A few weeks ago we had the opportunity (at long last) to visit the Flor de Caña factory in Chichigalpa. In my mind, it was a much longer drive, but the reality is that even with traffic, we are a mere two hours from a rum-lover's paradise. Now, if you know me, rum is not exactly my cup of tea.I tend to enjoy craft beers and wine more than a swallow of rum and realize why after taking the tour yesterday: it's likely just not sweet enough for me.
My office organized the trip (shocking, I know) and we headed out early on the 6th of September. Peter and I figured the kids would not be too keen on the trip, so they stayed home to hang with friends and our empleada. While we initially hit a tiny bit of traffic, we soon scooted past trouble spots and hit hit the open road. Two hours later, after only one wrong turn (well, going a bit too far, but got a nice tour of Chichigalpa when we did), we ended up at the factory.
Now, when one arrives at Flor de Caña (I'm not going to try to give directions, easier just to hire a driver and enjoy the ride), there is a door that is labeled "tour." That is actually your second stop, as you have to stop at the second entrance, the ticket booth, first, and then backtrack to the actual tour entrance. Oh, and regardless of how many people you have, one person can buy tickets for all. This is much easier than dragging everyone off the bus to pay individually.
Once we arrived at the tour door with our tickets in hand, we were led inside to a generous parking area. We were advised to stop at the restrooms first (the tour is 1.5 hours and the grounds are spacious, but no facilities), and then walked over to the engine for the first talk.
Now, I'm going to gloss over a bit, so should gentle readers choose to visit us and go on the tour, they won't feel as though they've heard it all before (and they will get to properly sample 18 year rum!). Once we were finished with the introduction, we were loaded into a mini electric tram. The company as a whole works to conserve energy where they can, and in fact, the energy they create from the sugar cane processing is enough to fuel the distillery and the sugar factory.
We were shuttled over to our first stop where we watched a short film about the birth of the company. There were no questions after the film, so we then immediately headed to our next stop: our first tasting. I would have loved to take photos of the whole process and the interior of the tasting room, but not allowed for obvious reasons.
The glasses were already filled when we entered the room and an expert taster waited for us and then proceeded to explain patiently exactly how to taste the rum. I wasn't sure I needed to sip, as the aroma alone was quite intoxicating. However, after he explained how our each of our 5 senses plays a part in the enjoyment of the taste, I couldn't help but take a sip...or two. We finished (some of us) our samples, and then had the chance to view the barrel making facility and followed it up with a tour of a bodega, or storage room filled with barrels of rum of varying ages.
Our last stop was the museum and gift shop. No photos from the first level, but this sampling, on the second floor, was fine to snap a pic or two. We finished our trip with a few small purchases (that taste of the 18 year blend sealed the deal for Peter).
We finished our day with a trip to León for lunch. While not identical, the architecture was reminiscent of Granada. We found a lovely hotel, Azul, with an airy and open cafe that serves a wide variety of dishes (from gazpacho to curry) and also carries the famous Erdmann's of Ticuantepe.
Although a longish day from the driving, the tour was very good, well-worth the money, and our stop in Leon was refreshing. We had been wanting to visit for a while, and will definitely go back and perhaps visit Hotel Azul again. Lucy, our hostess, and her entire staff were amazing and very accomodating for our large group of visitors, which is always appreciated.
Now, I've just read Erdmann's runs home brew workshops...off to investigate that for my craft beer loving self and perhaps another field trip is in order?