Kilo 101

A Quick Lesson in Caviar…

Caviar is defined as matured sturgeon eggs, and only sturgeon eggs qualify as caviar. The term “caviar” is not interchangeable with the word ”roe”, which refers to all fish eggs such as salmon, trout or flying fish. Caviar is one specific type of roe, but there is no such thing as “red caviar” as salmon row is sometimes called.

The proper name is simply salmon roe, as salmon and sturgeon are entirely different breeds of fish. Even some species that are similar to the sturgeon such as American paddlefish, still do not count as caviar and again their eggs would be correctly referred to as paddlefish roe.

Knowing that all caviar comes from sturgeon, the next part to understand is how caviar is classified. At Kilo, we discuss both types and grades when defining caviar and they are two distinctly different things. The type of caviar refers to the sturgeon species from which the eggs originated. Kilo offers our own distinct caviar from the indigenous California White-Sturgeon.

What are Caviar Grades?

Caviar comes in several different grades, which refers to the quality of the caviar. At Kilo, we measure quality of caviar in five descriptive aspects: four primary criteria with another nuanced criteria factored in.

Size – the size of a caviar bead (each individual egg) impacts everything from the texture in your mouth (the “pop”) to the finish. Larger beads have more fluid within them and generally speaking, most people prefer larger beads over the smaller ones. However, size is just one aspect of grade and there are other factors in which it’s notable that the biggest isn’t always the best.

Texture – the firmness and resultant “pop” of the caviar is considered the texture. While individual tastes vary widely, most caviar connoisseurs prefer firmer beads with a more pronounced pop, and our Kilo caviar expert concurs. Firmer texture along with bead size are often closely linked, and both are integral to the Kilo grading process.

Flavor – caviar flavors range widely across types, as the breed of fish absolutely impacts the flavor of the caviar. The way flavor relates to grade is that higher grades of caviar tend to showcase more nuanced, complex, and balanced versions of those flavors. When discussing flavors of caviar, words like briney, salty, fruity, nutty, creamy, and buttery are all used to describe the different caviars. More subtle palates may detect minerals, earth, smoke, port, and other unique tastes as well. Interestingly, the flavors of caviar can be influenced by what the sturgeon are fed and this can lead to some of the variances.

Finish – Caviar leaves both a flavored finish on the tongue, but also an effervescent perfume in the mouth and nostrils. The finish often mimics the flavor profile, with combinations of brine, butter, and cream. Finish in caviar is typically described in terms of smoothness such as “velvety” and duration (“lingering” for example) with smoother and longer finishes generally considered the marks of a quality caviar. Certain caviars have a lighter, cleaner finish that leaves the mouth and nostrils clear, while others have a heavier finish that coats the palate and is more prominent in the senses.

What about color of the caviar?

 When it comes to caviar, color is the most widely varied descriptor not only between grades and types, but also from individual fish to fish. This makes color a factor to be considered, with the keen understanding that variance in colors is not an outright indicator of quality, and not even always consistent across types or grades. Because of this, Kilo uses color as a good indicator of quality in conjunction with the other key factors listed above, so that you can ensure that whatever color caviar you tend towards, the flavor, texture, size, and finish of the beads are always the main considerations.

What are Kilo’s caviar grades?

Kilo caviar offers five grades, starting with Estate, then Select ,Reserve, Golden Reserve, and Crown Jewel. Due to the variations between types even within the different grades, there is no single differentiator for determining what makes a Crown Jewel versus a Reserve caviar. The grading process takes time with our caviar experts reviewing each batch for texture, flavor, size, finish, and even color. Once a batch of caviar is graded, it then is ready to be packaged for sale.
When selecting a caviar, we always encourage people to consider their personal preferences in taste and flavor, and then determine first which type and second which grade they would like.

The Selection