A new week has begun, and as usual, we’re kicking things off by shining the New Arrival spotlight on a bottle that we’re particularly excited about. Today it’s a very special rum from Guatemala: Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019!
Ron Zacapa does things a little differently to most Latin American rums. For a start, the team uses only the first press of sugar cane juice rather than the molasses commonly used in the industry. This is then concentrated to make what is known as sugar cane honey. They use over 20 different varieties of cane all grown in Guatemala. That’s the country just below Mexico, just in case your Central American geography is a little shaky.
History of Ron Zacapa
The family-run company behind it, originally known as Industria Licorera Guatemalteca, dates back to the early 20th century but the Zacapa brand itself was launched in 1976 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town of Zacapa, about 70 miles east of Guatemala City. Currently, Diageo has a 50% stake in the brand and looks after distribution and marketing.
The process to turn that sugar cane honey into aged rum takes place under the watchful eye of master blender Lorena Vásquez, a former chemist and food technologist from nearby Nicaragua. Fermentation takes place over 120 hours using a proprietary yeast strain that is, according to this article, extracted from pineapples. Ron Zacapa is made in a column still with the alcohol coming off at between 88 and 92% ABV.
But it’s maturation that gets Vásquez particularly excited: “The fermentation and distillation are more of a mechanical process, the ageing process is where the passion comes in. The former is analytical whereas the latter is very creative and personal. Every day we blend rums and we have to try them halfway through the morning and halfway through the afternoon.”
Ageing takes place at a different facility high up in the mountains, 2,300 metres above sea level. Here you have warm days and cool nights which means the rum ages more slowly. The new make is diluted down to 60% ABV before going into cask. Zacapa uses a solera-style system, which Vásquez explains is similar to making sherry, but with some slight differences.
“We start by ageing [new make] in ex-bourbon American oak barrels. After that, we take it out of the cask and mix it with old rums. In this second ageing process, we use the same type of barrel but char it first for more vanilla, chocolate and toffee flavours. Then we take that rum out and mix it again with older rums,” she says. “For the final ageing process, we use barrels that held aromatic sherry, specifically Oloroso. And then we do a final mix in barrels that previously aged Pedro Ximénez wines. It makes the rum much more complex.” The rums, therefore, are blends of various ages, usually between about six and 23 years, though longer for the XO bottling.
Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019 is here!
Ron Zacapa also makes limited editions that are highly sought-after by rum fans. The Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019 is finished in sweet Moscatel wine casks which impart a glorious balance of sweet, floral fruit and rich oak. It’s bottled at 45% ABV, a little stronger than the core expressions.
This is the bottle that has just landed at Master of Malt today. As its name suggests, it’s strictly limited edition. When it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s very much a sipping sort of rum though would be delicious in simple cocktails like a Palmetto or, Vásquez’s choice, an Old Fashioned.
Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019 is from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.
Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Delicately balanced with plenty of sweet caramel and warming oak, hints of berries and floral orchard fruits poke through, with woody vanilla chewy butterscotch.