Ron Zacapa Centenario

by Matt Robold on October 22, 2007

When most people think of rum, they think of the islands of the Caribbean.  The images of Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, and Puerto Rico all swirl about in the mind’s eye.  The average imbiber probably immediately thinks of names like “Bacardi”, “Captain Morgan’s”, and “Meyer’s”…possibly even “Mt. Gay”.  If you asked the run-of-the-mill drinker what the best rum on the market was, they’d probably say something like “Bacardi!” simply because they know the name, and no rum distiller has done a greater job at mass-marketing than has the company with the bat for a logo.

I started out as such a person – although Bacardi was never a rum I rated very highly.  Personally, I was always something of a Captain Morgan’s fan, myself…and while I always fancied myself a “top-shelf only” drinker because I insisted on drinking Tanqueray Ten or Grey Goose, I consistently would order “Captain and Coke” when I felt myself in the rummy mood.

In the past 2 years, mine eyes have seen the glory of the aging of the rum, and the “Captain and Coke” man has died and been replaced with someone my brother likes to call, “The Rum Snob”.

Bacardi may be the most famous maker of rum in the world, but it isn’t the highest rated.  The islands in the Caribbean may be the first thing that pop to mind when you think of rum, but one of the most decorated and appreciated rums in the world isn’t from an island at all…it’s from Guatemala: Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Anos.

Background

Unlike most rums one will find on store shelves these days, Ron Zacapa is not made in the Caribbean.  Instead it is made near the Pacific coast of Guatemala.  Zacapa is actually NOT a molasses-based rum, and is instead made from the “pure sugar cane honey,” which is the juices of freshly pressed sugar cane that are then boiled and allowed to thicken.  This “honey” is distilled into a fantastic rum which is aged in a variety of wood casks high in the Guatemalan mountains in the region of Quetzaltenango (say that 3 times fast).  During the rum’s 23 year tenure in the cellars, every facet of their environment is monitored, including the temperature, humidity, light, and even sound levels (according to the Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala website).

The rum is aged using the solera method.  This is the same method used to create sherry, and involves replacing any of the rum that is lost to evaporation over the course of a single year in one cask with rum that was casked the year following that (e.g. rum that was casked in 2000 will be replenished with rum that was casked in 2001 and so on).

The unique combination of this process, combined with the also rather unique locale high up in the mountains, further combined with trade secrets that competitors have been desperately attempting to divine for years, gives Ron Zacapa a profile that is truly incomparable.

Appearances

The Ron Zacapa is a darker rum.  Rather than a typical amber color, this rum is a deep, rich brown (rich is a word that will continually be used in describing aspects of this rum).  A quick swirl in the glass creates a very thin ring of much stronger legs than one would expect based on the slightness of the ring.  As you watch, the ring grows thicker and the legs of the spirit make their way down to the body very slowly, belying the texture of the drink for one with the patience to let the glass breath for a moment or two.

Nose

The nose of the Ron Zacapa is not aggressive.  It’s much slighter than one would expect from such a highly rated drink, but as you get closer to the spirit, the richness of the rum start to slowly stir the senses.  There’s the expected scent of molasses, followed by notes of cocoa and a hint of orange.  It seems as though ever time I sit down with a glass of Zacapa I find something new in it, and this most recent tasting has been no exception.  There’s actually something of a cherry finish to the nose that I’ve noticed tonight, although I may be guilty of having let the glass breathe too long while I took down my notes.

Character & Palate

The Zacapa is sweet.  There’s no way to argue otherwise.  Your tongue is instantly enveloped in flavors of molasses, cocoa, and honey, with a slight woodiness to the finish.  There is very little burn, and this is easily one of the smoothest rums I have ever sampled, possibly only outdone in its smoothness by Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva and Temptryst Cherrywood.

This is a complex rum with a lot of flavors at play at the same time.  As I mentioned in the section on the nose, tonight was the first time that I had noticed cherry in the nose, and the taste is revealing the same notes that I had somehow missed.  As the rum moves towards the back of your throat, other flavors continue to appear almost as pictures.  You find yourself thinking of leather saddles and tobacco plantations instead of pictures of pirates or island shirted tourists drinking in a deck chair on the beach (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

One of the things that is most interesting about this rum is its texture.  The rum has a unique viscosity to it that makes it seem almost like a rum liqueur rather than a pure rum.  The texture adds to the experience of drinking the rum, as your senses of smell, taste, and even touch are all awakened by it.

