When we ask for the"best" of something it usually coincides with the rarity and highest price point, but as consumers we know that's not always the case. The "best" of something is almost always subjective, so you must rely on the opinion of reviewers or industry experts to tell you what you should be looking for.
To generally answer your question: What is the Best Caviar? - Most people who know caviar or have been enjoying it for most of their lives would answer "Beluga." Since the purchase of pure Beluga caviar has been outlawed in the US since 2005, Osetra (Acipenser Gueldenstaedtii) has pretty much taken the place of Beluga as the top tier pure sturgeon caviar. Both species take a long time to produce their eggs, therefore more rare, "aged" and a larger investment. Osetra is definitely one of our favorites here, it's typically always creamy, buttery, uniquely nutty, with just the right amount pop and brine. Of course, that is the subjective opinion of a few caviar experts who would also say "the best" depends on all the factors that affect the overall quality like farming methods, seasonal conditions, handling etc, not simply the species.
The "best" species of caviar historically are: Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga because they are the 3 original Caspian species with the sought-after flavors coveted by aficionados. However, with a dozen pure sturgeon species producing delicious caviar nowadays, there are many others who might easily beat out the main 3, depending on your personal preference.
I would definitely add Siberian, Kaluga, and White Sturgeon to the list of "the best".
Hackleback is also a favorite for many and a lot more affordable due to its wild nature and faster maturation.
If you like your caviar...
Rich and nutty? Try Osetra (A. Gueldenstaedtii) or Beluga (Huso Huso hybrid)
Mild and buttery? Choose Kaluga Hybrid (Huso Dauricus hybrid)
Briny and smooth? Choose Siberian (A. Baerii) or Sterlet (A. Ruthenus)
Robust and creamy? Try White Sturgeon (A. Transmontanus)
Earthy and strong? Paddlefish (P. Spathula) or Sevruga (A. Stellatus)
What makes it a better caviar?
Within the caviar industry, certain species are prized for their eggs in particular because of a few main factors:
1. It is a from a Sturgeon Fish? (Making it true "black caviar" -- pre-historic, long-living, makes true caviar)
2. How rare is the Sturgeon species, grade, color? (ex. Albino sturgeons). Are only a handful of farms making this caviar? Is the color and size rare for that species?
3. How long does the species take to mature and produce eggs? Some sturgeon mature in just a few years, some take over 10 years to mature! (Ex. Beluga, Osetra, Kaluga)
4. The species is Farmed v Wild (this is where it can get more complicated)
Farmed caviar is a very large, long-term investment. Many sturgeon don't produce eggs for at least 5 to 15 years. Making great caviar is not easy and not a small investment of time or money.
Ex. American Hackleback Sturgeon is the only commercially fished Sturgeon species in America. They mature more quickly and are a much lower cost to catch and harvest than farmed sturgeon, therefore the price is lower.
Handling & Quality Control--
A Sturgeon might have produced the world's best caviar but if its not handled properly by everyone involved in getting it to the consumer it will fall short:
1. The best caviar should be processes in an extremely sterile environment and immediately cured lightly (Malossol or 2-4% salt) You should be able to taste the complexity of the eggs over salt.
2. The caviar should be handled extremely delicately from start to finish. Temperature, air-exposure, package handling, etc.
There are many factors that lead to creating the best caviar, but in reality everyone has a different palate so the favorite of one might be the least of another.
We invite you to order a few small containers of caviar side-by-side to compare the differences in species characteristics to find what you particularly prefer.