In 1976, while the U.S. was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the town of Zacapa, Guatemala, had its 100th birthday — and what better way to party than with rum?
Ron Zacapa Centenario was born when Guatemala's premier rum-producing company decided to create something special for Zacapa's centenary. While most rums are distilled from molasses, Ron Zacapa Centenario's Master Blender Lorena Vásquez uses only the first pressing of sugar cane — called "sugar cane virgin honey" — for a result that is pure and unlike many rums. The flavor is even more unusual because of the fertile volcanic soil where the cane is grown.
The two variations of Ron Zacapa Centenario rum — Zacapa 23 and Zacapa XO — are aged in the complex Sistema Solera process: rums of different ages are blended so they may continue to mature and take on the character of the barrels in which they are aged. Many different casks are employed, including bourbon, charred white oak, sherry and Pedro Ximenez wine casks for increased depth of flavor. The casks are then stored at an altitude of 2,300 meters above sea level where the cool air slows aging, allowing Zacapa time to rest and develop its profound character and multilayered profile.
Zacapa 23 is then bottled, while the XO must first be aged further in French oak barrels from Cognac, which imparts a light smoky wood taste. The higher-end XO is a blend of rums between six and 25 years old, featuring mature toasted oak on the nose, along with burnt caramel and orange peel with a floral note of honeysuckle. The light-mahogany spirit is sweet and fruity with a hint of spice and a smooth taste of dark cherry chocolate and dried fruits. It finishes with gentle notes of dried mango and raspberry. Besides enjoying Zacapa XO neat or on the rocks, why not try Vásquez's suggestion: drink the rum with chocolate that is 70 per cent or more cocoa.