Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 Solera Gran Reserva

ZACAPA RON 23 Solera Guatemala Rum ReviewRon Zacapa Centenario is a premium rum produced in Guatemala by Rum Creation and Products, a subsidiary of Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala and distributed and marketed by Diageo.  Zacapa was created in 1976 to celebrate the centenary of the foundation of Zacapa, a town in eastern Guatemala.

The rum is produced using Virgin Sugar cane honey rather than molasses.  One of the confusing aspects surrounding the various Ron Zacapa rums which have been available has been the ageing statements.  This has also been further confused by different territories enjoying different expression of their rums.  I have used the full naming convention on the bottle for the purpose of this review to avoid any confusion.  This is something I usually do with my reviews but I took extra care with this particular one.

Ron Zacapa is cleverly marketed by Diageo as “Sistema Solera” which whilst a perfectly legitimate method of producing rum, immediately leads many to believe they are buying a rum that is 23 years old.  This is something which is often frowned upon by rum connoisseur’s and reviewers.  Personally, I have never bought a rum based solely on the age of the rum.  I have of course bought an older expression, if for instance it is on sale and is less than the lesser aged rum but it is not something which I judge rum’s upon.   There are rum’s in my cabinet which I rate very highly and I do not actually know how “aged” they are.  The “Sistema Solera” method is described on the cardboard sleeve as….

“In the “Sistema Solera”, art and tradition encourage the blending of rums of different ages and personalities so that they may continue to mature in select barrels.  This dynamic and artisanal process culminates only after the complexity of aromas and flavors confirm that unique, mature rum has been created”

“Ron Zacapa 23 is a unique balance of complex aromas and flavors resulting from the special blend of reserve rums.  We hand select rums aged between 6 and 23 years for our “Sistema Solera”.  Older and younger rums are then blended as they age in a sequence of barrels that previously stored robust American Whiskeys, delicate Sherries and find Pedro Ximenez wines.”

Ron Zacapa 23 Solera Review GuatemalaAs I mentioned earlier cleverly marketed.  The packaging also highlights the unique climate of Guatemala, which they also say assists in producing this premium product.

As expected and the packaging is excellent throughout.  The rum comes in bottle which is a mix of a standard bar room bottle and a stubby bottle.  It’s like a slightly elongated Plantation stubby bottle.  The outer cardboard sleeve is consistent with the rum bottle and the contents of the bottle. Dark and mysterious.  The “Petate” weaving on the bottle is a Mayan symbol and is hand weaved by Mayan descendants in Guatemala.  The craftsmanship on the weaving suggests they aren’t enjoying samples of Zacapa whilst weaving.  The presentation of the Zacapa is top-notch. Consistently branded across their range, which for me is always a good thing.  Even the cardboard sleeve is premium quality.  The rum has a very nice real cork stopper, with a Ron Zacapa branded black plastic topper.  The bottle is distinctive and the Petate weave gives an extra bit of authenticity and heritage to the product.

Zacapa Centenario 23 is marketed very much as a premium sipping rum if not THE premium sipping rum!  It is advised on the packaging to enjoy Zacapa over one large ice-cube, which melts imperceptibly, this returns the rum to the temperature at which it was aged, respecting its remarkable flavor.  Whilst I have tried it a variety of ways ,it is as a sipper with which I will begin my review of the contents of bottle.

The rum is a dark amber with reddish hints.  To be honest its exact colour is as complex as the rum.  Light can make it appear both red and golden and dark at the same time!  The rum is quiet viscous almost like a lighter liqueur, rather than a rum.  The rum is very sweet on the nose.  Another point which is often made about this rum is how much sugar is added.  This is a slight which is often aimed at a lot of the newer breed of “Premium Sipping Rums”.  Like many rum arguments its not something which either interests or bothers me.  I don’t know how to distil, blend or market rum I just enjoy drinking the ones I enjoy.  The Zacapa initially gives a bouquet of brown sugar, it reminds me a little of a chocolate or caramel/toffee sauce for ice cream or desserts.  Upon a further nosing I am also getting a feeling for the aged rums in the blend with a little oak and cocoa coming through.

