Extremely Smooth. Deep brown mahogany color. Aromas of caramel, almond, nutmeg, allspice, tanned leather, sweet tobacco and cola fill your nose while a subdued alcohol bouquet whispers that Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Sistem Solera has fully matured to perfection. One sip and you’re a believer. The fine aromas are fully expressed in the mouth, with sweet caramel and butterscotch, praline, vanilla, oak, hints of tropical fruit, raisin, cinnamon and mild white pepper added to the complexity already noted in the nose. Flavors are harmoniously balanced on the palate, presenting themselves in an orderly, ever deeper progression, with no single flavor overwhelming the taste at the expense of another. Roll Ron Zacapa over your tongue and relish it’s heavyweight body. The finish is lengthy; sweet caramel ultimately tapers into a dryness that convinces you to take another sip.
Ron Zacapa is distilled in large column stills from a wash of reduced sugar cane juice called honey. Aging is conducted in a painstakingly long modified Solera process that stages the rum, first through used American oak bourbon barrels, then re-charred American oak barrels, Next comes a period of aging in Olorosso sherry barrels. Final aging is done in used Pedro Ximenez barrels - a sherry known for it’s intensely sweet flavor.
Much has been speculated by rum pundits, my colleagues among them, about the difference between Ron Zacapa in the original, full-patate palm leaf covered bottle called 23 Años versus the latest patate-banded version called Sistema Solera 23. Was this simply lust for days gone by when there were fewer fantastic rums to sip, when Zacapa stood out in a crowd of clean bland white rums and harsh, poorly distilled dark and colored cane spirits? Or has the once-supreme Zacapa 23‘s flavors succumbed to the dramatic production and sales goals imposed by Diageo? Read my taste test comparison here.
Honestly, I’m amazed by a hand crafted rum, one that goes through so many different types of barrels and aging stages, still smells and tastes so remarkably consistent time after time. Kudos for Lorena Vasquez’ skill. She has otherworldy senses. Buy a bottle and enjoy it. Ron Zacapa Sistema Solera 23 stands out as one of the world’s finest rums available today.