Ron Zacapa XO Centenario was created in 1976 to celebrate the the centenary of the town of Zacapa in eastern Guatemala. It is a blend of rums aged from 6 to 25 years and, after blending, the rum is finished in French oak barrels that have previously been used to age Cognac brandy. It is one of the very best Gautemalan rums.
The flagship Rum in Zacapa’s range goes through a solera system (a fractional ageing process made famous in Sherry and in the production of some Brandy de Jerez). Zacapa rum is aged at 2300m above sea level in the highlands of Quetzelaltenango – this is one of the highest ageing facilities in the world and the cooler temperature and lower pressure of high altitude allows the rum to develop slower and gain more complexity then it would at lower, warmer altitudes.
The Solera system at Ron Zacapa is based on the Sherry system but Zacapa’s “Sistem Solera” involves blending rums of various ages in casks that once held American Bourbon whiskey, light and floral Sherries as well as the sweet dessert sherry, Pedro Ximenez. The story of Zacapa starts at 350 metres above sea level where sugar cane is cultivated on the fertile, volcanic plains of Retalhuleu. Whereas most rums are made from the distillation of molasses (a by-product of sugar production), Zacapa uses only the concentrated first press of sugar cane, known as virgin sugar cane honey – the use of sugar cane juice is common in French speaking rum producing countries where rums produced from it are known as Rhum Agricole. Fermentation is started using a strain of yeast derived from pineapples called Sachharomyces cerevisiae that produces the particular aromatic character that Zacapa require. Rums are distilled in a copper-lined single colum still.
Ron Zacapa XO Centenario Tasting Notes (from the Ron Zacapa Website)
Ron Zacapa XO Centenario has a good mahogany colour with intense red hints of long barrel ageing at the rim and long, slow legs. It has a very open nose with a wealth of aromas that seem to evolve each time you nose the glass; a great balance of mature toasted oak, burnt caramel, dry-roasted nuts, marzipan and orange peel; a delicate floral note of honeysuckle in the background. The palate is a wonderfully complex and satisfying balance of sweetness, fruit, spice and spirit, all tempered by the extra ageing stage in ex-cognac French oak barrels; long, smooth and sweet with a weight of dark cherry chocolate and flavours of intense dried fruits like sultana, date and prune; sweet oak spices of clove, vanilla and cinnamon, and lighter notes of dried mango and raspberry, with a subtle hint of ginger to finish.
We also sell another couple of other Rums, this time from Peru that go through the Solera system – Ron Millonario Solera 15 Year Old Reserva Especial and Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial.
Edit 20/09/16: We now stock Botran Rums, also from Guatemala (in fact, the same distillery that produced Ron Zacapa) which are made using the same Sistem Solera.