Upon tasting, the rum is not as sweet as I was expecting.  The nosing suggested it could be as sweet as XM or El Dorado.  The Zacapa is actually quite dry and oaky.  I find the flavour builds if you leave the rum in your mouth for a little longer allowing it to coat the palate.   You then get some of the cocoa flavour and a little bit of tropical fruit.  However, I’m not getting as much of the fruitier sweeter side I have found with other rums.   The rum is very smooth and has very little aftertaste or alcohol burn.  It is very pleasant to sip and I can see why it is many people’s choice.

I have tried this rum over a number of sessions.  I am pleased I did not review the rum on my initial tasting.  This is something I now try to avoid.  I find that a lot of the rums I initially enjoy are too sweet for me when I try them the second time around.  The rum seems to give you something different each time.  I find I am enjoying it more and more.  It is a complex drink and something which some rum drinkers will find completely alien as a rum.

zacapa 4I first experienced the Zacapa 23 in a cocktail in an American/Italian restaurant  A Strawberry “Z”zacapa5 Daiquiri.  It was pretty excellent.  Even if it looks a bit girly.  The picture arguably doesn’t do it justice, it was a beautiful drink but even with the strawberries and lime I could still detect a high quality and full flavoured spirit.   It did make me feel slightly better though, when I decided to mix the Ron Zacapa with cola.  I know in some of the rum more snobbish rum circles this is frowned upon and “sipping” seems very much in vogue but sipping just isn’t really how I enjoy my rum.  I have found that mixing my more premium rums with crushed ice and an equal measure of cola can produce some great results.

The Zacapa is not an exception to this rule.  I find that this brings out even more flavours.  When mixed with cola I get the fruity kick that was previously missing.  Raisins, sultana’s and prunes come through to add to the aged oaky flavours giving a very well-balanced and smooth rum and coke.  I would say “Cuba Libre” but I find the lime and sugar syrup an unnecessary addition.

Zacapa was a rum I had been itching to try since I picked up a bottle of M&S Guatemalan Gran Reserva (see the review) and thoroughly enjoyed that.  Zacapa is readily available at most online retailers and does have a presence in some of the more stylish city centre bars (even in the North East of England).  The rum is around £50 per 70cl and bottled at 40% ABV.  I tempered my purchased slightly by making sure I got a Zacapa glass free with my purchase.  Ever the bargain hunter.


Ron Zacapa Rum Review Solera 23 GuatemalaAs the picture shows even the Zacapa glass is slightly different and geared very much to sipping the rum and swirling it around in the glass a bit like they do with fine cognac’s in the movies.   it gives an extra touch of class to an already very impressive rum.

3 stars








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6 comments on “Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 Solera Gran Reserva

  1. Good review. I think I liked it a bit more than you. Delicious, as you note not nearly as sweet as nose suggests, and I get some smokiness. Very enjoyable.

    We may have similar tastes – also agree with you on Mt. Gay XO, Flor de Cana (just not a lot there), and Appleton 12 year. That last one has amazing flavor but IMO a little burn going down. If I ever saw the 21 year in a store I’d try it.

    Makes me feel like I can put stock in your reviews. Keep up the good work!

  2. […] those who have been living in a cave for the past few years or are just new to rum here is my review of the original Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 […]

  3. Is it gluten free?

    • I have no idea I’m afraid

  4. Coming to a Wetherspoon pub near you soon!

  5. Absolutely nice sugared brown spirit, with no wood, nothing else in taste to show its supposed age. Marketing hype promoted this in USA as “world’s greatest” – now more and more people seem fortunately truly disappointed with it, in the rise of real rums. Old label boisterously said 23 anos – 23 years. Since Diageo’s buyout, at least it is slightly less dishonest, stating 23 sistema solera (a solera unlike any real one I’ve seen…). Brown spirit rubbish, if you ask me. Half a star stuff at a high price – buy the cheapest brown spirit, and make your own version by putting 50g of sugar/litre and shaking well. Its products like these that give rum a bad name.

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