“THERE’S NO TALKING INSIDE THE WIND TUNNEL.”
That’s what my instructor told me as I walked into my orientation at iFly, an indoor skydiving arena in Yonkers.
Although the idea of indoor skydiving certainly enticed me, once I saw people actually flying wildly inside a chamber with what looked like little to no control over their bodies, my heart dropped. Why the mid-day adrenaline rush, you ask? The fine folks from Flor de Caña were in NYC last month and decided to invite a few journalists on a day trip as part of their new campaign, “Aged In Adventure.”
If you’re not familiar with the Nicaraguan import (it’s definitely one of the best rum’s I’ve ever tasted), it’s been around for more than 125 years and it’s one of the fastest growing premium rum brands in the U.S. You can tell this rum is a bit different. Not only is it enriched with unique properties of the San Cristobal volcano, but it’s also naturally aged in small white oak bourbon barrels that are sealed with plantain leaves. The result is a tropical tasting rum that makes you feel like you’re lounging on a beach somewhere. It reminds me of a good, smooth whiskey. You can drink it neat (or on the rocks) with nothing else and it tastes just as good.
The brand and the team behind the brand are all about adventure! Just like Francisco Pellas Caessa, the young explorer who discovered Flor de Caña back in 1875, the ambassadors and managers embrace this festive spirit. Ashela Richardson, Flor de Caña’s energetic brand ambassador, definitely embodies their infectious spirit. She couldn’t wait to get into the wind tunnel. Whereas, I was a bit more skeptical – only b/c I easily freak out (thanks anxiety) and had a bad feeling I’d lose it once I was trapped inside a chamber (did I mention we could only use hand signals once inside?). But you only live once, right? So I strapped on a jumpsuit, secured my goggles (or so I thought), and trusted my adorable instructor to keep me alive. As I watched each one of my teammates jump into the tunnel (you literally trust fall into the air), I became more and more nervous. But before I talk more about my experience, let’s learn more about Flor de Caña rum from Ashela (Ash-el-ah). Because she’s the expert, right!?
Flor de Caña is from Nicaragua. How do people traditionally drink it there?
Down in Nica people like to drink Flor de Caña with sparkling water and lime, in a mojito or just neat or on the rocks.
What is your favorite way to drink Flor de Caña?
I love drinking hand shaken daiquiris. They’re so simple to make, and so delicious! The recipe is quite simple – just rum, fresh squeezed lime juice (has to be fresh!) and sugar (either a spoonful or simple syrup) all shaken and strained into a cocktail glass. A well-made daiquiri might be the best drink you’ll ever have.
Your newest slogan is “Aged In Adventure.” Besides indoor skydiving, what other adventures do you have planned?
My trips to Nicaragua I have kayaked in Lake Nicaragua – one of the world’s only giant fresh water lakes with a native shark population! I have also hiked up a volcano called Cerro Negro, to get back to the base of the volcano you go high speed sledding down the sandy side that is covered in fine volcanic rocks and sand- it is such a rush!
I’ve done some fun surfing events with bartenders in southern California, which has been so fun for me learning a new sport. We’re always dreaming up new adventures!
Who are some of Flor de Caña’s biggest competitors?
The taste of Flor de Caña is fairly unique in the world of rum; our barrel-aged liquid is refined and complex. I think right now our biggest competition is actually other brown spirits. There are still a lot of misconceptions about rum out there, and some generalizations. The rum category has a lot going on, and the highest volume of it is spiced rum or white/young rum. Rums like Flor de Caña that are barrel aged are meant to be enjoyed just like premium brown spirits like bourbon, scotch and cognac. I always tell people to explore the higher end of the category, there are a lot of great brands out there!
What do you love about working for Flor de Caña?
There truly are so many things that I love about my job, I’ll start here: I love that I get to work for a brand that I enjoy so much. I often get to educate people for the first time about rum and open their awareness of the variety of styles of rum that are out there. I travel all over the US and to Nicaragua; I meet fabulous people everywhere I go. It is a unique and special opportunity to have the chance to work in so many different cities across the US. I came up in the restaurant industry, all the way from barista to bar manager. So, naturally this job makes me feel right at home when I’m bringing my rum love to bartenders all across the country. I love the hospitality industry we have – it is very special to be part of the magic – and that’s ultimately what keeps me going and feeds my energy and passion to share the story and introduce people to Flor de Caña rum.
Flor de Caña reminds me a bit of whisky. Why is that?
Flor de Caña is aged in ex-bourbon barrels so it takes on a bit of a whiskey characteristic in terms of the flavors that develop over time spent in the barrel. Bourbon barrels are 100% American oak that have been charred on the inside. The charring process caramelizes sugars in the wood and also acts as a filtration to the liquid. Aging in barrels adds natural color to the liquid and flavors like vanilla, orange peel, baking spices and a little bit of tannin- and to varying degrees, these are all things we find in whiskies as well.
What makes Flor de Caña unique?
The rum is distilled with 100% renewable energy – we use the left over biomass of the sugarcane to fuel the stills. Our spent barrels are used by local furniture makers to make unique pieces.
A fun fact about the rum: the molasses is fermented with yeasts from pineapple and plantain fruits in order to obtain the alcoholic mash that is then distilled into Flor de Caña rum.
What’s the most creative drink you’ve ever made using Flor de Caña?
A drink called Deharo’s Claim is one of my favorites. I love this drink because it is outside of the “tropical-fruity rum cocktail” box, a more spirit forward cocktail that combined a unique build of ingredients. See the recipe below:
Don’t forget your goggles…
I could have used a Deharo’s Claim the day after we went skydiving! It felt like I had done 1,000 sit-ups! I also managed to do something no other diver has ever done: I successfully lost my goggles to the wind tunnel vent. They flew up about 10 seconds after I got inside it. The iFly employees had never seen that happen before (but of course something like that happened to me). I was a bit hesitant to get back inside but our instructor was so supportive and I found out that I’m a pretty good skydiver! I was even able to do some turns. The only thing I did discover was that it was hard to breathe. The wind was really harsh on my stomach (maybe that’s why I was so sore the next day). But I will say, the whole experience was so much fun. After an hour of indoor skydiving, we grabbed dinner and I was able to make some new friends. Isn’t that the best part about opening up a bottle of rum? Connecting with others and finding out more about them. So grab a bottle (or take a trip to Nicaragua) and enjoy a Flor de Caña cocktail. Your next adventure awaits you!