña is one of the most highly regarded premium rum brands in the world. It’s also deeply committed to sustainability practices: It is distilled 100 percent with renewable energy and is Fair Trade certified.
This sugar- and gluten-free spirit goes great in any premium cocktail.
More than 125 years later, the entire production process continues under the supervision of the same family (five generations of mastery and family values), achieving perfection in rum making.