Alverta President ($201 per 50 grams)
Our overall favorite caviar of the bunch, Alverta President comes from American-raised white sturgeon (Acipencer Transmontanus), a very close relative to ossetra. Likewise, the beads have a similar rich buttery flavor to ossetra. Very mildly salty, lightly floral in aroma, with large, tight beads that pop nicely with no sliminess, fishiness, or oiliness. This is a very easy caviar to get into.
Royal Transmontanus ($113 per 50 grams)
The same breed of white sturgeon (Acipenser Transmontanus) as our favorite Alverta President, it is darker in color with slightly smaller, mushier beads. We weren't crazy about its texture, but the flavor was also outstanding, with a mild butteriness and a distinct floral aroma.
Tsar Imperial Shassetra ($230 per 50 grams)
Farmed in China, the Shassetra (Acipenser Schrencki) is also similar to ossetra in appearance with large, distinct beads. The flavor is milder than either of the transmontanus caviars with a less distinct saltivess, which we liked, but the beads had very thick skins that would linger on your tongue after popping—almost like small pieces of plastic. We preferred caviars that were a bit softer.
Tsar Imperial Kaluga ($481 per 50 grams)
By far the most expensive caviar we tasted, the Kaluga (Huso Dauricus) is a sturgeon indiginous to the Amur River of China, where is is now farm-raised. The price is largely driven by the fact that the fish must mature for over a decade before being harvested for their dark greenish-brown eggs. The aroma is very distinctly fishy, with an intensely creamy, mineral flavor reminiscent of Pacific oysters. Some tasters enjoyed it, but most found the flavor to be overwhelming.
Tsar Imperial Ossetra ($278)
"This is the Cadillac of caviars," says Alexandre Petrossian. Many of the currently farm-raised breeds of sturgeon are specifically selected for the resemblance of their eggs to ossetra (Acipenser Guildenstaedtii). Once wildly harvested in the Caspian, it is now farm-raised in Israel, China, and Bulgaria. The eggs are medium-sized and shiny with a deep mahogany core often described as golden. The flavor is rich and buttery with a distinct nuttiness that made it the favorite of many tasters.