The Long & The Short Of It

There is a reason that this rum has been essentially ruled out of tasting competitions: it’s just too good.  Each glass of Ron Zacapa Centenario is what modern American marketeers would probably call a “complete spirit experience”, with every aspect of your senses being consumed by the rum.  While it may prove too sweet or too viscous for some, for those who find it as appealing as I did, you’ll never run out of occasions for drinking it.  It is an excellent evening cocktail, and it’s almost-liqueur qualities make it a perfect after-dinner drink.  If you’re looking for a fantastic rum that you can buy today, this is a must-have for your tasting shelf.

Dood’s Rating: 5 Bottles of Rum Out of 5

More Rum Reviews

For another perspective on Ron Zacapa 23, be sure to check out Silvio’s review at Refined Vices

{ 76 comments }

Scottes October 24, 2007 at 2:32 am

Excellent review Dood! You certainly caught the flavor of this rum.

You mention the viscosity… I recently stumbled upon mention that this rum is made from sugar cane syrup, not molasses. I keep forgetting to confirm this, though that should be easy enough since the soure was quoted. But I wonder if the syrup might have anything to do with Zacapa’s mouthfeel…

And your comment on the Matusalem’s smoothness reminds me that I have not sipped it in over a year. I must break out that bottle soon.

Mike R October 24, 2007 at 3:40 am

Sounds tasty! I am looking forward to your comments on the topic of rum, having a taste for it myself. Maybe you will review some BAD rums too…just to contrast and compare!

Matt Robold October 24, 2007 at 5:06 am

Thanks for the kind words.

Scotte, while researching Zacapa I came across conflicting reports of whether or not the rum is made with molasses. It’s entirely possible that the reports that it does use molasses are just based on the fact that it’s rum and nothing else.

A little further research today shows that Zacapa is actually made from “pure sugar cane honey”, or the juice of from the cane press, rather than molasses.

I’ve added a note to that effect on the review.

Peter Alcamo January 5, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for the review Dood. I’m anticipating delicery of this fine Rum in about 3-4 weeks from another province (From Nova Scotia to Ontario). Although, I have not tried this rum (have only tried a handfull since I’m new to Rums), I can’t beieve it will be better than the El Dorado 21yo which just knocks my sox off.

Matt Robold January 5, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Peter.

The rum is just fantastic. I must confess that I can’t compare it to El Dorado 21 as my current collection lacks that particular El Dorado offering (I have the 15 and I had a bottle of the12). I can say that the flavor profiles of Zacapa and El Dorado are very different, and my understanding is that the ED21 is much drier than the 15. You’ll find that the RZ23 isn’t dry at all.

I hope you enjoy it.

ben Anderson February 20, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Do you know IF rum could be made using only honey instead of the sugarcane?? and Why or why not?? Great review!

Matt Robold February 20, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Well, the definition of rum would come in to play here, which gets tricky from country to country, as each government has its own way of defining different liquors. That being said, the generally accepted definition of “rum” is a spirit made from sugar cane or its byproducts (molasses).

For example, while you could make a spirit based on sugar beets (but please don’t do this…please don’t), it wouldn’t be considered rum by most people because of its beety origins. In the US or EU you wouldn’t even be legally allowed to market such a spirit as rum!

Hope that answers your question.

~ Dood

Grimm's Brother (the other one) March 22, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Dood. You do a great job with your reviews, and this one is no exception. RZ 23 has long been a standard and a staple. However, I recently discovered the 15 year old and confess to actually liking it better than the 23. Is this blasphemy? Most of my friends love the 23 but have never tried the 15 since it couldn’t be better than the 23, right? I personally find the 15 to be everything that I love about the 23 but in a more “rum” form. That probably doesn’t make much sense. I have always thought the 23 liqueur-ish, perfect for after dinner. The 15 feels more like what I think of when I think of rum but still has that Ron Zacapa magic. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a swirl in your glass and let us know what you think. I am really curious to get your impressions. Thanks for the site and keep up the good work.
By the way, I appreciated your Barcelo Imperial review and can’t wait to try it.

