Ron Zacapa Centenario XO

Zacapa XO

Product of:  Guatemala
Aged:  Solera blend of rums aged from 6 to 25 Years
Price: $90
Alcohol:
 40% ABV 
Sugar: 26-30 g/L (estimate)
Context:
Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating:  9.5

Tasting Notes 
A deep, noble mahogany-brown color shows beautifully in the bottle and your glass. The aroma is intricate and gloriously rewarding.  If rum were perfume, its name would be Zacapa XO.  Complementing the aroma are hints of dried fruit (dates, raisin, apricot, apple), vanilla,  and spices  (clove and cinnamon), all balanced with timeless perfection. As for the initial taste, it is in a word: exquisite.  Zacapa XO is completely delicious, one of a handful of rums that forces RnD to re-calibrate our superlatives. Following is a body perfectly gentle and warming to the palate, with a slight essence of vanilla.  A long sweet finish works at the back corners of your tongue like fine light chocolate, 
fading like a whisper “savor, savor.”

Anecdotes 
Zacapa demonstrates how to present one of the world’s finest rums with discretion.  A glass and cork stopper sits atop a slim pyramid of a bottle embossed with the signature woven petate leaf pattern, paying homage to the belts around the cylindrical bottles of their younger rums. Elegant and understated, the XO bottle gives you pause – like peering through a display case at fine jewelry – only inside here lies superior aged rum.     

Lorena Vasquez @ Zacapa Party

Zacapa XO is distilled from reduced sugar cane syrup, similar in consistency and color to honey, but with a more grassy flavor.  Zacapa ages its rums in a protracted, modified Solera process that combines labor and art using a variety of barrels.  The aging process begins in American oak barrels that previously contained bourbon, then moves on to re-charred American bourbon barrels for a few years.   The rum is next stored for a year or more in barrels previously used for aging Olorosso sherry, then aged in used Pedro Ximeniz sherry barrels, and finally finished in french oalk casks formerly used for aging cognac. Master Blender Lorena Vasquez (pictured at right) monitors the rum At each stage, blending them to a consistently exceptionally high quality, aroma and flavor.  Aging takes place in the cool mountains of Guatemala at an altitude of approximately 8,000 feet, thereby slowing down the aging process compared within most Caribbean rums.  The high altitude and low temperatures reduce the evaporative osmosis known as the “Angel’s Share.”  Who can blame the makers of Zacapa XO?  Arum this fine should be preserved. 

Zacapa XO-Label

Opinion 
Ron Zacapa XO has developed a reputation for being one of the finest (and sweetest) rums in the world.  Zacapa XO essentially defines the high-end sweet aged rum benchmark, and has become incredibly popular.  Such growth is a case study in successful marketing.  Until 2008, Zacapa's flagship rum was difficult to find in the USA.  When Diageo took a financial position in the Zacapa brand and applied their well-oiled distribution engine and marketing muscle behind it, by 2011 Zacapa XO had become one of the de facto Gold Standards of high-end rum by which so many others are judged.  Distileries large and small have taken notice, and are clamoring to replicate the success (if not always the sweetness) of Zacapa by offering ever-more sophisticated rums.  We all win.  If you have a sweet tooth for aged rum, then do yourself a favor and try Zacapa XO.  The beautiful bottle alone is a worth it, but the real treasure of Guatemala is found inside. 

Reviewed: April 2008 at the Rum Gallery, USA, and March 2012 at a private Zacapa tasting event held at Smuggler's Cove, San Francisco.

© Dave Russell 2017