Earlier last week we received three samples of farmed raised caviar from Kaluga Queen, a prominent Chinese caviar farm that has been producing various types of caviar since 2006.
Kaluga Caviar, which is also known as Hangzhou Sturgeon Technology Co, Ltd., has raised more than 20 million sturgeons in Thousand Island Lake. The company has commissioned professionals from Hungary and Iran to assist in the preparation and harvesting production of the various sturgeon varieties that they farm at their facilities.
recent article from FiS also gives some additional info about the company and some useful background about their sturgeon production.
As for the sampling, we had the opportunity to try three different varieties: baeri, schrencki, and a schrencki huso hybrid. Below is our review of the varieties of caviar we sampled:
Of the three, the baeri undoubtedly had the smoothest taste highlighted by deep nutty and buttery undertones. The baeri possessed a very low salt content and was notably distinguishable from the other two varieties as it had an exceptionally large roe size with golden brown coloring. The overall "pop" from the egg was modest but not exceptional. Most notably, the baeri contained no aftertaste. Many farmed raised caviars suffer from an algae-like aftertaste that many customers have described as "grassy". The baeri definitely lacked any aftertaste whatsoever. Overall, we were impressed with the baeri.
The Schrencki initially physically looked very similar to the baeri, with a large roe and a slightly darker roe color closer to a true gray tone. However, upon sampling the caviar, the similarities to the baeri quickly vanished as the high salt levels of the Schrencki quickly surprised all of our pallets. The salinity levels of the Schrencki are akin to a Caspian Sevruga variety. For those that enjoy biting salt levels and an overall sea-water taste, the Schrencki will not disappoint. However, this caviar cannot be considered smooth as the salt does tend to overpower the nuttiness of the caviar ever so slightly.
Schrencki Huso Hybrid
Amongst the three varieties, the Hybrid was overall the least desirable when compared to the other two varieties. Although the grain size was decent (slightly smaller than the baeri and schrenki), the overall taste left us wanting. Salinity levels were flat and the overall taste was simply not to be found. Even our tasters with the most sensitive pallet found the Hybrid a bit bland. Unfortunately, what made the baeri exceptional in our eyes and mouths, was definitively prevalant in the Hybrid, that being a noticeable aftertaste. Unlike the smoothness of the baeri, the Hybrid suffered with a grassy like aftertaste that would make even the common caviar enthusiast understand that the origins of the sturgeon were most definitely from a tank. With a little more taste and a refined aftertaste, the Hybrid does have potential.