Capn Jimbo June 17, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Now I know that Zacapa 23 has received rave reviews for some years, and allegedly even removed from competition.

But honestly, I do wonder how much this had to do with rum’s rebirth around the year 2000, and with the trend of that time (and yet today) of rum as liqueur. Sweet, smooth, light. Zacapa was the princess of that movement.

Naturally 23 was one of my first purchases for these reasons, and my partner in reviewing, Sue Sea, and I have done a number of tastings of Z-23 since then.

Yes, all the descriptors above do apply, but to us, these get lost in a smoothness that borders on bland. We found no real kick, no real distinctive qualities. It went down too easy, and left little to remember.

Now we did give it a decent rating – a solid 7 (out of 10) – which in our world means good, nice, but not great or memorable in the sense of classic rums from Barbados or Jamaica.

Of course, this is a matter of taste and there is little doubt that Zacapa understands the marketplace very well.

I do wonder whether this trend will continue, or whether it will lead to more robust, classic tastes…

Richard Gamez July 4, 2008 at 12:04 am

Right on! Recieved a bottle from my wife’s Aunt visiting from Colombia, pick me up a gift from Guatemala. The best of the best. Taste, color, character! I will finish this bottle of Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 anos tonight.

Bill August 6, 2008 at 5:30 am

Just recently read the reviews on this site, great work man. Luckily my liquor store I go to is AWESOME and will order and can get just about everything out there. So I got this on order now and will receive it in about 2-3 days for the time being I picked up a bottle of Pyrat XO Reserve, definitely worth the 38 bucks. Of course I expect this from the company that makes my favorite tequila, patron silver (though I have yet to try the patron platinum).

StevenJ October 14, 2008 at 11:57 pm

This is a delicious, versatile, amazing rum. Let’s hope they won’t ruin the taste chasing sales. @Capn “and left little to remember” Jimbo, I beg to differ: 23 anos turned out quite unforgettable :) I have yet to find a better rum.

Rum Runner October 26, 2008 at 12:46 am

I agree with Grimm’s brother that the 15 is better than the 23. That’s hard to say because they’re both so good. Like beautiful women–you want them both, but you just like one a bit more than the other. The 23 is almost too cloying while the 15 still has bite and edge. I recommend buying them both and enjoying them on different occasions–always neat.

Tom October 28, 2008 at 1:30 am

Im not really a rum connosieur per say but i’ve had some rums out there. My favorite is Ron Abuelo Añejo but i also like Ron Botran for more relaxed occasions. Any opinions?

Rum Virgin December 12, 2008 at 12:49 am

Thanks for the great review. My dad is really into rums, and he loves Pyrat. I have a friend who used to make rums in Hawaii and he highly recommended this to me (of course he said the 25 yr is better). I would like to get this for my dad for xmas. Where do you recommend getting it for the best price? Thx!

Rum Virgin December 12, 2008 at 1:09 am

Sorry I meant where can I get Zacapa 23? Thx

loz December 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm

how’s this different to the gran reserva? also confused about the solera system as when used for sherry is for balancing good and bad years, not topping up because of evaporation, and if its 23 yrs old its 23 yrs old not youngerhere i’m confused

Lena January 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I came home from Guatemala this summer with a bottle of rum I bought just to have as a souvenir of my trip. Little did I know that I had stumbled on to something wonderful. It is so good my friends and I have had it straight on a little ice, just sipping to enjoy it better and longer. Just wish I could get me hands on some more!

Matt Robold January 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Lena,

It shouldn’t be too hard to find Zacapa if you’re here in the US (or in Canada or the UK). It’s fairly widely available. If you can’t find it at a local liquor store, check out some online stores and see if they’ll ship to you. Zacapa is definitely a rum you should have on your shelf.

John Brunette January 21, 2009 at 3:06 am

Prior to taking a cruise to Mexico on a popular cruse line, I read your comments on RZ 23. To my suprise I found the rum (1L Bottles)in the duty free shop for $49.95 (USD). It sounds like I bought a great rum. My question is did I get a good price?

