When somebody mentions premium vodka and rum, what most likely springs to mind are brands like Grey Goose and Don Q. And for good reason…these liquors undergo rigorous standards of production such as multiple distillation, quality ingredients, and specialized aging. But these established giants certainly can’t rest on their laurels. Plenty of upstart distilleries constantly nip at the heals at these standard bearers. Thanks to complimentary tastings of Flor de Cana Slow Aged Rum and Russian Standard Vodka, I was able to compare them head-to head with Svedka and Mount Gay, no slouches in the liquor pantheon.
I discovered that it’s all in the after-burn when savoring the distinctions between these top notch liquors. All of them taste fine at the first sip and it’s a given that the swallow is mellow with no wincing or mandatory chasers. But the true measure occurs once it’s down the hatch and what’s left on the palate. Also, after mixing in cocktail recipes as well as straight up juices and sodas, I discovered that top quality liquors are best enjoyed simply…either neat or with a splash of unsweetened fruit juice. This was definitely the case with Flor de Cana and Russian Standard.
Russian Standard is made using glacial water from Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe spanning more than 17,000 square kilometers, and about 219 km in length from north to south. It’s also evident that the lake produces some of the softest water on Earth. The other key ingredient is winter wheat, a fragrant crop of the Russian Black Steppes’ fertile soil. This hardy wheat is planted in the fall, before the first snow falls. During the winter months, blankets of snow protect the grain as it matures slowly, gaining strength and
Flor de Caña boasts a heritage dating back to 1890 at the San Antonio Sugar Mill, in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. Today the fifth generation of the Pellas family continues producing this single estate rum using the finest molasses from sugar cane harvested from the next-door farm fields. Production still follows centuries-old guidelines for 5-time distillation, and slow-aging it to an rich-flavored amber in small American white oak barrels. Not only are no additives used but the rum sits in non air-conditioned traditional barrel houses providing a natural, undisturbed environment for the full flavor to unfold.
photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky