Almas Caviar: Price, Taste and Sustainability

Almas Caviar is the rarest and most expensive type of caviar in the world. Caviar refers to salt-cured fish eggs from sturgeon species, and Almas Caviar comes from the eggs of the beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) specifically. Beluga sturgeon can live up to 100 years and reach lengths over 10 feet, making their eggs a precious rarity.

Almas Caviar

How is Almas Caviar Produced?

Almas Caviar is carefully harvested from beluga sturgeons found in the Caspian Sea between Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. The Caspian Sea contains approximately 90% of the global beluga sturgeon population, making it the most vital source for Almas Caviar production [1].

The large, delicate eggs of the beluga sturgeon are extracted by skilled caviar producers. The harvesting process is complex, as each egg must remain entirely intact to preserve quality. The eggs are lightly salted to draw out moisture while maintaining their signature fresh “pop” when eaten. They are packaged in collectible 24-karat gold tins to signify their elite status.

Why is Almas Caviar So Expensive?

Several factors contribute to the astronomical price tag of Almas Caviar, which can reach up to $35,000 per kilogram [2]:

Rarity of the Sturgeon Species

Beluga sturgeon have been overfished over past decades, causing significant population declines. They are now considered a critically endangered species. Harvesting of beluga sturgeon eggs is strictly regulated, keeping total caviar production low [3]. Their long lifespans also limit how often each female fish can be harvested for eggs.

Age of the Fish

Almas Caviar comes from only the oldest, mature female beluga sturgeons. Younger fish do not produce the large, high-quality eggs prized as Almas Caviar. It can take 15-20 years for belugas to reach maturity and begin producing premium eggs [1]. This means production is dependent on the lifecycles of these long-living fish.

Complex Harvesting Process

The difficult process of precisely extracting and handling each delicate egg adds to production expenses. Skilled workers gently remove the eggs from live fish without harming them. The eggs must be quickly processed and salted while still fresh. Losing even a few eggs during harvesting decreases total yields.

Packaging in Gold Tins

Almas Caviar’s signature 24-karat gold tins symbolize its elite status. These ornamental tins are imported from Austria and cost over $500 each even before caviar is added. The decadent packaging further enhances Almas Caviar’s reputation as an ultra-luxury product [2].

Where Can You Buy Almas Caviar?

Due to its prohibitive pricing and prestige status, Almas Caviar is offered almost exclusively through exclusive distributors and luxury retailers:

  • Petrossian (France and USA)
  • Marky’s (USA)
  • Caviar House & Prunier (UK)

It may also be found in high-end restaurants and hotels globally. However, the average consumer will likely never encounter the opportunity to purchase or taste Almas Caviar themselves. It remains mostly a delicacy reserved for the mega-rich due to limited production quantities [4].

How to Serve and Eat Almas Caviar

Almas Caviar is often enjoyed simply placed atop lightly toasted bread or blini with crème fraîche or sour cream. Its large pearls and creamy texture are best appreciated without strong flavors competing. Caviar should be kept chilled until serving. Mother of pearl spoons are traditional but any non-metallic spoon can be used to avoid imparting a metallic taste [5].

For special occasions, Almas Caviar may garnish seafood dishes like oysters or salmon. When used in cooking, caviar should be added at the very end to prevent overheating. Avoid mixing it into hot foods to preserve its delicate texture.

What Does Almas Caviar Taste Like?

The flavor profile of Almas Caviar is often described as complex, smooth, and buttery. Tasters compliment its refined, elegant taste compared to other roe:

  • Large pearls provide a satisfying “pop” when chewed, releasing rich, savory juices.
  • Initial flavors are mild, sweet, and nutty with a touch of the sea.
  • Finish is mineral-rich yet delicate, leaving the palate clean without fishiness [6].
  • The golden hue promises a 71% on average total content of prized nutritious lipids and protein in each egg [1].

The History of Almas Caviar

  • 1850s: Beluga sturgeon caviar is first produced commercially in the Caspian Sea region and exported globally as a luxury food.
  • Early 1900s: Overfishing of sturgeon populations begins, causing declines.
  • 1920s: “Almas” named after an Iranian Almas Farm which first pioneered techniques for harvesting beluga eggs without harming the fish. Their caviar branded as Almas was seen as a benchmark of quality [7].
  • 1992: Export quotas imposed but illicit trade continues, crashing 90% of Caspian Sea beluga populations by 2005 [8].
  • 2008: Beluga sturgeon declared critically endangered. International trade of wild beluga caviar is banned.
  • Today: Almas Caviar produced only from a handful of licensed Caspian Sea farms with quota-based harvests. Production has shrunk and prices have soared to an average of $7,000-$10,000 per 100 grams [2,7].

The Sustainability and Conservation Efforts for Almas Caviar Production

Strict monitoring programs are now in place to protect wild beluga sturgeon populations and ensure sustainability:

  • Licensed facilities use advanced recirculating aquaculture systems to responsibly raise beluga sturgeon stocks while minimizing environmental impact [9].
  • Annual harvest quotas limit number of eggs taken per facility based on stock assessments. No eggs can be exported from wild sturgeon.
  • DNA testing determines caviar origins to prevent illegal harvests and trade according to CITES regulations [10].
  • Hatchery programs help supplement wild stocks with juveniles grown in captivity before reintroduction [11].
  • Beluga sturgeon’s classification as an Appendix II CITES species permits regulated trade only if it does not impact survival of wild populations [3].
  • Innovations in caviar processing aim to increase yields and reduce waste from each harvested fish.