Matt Robold January 21, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Hi John,

A 750mL bottle here in the States should run you about $35-$40US. Since you got a 1L bottle, I’d say you were on the high side, but not excessively so. I certainly wouldn’t consider it a deal though.

Be sure to open that bottle up and let me know what you think!

RyPay January 27, 2009 at 12:43 am

Had the RZ23 this weekend for the first time. A friend brought it back from Guatemala and forced me to try it neat. I can honestly say it was the smoothest rum I have ever had. It bordered on a dessert wine. Came across this site looking to see where I could buy it. has anyone had RZ XO? About twice the price but after trying the RZ23, I am curious to give it a try.

Alex February 8, 2009 at 10:45 pm

At “Tom”:

Ron Botran and Zacapa are made by the same family/company.

I assume Botran is the little brother/sister of Zacapa. Botran is good, but not great. Still a great bargain either way!

BushMaster February 9, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Wow what a wonderful tasting rum. Ron Z has surpassed my expectations and is now my favorite rum by a long shot. Mixed with coke Ron Z is sneaky, Straight up Ron Z is delicious. Nice review and thanks for the new friend!

George March 8, 2009 at 1:12 am

Amazing rum. My dad was born in Guatemala and I bought a bottle when he came to visit. Drank half the bottle with him and watched soccer. Great memory.

The Skipper March 10, 2009 at 3:45 am

Hola from Guatemala,

First, I am not even close to being a connosieur of anything, let alone Ron”

At this moment I am in Guatemala for my second year @ 2 yrs for 3 months at a time.

Last year I got introduced to Zacapa 23 and I find it to be the perfect “sipping rum”. I also enjoy quite readily Zacapa “XO”. Also, a very fine “sipping rum”. However, other than the fancy decanter and price I find no difference in taste. (Remember, I am not a sophiticated rum drinker.) But, as I said both seem very good to me.

For the difference in price is there a difference in quality??? Or, am I just paying for a fancy bottle?

Along, those same lines of thought “Ron Botron” 12 is muy bueno (I don’t know the fancy words to describe it) Ron made by the same company. For a third of the price ($9.50) maybe cheaper it is one I am proud to always have on hand!

Any comments appreciated!

The Skipper

darkNstormy March 26, 2009 at 5:26 am

Where would you rank El Dorado…been drinking it for years since High School. It is a Guyanese rum also not an island but formerly associated with the British West Indies.

Matt Robold March 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Depends on which El Dorado product you’re referring to. I did review El Dorado 15 Year Old: rumdood.com/…/…view-el-dorado-15-year-old.aspx

Jacob March 31, 2009 at 8:11 am

Hey Matt! I came across this old post of yours on Slashfood today, and coincidentally I tried this rum for the first time last week. Quite the eye-opening experience! It was incredibly tasty.

harmony May 8, 2009 at 6:37 pm

i love this rum. i’m a captain morgan fan for years. but after a sip of ron centenario anejo. i was hooked for life. there is no comparison to this nector. it’s so deep and complex as you mentioned. just an awesome find.

VanHorssen May 13, 2009 at 9:24 pm

To RumRunner,

How can you compare “women” between 15 and 23 years?

hills May 16, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Greed ruins another good thing. Suddenly they have changed the way they sell this rum in the United States. I am so mad, they’re still charging the same $40-$45 per bottle even though it’s not the same.

The change has come this year as the distributor in Los Angeles now mixes the 23 year rum with 6 year rum into something called Solera Grand Reserve and it’s undrinkable. I’m not drinking Zacapa rum anymore until they bring the original Centenario 23 year back. Don’t drink this rum. Boycott Zacapa.

Scott Cryer June 18, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I was lucky enough to have a friend bring me back a bottle of Ron Zacapa “Straight from the cask” last month from the duty free in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It is simply the finest alchoholic beverage I have ever tasted. Everything the Rum Dood has said it sooooo true. Problem is, I cannot seem to find it anywhere in Canada where I am from. I can’t even find web sites who deliever to Canada. If anyone has some insight into this I’d really appreciate. I’ve been savoring the last 2 ounces in the bottle and need more!
Cheers from Toronto, Scott

Hugo Alonzo July 12, 2009 at 3:43 am

http://www.beveragewarehouse.com

this is where u can get all guatemalan alcohol in the states

J. Rolando Flores July 17, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Great recommendation. The rum has character despite the sweetness of it. I love the reviews and have used them to educate myself. Has anyone recommend any good “sipping” tequila other than Patron?

Thanks for a great site

Matt Robold July 18, 2009 at 1:16 am

Hi J,

First, thanks for the kind words. It’s always nice to hear that people are enjoying the “hard work” put into drinking lots and lots of rum is appreciated.

There are a number of great sipping tequilas out there. I’ve been known to sit down with a little of the Tres Generaciones Reposado, as well as the Tequila Ocho blanco. If you want a good deal of tequila recommendations, then you should consider checking out Sloshed! and possibly sending them a question, as Dan and Marleigh are much more knowledgeable about tequila than I am.

mike August 6, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Not a great ‘ron’, after all. Too sweet, too mellow. Fake, I’d say. To begin with its color – what about using coke or guinnes? And what does 23 y.o. mean, if they use solera method? No sense at all.

Aonghas Crowe August 20, 2009 at 2:29 am

It was love at first sip with me, too, when I first tried Zacapa Centenario ten years ago:

aonghascrowe.wordpress.com/…/2-26-the-scales-…

Pete September 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm

I agree with Mike – Solera means the youngest in there could easily be 2 years of age and a great percentage of the total will be well under 23 yo. The sweetness must be added (prune juice or similar) to be that sweet and viscous and the colour to me means addition of something like sherry or port. I prefer my rum to be all rum and untouched by something else and to fully aged to what it says on the bottle.

Matt Robold September 3, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Actually Zacapa has changed their label so that the 23 is featured but not as an age statement because they can’t claim 23 years old. The oldest rum is 23 years, and you’re correct that there’s no way to know how much rum in the final blend is that old.

As for the flavor and viscosity being so sweet and thick, there are numerous people that have stated their suspicion that this rum is actually flavored in some way. Zacapa maintains that this is not the case, but unless someone privy to their trade secrets lets some cat out of the bag, I doubt we’ll ever “know” for sure.

Rum is an odd spirit in that there are so few strict definitions applied to it. Organizations like WIRSPA are working to create industry standards for age statements, additives, etc, but it’s a long process.

When I wrote this review I drank Zacapa a lot. My enthusiasm for it has mellowed over time, but I still think it’s a great product. In fact, Ron Zacapa has become one of my staples for winning over rum converts. It translates well to the American palate and gives people a glimpse of the fact that rum is not Bacardi Silver or Captain Morgan – it’s a rich and varied spirit that can be as excellent as a fine cognac or whiskey.

In the end, you drink what you like.

Capn Jimbo's Rum Project October 20, 2009 at 6:54 pm

The true Solera process involves a series of aging barrels, say four, and an aging/removal schedule, say annual, and the periodic removal amount, say half a barrel. The Solera is born when all four barrels are filled at the same time. After the first year, a half barrel of product is removed from the last barrel. This amount is replaced from the third barrel, which is topped from the second barrel, which is – yup – topped from the first barrel. New rum is then added to the first barrel.

And so it goes.

Without publishing my spreadsheet, what will then happen over 20 years will be that the last barrel will contain the same rum, but with different amounts of from age 4 yrs to age 20 years. The average age of the final product, based on volume and after those 20 years, will approach 8 yrs. The oldest rum in the mix will then be 20 years, and will continue to age. Furthermore, a true Solera system is exponential. For every 1/2 barrel of final product, you need 4 barrels. This, friends, is 8-to-1, and represents a huge investment in cooperage. And that doesn’t even address major losses of the angel’s share. Not a big deal?

Wrong.

Let’s say you age a rum (or blend) in a single barrel, non-Solera system, for say a loss of 10% of that barrel. Now consider a four barrel Solera system – each of the four barrels would lose 10%, for a total loss of 40% compared to the single barrel aging. Now although I’m sure the relative loss is not likely to be that extreme, it will still be very, very substantial. And don’t forget you are tying up 75% of your inventory, even for this small Solera!

The point is simple: “Solera” is more a marketing term, and is not at all understood. When Zacapa promotes the mysterious “23 anos” it is to mislead rather than inform. Zacapa, nor any other producer is really honest about their solera process – they do not publish the number of levels, overall age, or removal schedule.

Without those, solera means little. Now I can tell you that it is very hard to exceed an average age of much more than 8 years. So when Zacapa says “23″ – as Richard Seale loves to say – it may mean a teaspoon of 23 year old rum in the bottle.

Worse yet consider this – what if you get a bad barrel? You have thousands of barrels in various levels all sharing product. Do you trash the whole of it? Or do you break the solera and keep on truckin.

The answer is obvious.

Bottom line: I have no doubt Z-23 is altered and flavored in some fashion. It’s really quite obvious. That it is a rum for non rum drinkers is a given, and that Zacapa has found a flavoring formula that works is too. This is not to say it’s not a bad rum, actually it is quite pleasant, if rather non-descript, but should rightfully compete with other flavored rums (of which there are many).

But as you all know I am a big believer in “pure rum”, unadulterated in real in every sense, and the product of artistry in distillation and aging, not of flavor additives and adulterants.

Ultimately the world of rum is in a trick box. WIRSPA has studiously avoided defining pure rum, and has actually worked to exclude Caribbean producers outside of its self selected group. The average consumer is not really aware that most rum is actually altered, and the industry is not ready to fess up and admit the obvious.

As such, rums – exemplified by giant Zacapa – will prevail, and none the wiser.

Pete October 29, 2009 at 4:28 am

Matt mentions that the label now bears the 23 solera, this is true, but be vigilant as I went through Gatwick Airport the other day and the retailer had shelf signs that said 23 year old rum. Clearly this is not the fact as the bottle itself says 6 – 23 yo in the solera blend with undisclosed quantities. Retailers should reflect the truth not what they want the purchaser to think. I did of course try the rum as it was being sampled and still consider it to be too ‘manufactured’ in sweetness/taste but not unpleasant.

Matt Robold October 29, 2009 at 7:41 am

Pete: The older bottles are still out there, but yes, one of the biggest complaints about Zacapa is the fact that for all we know there’s half a teaspoon of 23 year old rum in the bottle – or even in the BARREL for that matter. It probably says something that as soon as they began their affiliation with Diageo they changed their label to remove any potential age statement.

The sweetness is an issue for some and not for others. It’s been a long time since I wrote the review here, and to be honest were I to review it again I’d probably lower the rating to a 4. The fact remains though that this is a good rum for sipping or mixing and I’ve found it to be one of the best rums for beginners. People who are not used to drinking rum other than in “Rum & Cokes” or blended daiquiris seem to have their eyes opened by Zacapa more than just about any other rum I have on my shelf. It delivers that “Ah-HA!” moment almost every time.

Capn Jimbo November 1, 2009 at 6:27 am

I do agree that Z-23 is a good entry in a sense. It is bland, sweet, smooth and dull enough not to offend. Great for non-rum drinkers? Maybe. The problem is that our early experiences tend to lead to our future expectations.

By cutting our teeth on a flavored, sweetened product we come to expect that this is what “rum” is. So when your next dram is of say, Pusser’s Blue Label, Mount Gay Extra Old or Appleton Extra 12 Year the new drinker is likely to say “Good god! Those are not the rum I know”.

But they are.

It is the Z-product that is false and represents “rum” only inasmuch as more “rums” than not are chock full of flavorings, additives and adulterants to make the underlying, real rum, more marketable to an unknowing public. Worse yet, few of these rums are honestly labeled either as to being flavored, or as to actual age (or average age in the case of “solera”).

I believe that we – including independent websites such as yours, RnD, Bilgemunkey, Scottes, the Count, et al – have an obligation to tell the truth and promote real, pure and unadulterated rum. It is only then that rum can, like good whiskey, become a “noble spirit”. Until then it will remain the drink of modern pirates and snake oil purveyors.

Tasty but false.

I exclude the commercial sites like the Ministry, Burr, Polished Palate and others that act only to promote rum uncritically in the form of faux competition and rum festivals. A source of entertainment but not real and critical information.

