Zaya Gran Reserva - Trinidad - Pre 2015

Zaya Trinidad

Product of:  Trinidad
Aged:  12 Years
Price: $29
 40% ABV 
Sugar: 16-20 g/L (estimate)
Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating:  8

Tasting Notes 
Zaya’s deep amber color pre-announces the full body and rich flavors to come. Aromas of caramel, molasses vanilla are most pronounced. The differences in aroma carry through to the initial taste, body and finish.  Whereas the original Guatemala Zaya was sweet with complex flavors beginning with the initial taste, developing into a delicate body and light finish, the Trinidadian Zaya brings paraffin to the tongue, with a fuller body and more viscous, slightly petroleum finish.  Substantial flavors of vanilla, coffee and molasses are followed by more subtle tastes of butterscotch and that  paraffin flavor that contributes to the full body.  Finish is consistently heavy throughout, smoothed considerably by added sugar, leaving behind sweet flavors of vanilla and caramel. 

Until 2008, Zaya was estate produced and bottled in Guatemala by Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala, home to Zacapa’s fine rums. where rich volcanic soils and tropical temperatures produce some of the best sugar cane in the world. In the first half of 2008,  the distribution of rums produced by Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala was assumed by the giant Diageo, resulting in the Zacapa brand being given priority. Zaya was forced to move production to the Angostura Distillery in Trinidad.  The move gave me an opportunity to perform a side-by-side tasting the two versions (while I disdain comparing rums against one another, in this case it seemed appropriate).  Guatemalan rums are often some of the smoothest available; but contrast dramatically in style with Angostura’s excellent rums, such as 1919 and 1824.  Trinidad’s rum are often more heavy on oak, caramel, and paraffin, with an oily finish.  Yes, I was curious to taste the old against the new.  

Sure enough, the version of Zaya produced in Trinidad prior to 2015 exhibits distinct vanilla and paraffin aroma, but to a lesser extent than Angostura’s 1919 and 1824.  Compared to the discontinued Guatemala version, Zaya is also less sweet on the nose, and just slightly darker in color.  The 2015 version is considerably different still, but that's the subject of another review.  (See The Rum Collective's unflattering opinion here.)    

Packaging of the two versions is nearly identical, with a few unobtrusive changes to help you determine which version you are holding.  The extra-heavy bottle with it attractive leaf-wrapped neck and cork stopper are the same as before, but is now sealed with a sticker that reads: “Trinidad Production”.  The labels are slightly modified as well.  The small circular crest at the bottle’s shoulder that previously displayed a pre-Columbian native central American mask is now replaced with a coat of arms containing a Scarlet Ibis and two sea horses.  More obvious are the words at the very bottom of the main label, which declare the country of origin: Imported Rum from Trinidad” now replaces “Imported Rum from Guatemala”.

Zaya Gran Reserva (Trinidad) has been unmistakably influenced by the heavy vanilla and molasses flavors of Angostura’s rums, while retaining much of the full body of its deceased ancestor, Zaya (Guatemala) and its Zacapa influences. Clearly, Zaya (Trinidad) is a different rum from Zaya (Guatemala).  Think of it this way:  if you appreciate the old Zaya (Guatemala) and you enjoy Angostura’s 1919 and 1824, then you have another rum to sample.  Of course you want to know: ‘Which version do you prefer?’  Stay away form such comparisons.  So much of taste has to do with mood, location, aromas (both from within the rum and your surrounds) among other things.  Besides, it’s a moot point, since the original Zaya from Guatemala is now extinct.  If you can find the old Guatemala version, buy it.  Notice also the price reduction to $29 for the Trinidad version and consider that in your decision to purchase.

Reviewed: November 2008 at the Rum Gallery, USA.  Updated Aril 2015.

© Dave Russell 2017