Almas Caviar vs Other Types of Caviars

Almas Caviar stands apart from other caviar types:

  • It has the largest pearls, often over 2.4mm diameter compared to other roes which average under 2mm [12].
  • Its light golden color is rare compared to the grey to black pearls of most caviar.
  • The beluga sturgeon’s long life contributes to Almas Caviar’s complex, nuanced flavor compared to caviars from shorter-lived fish.
  • It offers a higher nutritional value with approximately 30% lipids (providing healthy omega-3 fats) and 40% protein compared to 20-26% and 15-30% respectively in other caviars [1,13].
  • Almas’ hefty price of ~$7,000-$10,000 per 100g far outstrips the $35-$150 per 100g for caviars like Osetra and Sevruga [14].

Is it Worth Buying Almas Caviar?

For most people, the astronomical pricing puts Almas Caviar firmly out of reach. Its exclusivity as a delicacy reserved for the ultra-rich is part of its allure. However, there are more affordable caviar options that provide a similar experience:

  • Farmed Siberian Sturgeon caviar offers large pearls with rich, creamy flavor at 5-10% the cost of Almas [14].
  • American Paddlefish and Hackleback caviars provide excellent quality as less expensive substitutes.
  • Lumpfish caviar has small eggs but makes up for it with a smooth, delicate taste.
  • Whitefish caviar compares well at just 1-5% the price of Almas.

For those with unlimited budgets, Almas Caviar’s rarity, decadent packaging, and incomparable indulgence factor make it the ultimate luxury ingredient. Yet more affordable caviar choices can satisfy most people’s curiosity.

Health Benefits of Eating Almas Caviar

The prized eggs of the beluga sturgeon offer excellent nutritional value:

  • High in protein: Almas Caviar contains over 40% protein by weight, providing all 9 essential dietary amino acids for supporting muscle growth and recovery [13,15].
  • Abundant healthy fats: Approximately 30% lipid content, predominantly monounsaturated fats and omega-3s that promote heart health and cognitive function [1,13].
  • Rich source of vitamins & minerals: High levels of Vitamin A for immune function, Vitamin D for bone health, iron for oxygen transport, selenium for antioxidative activities, and choline to maintain cell membrane integrity [15,16].
  • Low carbohydrates: Virtually no carbohydrates makes it keto-friendly. The protein content induces a feeling of fullness and satisfaction [13].
  • Research shows the bioactive peptides in caviar may support reducing blood pressure, inhibiting tumors, and promoting sleep [16].

However, moderation is still key. With 30 grams of fat in one ounce, caviar is energy dense at over 200 calories per ounce [17]. Enjoy its nutrition by using small amounts as a garnish versus eating by the spoonful.

How to Store and Preserve Almas Caviar

To maintain the signature freshness and texture of Almas Caviar:

  • Keep unopened tins refrigerated at 28-32°F once shipped [18].
  • Consume within 3-4 weeks once opened and tightly resealed. The eggs will gradually soften over time.
  • To slow spoilage after opening, store any leftover caviar in a sealed glass jar on ice in the fridge.
  • For short term (under a month), the eggs can be frozen while still in their tin. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before serving [19].
  • For long term freezing up to one year, carefully transfer the caviar to an airtight freezer-safe container before freezing for maximum freshness [5].
  • When ready to enjoy, thaw the frozen caviar gradually in the refrigerator. Do not re-freeze once thawed.

Famous Personalities Who Love Almas Caviar

The elite status of Almas Caviar has long attracted celebrity fans:

  • Aristotle Onassis frequently indulged in beluga caviar and even airlifted live sturgeon into his compounds [20].
  • Marilyn Monroe famously teamed diamonds from Cartier with Beluga caviar [21].
  • Michael Jackson regularly enjoyed caviar and champagne during recording sessions [22].
  • Jay Z spent over $100,000 on caviar one New Years Eve and sang “Got Almas caviar with babies, You got Kool-Aid for babies” [23].
  • The famous opera singer Maria Callas was reportedly so obsessed with caviar that she ate it every day [24].

Interesting Facts about Almas Caviar

  • The rarest type of Almas Caviar comes from 100+ year old beluga sturgeons. Less than 1 kilogram per year is harvested and can cost $34,500 per kilogram! [2]
  • Beluga caviar pearls are the largest of any roe, due to the huge size of the beluga sturgeon mother fish. Golden sterlets produce the smallest pearls in comparison at just 0.5mm. [25]
  • Caviar spoons are traditionally crafted from sea turtle shell or gold due to the belief that metal utensils can give caviar a metallic taste. Now most are made from mother of pearl or bone instead. [26]
  • Specimens of beluga sturgeon have been recorded living over 150 years old and growing up to 7.2 meters (24 feet) long. [27]
  • Beluga is also Russian for “white”, referring to the beluga sturgeon’s pale flesh. This gave rise to the name for the white Arctic whales called belugas. [28]
  • In the early 1900s King Edward VII called Beluga caviar “black pearls” and sealed sturgeon skin was used to cover diplomatic boxes instead of lead. [29]

In Summary

Almas Caviar stands in a league of its own as the rarest and most decadent caviar in the world. The miniscule production quantities from ancient beluga sturgeons in the Caspian Sea contribute to its astronomical pricing up to $35,000 per kilogram. Responsible harvesting practices now aim to conserve the endangered beluga populations. Almas’ large golden pearls provide an unrivaled indulgent taste and nutritional benefits. Yet for most people, thankfully more reasonably priced caviar options are available to still enjoy this luxurious delicacy.