Personally, I extend kudos to distillers like R. L. Seale who are committed and promote a real and pure product that is far superior to the altered stuff.

Wisey December 9, 2009 at 5:35 am

I like Zacapa 23, it is one of my favourite spirits and I have used it to turn many people onto the pleasures of rum and that a good rum can be as complex a tasting experience straight up as a good whiskey or cognac (as can a good sipping tequila).

I would just like to point out that the Zacapa 23 being sold in the shops today is not the same product that was for sale 3 years ago (in the same bottle but with a different label) and a completely different tasting product to what was available 6 years ago in the bottle with the wicker wrapping over the whole bottle.

As the distribution of the brand has increased and expanded, the quality of the product has dropped. This is to be expected I guess since the increased demand could not have been anticipated 20 years ago to fill more barrels.

Harold Bishop December 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Just got a bottle of the Centenario and it is indeed incredibly smooth. You can hardly detect the full alcohol content. But despite the amazing taste, I can’t help feeling that it is more like a liquer than a rum. Drink it next to something like Mount Gay Extra Old or Appleton Extra 12 and you miss the warm dark sugar taste of a ‘classic’ rum. The pineappley aftertaste of Zacapa is strangely appealing, but my bottle also has something else I can’t place – almost like wine must or cork mould. Is this from the barrels it was in, or do I have a dodgy cork?

And for the record, I think El Dorado 12 is superior to the 15. It is smoother.

Pat December 18, 2009 at 5:02 pm

We just got a bottle of this last night at a party. Never hearing of it we are researching. Now that we have opened it, we are finding that it doesn’t taste like rum, but more like a brandy. It is good on the rocks and with coke. Anyone mix it with anything else?

Tito December 25, 2009 at 12:14 am

I’ve been buying Zacapa for years as a duty free treat during frequent travel to Latin America. Typically the 1 L bottles cost around $38 and this has been the case for the past 5 years.

My travels to Guatemala have taken me to the factory on private tours and the allegation that the Rum is altered/sweetened in some way is somewhat cavalier and unsubstantiated. I have had various barrel tasting opportunities and can attest that the flavors are not due to additives or additions.

The solera process will yield changes to the profile over 1,3 ,5 or 10 years. If you are continually adding new rums from different barrels you have somewhat limited control over the blend.

To be quite frank, I am a professional taster (not rum, but coffee) and I have hand-carried bottles from 2002-09 and purchased domestic bottles from 2008-09. A vertical tasting of bottles from 2003,05,06,08 and 09 did offer some insights and while there is variation from bottle to bottle, the domestic purchases are not distinctly different. Nor are the bottles from the past two far apart from their wicker peers of yesteryear.

Basing your recollections of bygone bottles is not a particularly effective way to assess current quality. Often times when a once-rare product becomes available to a wider audience the attitude amongst the cognoscenti is to immediately remind the masses that it was better before it was available at your local store. Attitudes affect the results of tastings and unless performed fully blind, one cannot expect to taste beyond their prejudices.

I will be at the Zacapa plant next month while on business and will once again buy more of their products. The 15 year is quite nice as well.

BeeHappy December 30, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Thanks for the great review Dood. I agree with your review 100%.

I just had this for the first time today – I’m definately in. Wow! Very smooth, many fine notes. My one brother-in-law is a huge rum fan, goes on a lot of Caribb. cruises and has given me tastes of many great rums. I usually buy Appleton 12 year. This rum is great. It is sweet, but IMHO not so sweet that it detracts from the overall experience.

Capn Jimbo, I hope you are not basing your bashing of RZ on your math, because it is wrong by a factor of FOUR. If you have four barrels and they each loose 10%, then the total loss is 10% NOT 40%. If there WAS a 40% loss and it was replaced with newer stock, then there would be a case to rail against the age claim. That’s not the case.

Mike January 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Great review and great rum. My father who does not drink very often and does not drink straight alcohol was actually introduced to this before I was, and he loved it. There is an empty bottle on his shelf in his basement so he can remember what it was. Perhaps I will pick up another one for the old man and one for myself :)

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