“It’s a beautiful day to fly.” Ten years and three babies after meeting her, Carlos Pellas still coos to Vivian, puppy-dog-eyes in love with her.
It’s 1989 and Carlos and Vivian are part of the one percent. They have three beautiful children and are about to board a short flight to an important meeting. So, every day is beautiful. Their life is what we’d call perfect.
And then, suddenly, it’s not.
Seventy minutes later, Carlos’s and Vivian’s domestic flight is a piecemeal inferno. Their plane crashed. Not a tenth of its 130 passengers still lives. Several are on fire and succumbing.
“MY LOVE, WAKE UP AND GET THE FUCK OUT!!” Carlos is one of those flaming survivors. He was blown out of the wreck but, heedless charges back in to Vivian. He doesn’t actually say FUCK because his mother tongue is Spanish. But he could if he wanted. Like any non-American billionaire, this fourth generation scion of Flor de Caña rums needs to be fluent to flog the family’s grog on five continents.
An aside: According to Christopher Hitchens, burning human flesh smells like bacon and it’s not uncommon for even your mas macho first responders to eschew all pork products within a few months on the job.
Not an aside: We’re on a word count here and you’ve probably got two more screens open. So, let’s hurry past Vivian’s pain to a fairy tale ending.
“GLAMOROUS SURVIVORS OPEN CLINIC TO AID IMPOVERISHED CHILD BURN VICTIMS,” screams the headline countless months later after dozens of excruciating skin grafts and therapy. There’s even a picture of Nicaragua’s first power couple cutting the ribbon.
Yeah, right. Does all this read like some mawkish Latino telenovela plot, with Dionysus and Vulcan pulling the strings of those headline-owning lovers whose lives are so much bigger than ours? Probably.
Except fact is stranger than fiction, and this is all true.
Since opening in 1991, thousands of Nicaraguan child burn patients whose parents could never afford their treatment have benefited from the Aproquen clinic, free. Many of more severe cases require lifelong therapy, however long that life is.
Soon after, Aproquen expanded its duties to also treat children with a cleft pallet. Again free.
This story was supposed to be a review of the family’s rum, but let’s talk about this clinic instead because kids are more fun to think about.
Skin burns and toothaches are the most painful tortures the gods have invented. When you bought that pricey Flor de Caña rum, a substantial portion of the proceeds went to these sweet Nicaraguan kids. Many of them are severely burnt but stilled managed to smile when some other over-refreshed PR people invaded their hospital.
Remember above, we talked about the telenovela? Better sit down.
“It’s a beautiful day for flying,” I stupidly joke before boarding a jet that Flor de Caña has chartered just us, which is about the size of most Porter jets. We’re going home after four good days and four better nights of Nicaraguan sun, surf and Brobdingnagian hospitality.
Idiot! The gods will not be mocked. Twenty minutes later the plane is bouncing between upward air currents like a rum-soaked boondoggler’s head while he reads the karaoke machine’s prompts for Oye Como Va.
Fifteen minutes after that — thank Vulcan! — our ending is far happier than Carlos and Vivian’s. (Her story still hasn’t ended; 30 years on, she still has operations and wears a custom-fitted burn sleeve on her right arm.)
Such relief! We’re on terra firma at the Managua airport and ready to exhaustedly consume the last of the angel’s portion of a week’s indulgence. Our hosts proffer endless rum cocktails before our next flight.
Proper rum distillation is a complicated house of cards. Many rums aren’t proper.
Ask any pirate or rushing Psi Delta sister: If you skip steps in its production, rum becomes sugary shite that only the vilest hen party liqueurs from places like the Wino Wrack can outdo for harmfulness. So buyer beware in the liquor store rum aisle. Anything with a picture of Elizabethan sailors or parrots is not your friend.
How do I know this?
A group of twelve media-ish types who were invited for a week’s profound indulgence by this family evolved into a sunburnt, laugh-lined and hammered yet scientifically controlled experiment in how much shit-kicking a dozen livers can take without adequate sleep.
Respecting this publication’s word count and your other two screens, we’ll cut to the rum chaser. Thank Vulcan Flor de Caña producers’ five-distillation process. Sure, it requires far more fussy attention and does render the Pellas family’s line of rums somewhat costly.
“Not expensive, but costly” its brand ambassador, Mauricio Solórzano, openly and precisely observes (speaking of fussy).
But no shortcuts and five passes at distillation leaves no sugary impurities in Flor de Caña’s social lubricants. If someone else buys some, try this experiment when they’re not looking. Pour a bit of it on your hands and rub them. There’s no sticky residue. The point?
Just think of your liver after a few days’ indulgences on the largesse of billionaires with a point to make. Our constant five days of boozing should have been a disaster. (Perhaps not quite of the gothic-romantic magnitude of Vivian and Carlos’s story, but the gods live on a higher than you and me. Gods? There were ten survivors on a flight of 130. These are not mere mortals.) It should’ve been a disaster but there was no hangover.
Yes, no hangover! Were we exhausted? Oh, yes! Miffy and thick-tongued? Mucho y más! But hungover? Undeservedly and triumphantly, no!
Each day of our trip, once breakfast was done, the macuas were flowing. All day.
We surfed roaring waves on the Pacific coast, slid down volcanoes on customized snowboards, learned the fine art of adapting traditional cocktails with rum, and had a brief but inspirational visit with some smiling children who you think wouldn’t have reason to smile.We decided this rum deserves a company slogan like Bell’s whisky’s charming ‘Afore ye go.’ Ahem.
Flor de Caña: Stay grounded!