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Stogie Spirits: Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Rum

14 Jul 2010

When it comes to pairing my cigars with a spirit, I’ve always been more of a whiskey drinker with a tendency towards bourbons and scotch. But I find that rum is my preferred pairing in the summer heat, lately one rum in particular.

Zacapa23The Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 is made in Guatemala, where it is blended from rum made from concentrated first pressing sugar cane juice rather than molasses. The color is a dark mahogany, imparted from oak barrels previously used for bourbon, sherries, and Pedro Ximenez wines.

Zacapa is aged and blended based on the solera method, a system used regularly for fortified wine such as port and sherry. Under the solera system, barrels of the oldest rum are regularly mixed with newer rum but never bottled completely. The result is a spirit with a mix of 6- to 23-year-old rum.

With a quick swirl the Zacapa 23 shows off it’s long legs and releases a smooth and rich nose of toasted wood, molasses, fruit, and just a hint of spice. You’ll find that the words smooth and rich pop up a lot when describing this rum. It’s unavoidable.

The flavors are also (yes, you guessed it) rich and smooth. It has some serious sweetness up front but what really sets it apart is the complex mix of secondary flavors: vanilla, peaches, citrus, chocolate, bananas, figs, and cinnamon spice. The cornucopia of flavors maintains spectacular balance all the way through the finish, which lingers for 10 seconds before elegantly fading off.

This rum is plenty smooth enough to drink neat, although in the summer I prefer an ice cube or two. Don’t even think about wasting it with anything more than that.

Needless to say this is an excellent rum to enjoy with a good cigar. It could stand up to a spicy smoke like an Opus X, or just as easily pair up with a subtle smoke like a well-aged Paul Garmirian Gourmet Series.

Either way, this is a fantastic rum available at the incredibly reasonable price of around $40 a bottle. The only other rum in its class is the equally impressive Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year, though you couldn’t go wrong with either one.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

5 Responses to “Stogie Spirits: Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Rum”

  1. Dave in Ashburn Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    Can you explain a bit more about the only other rum in its class. Which class are we talking about? If it's about quality for the price, have you tried El Dorado 15yr? It's $40 a bottle here in VA.

  2. Timothy Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    And don't forget Zafra, imported by Dana Importers, who also import Ron Zacapa.

    A true 21 years old rum, finished in Bourbon casks. $40-$45 a bottle. Can't go wrong with any of the "3 Z's."

  3. Padronnie Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Dave- El Dorado is certainly an excellent rum, but I personally feel Zaya and Zacapa are a step above. Maybe they really are in the same class, it’s just that Zaya and Zacapa get A+ grades while El Dorado gets A-.

    Timothy- Haven’t tried the Zafra yet, but I surely will be on the lookout for it.

  4. Dave in Ashburn Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    Heresy, Padronnie, heresy. 🙂

  5. Will Monday, August 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    I've lived in the Caribbean for 12 years and drink quite a bit of rum. I have blind tested (with local friends and visitors from elsewhere) various El Dorado vintages against Zacapas and others from the region. Consistently, the El Dorado 15 is the best premium rum ($30/bottle where I live in the BVI), whereas the Zacapa 23 is a greatly appreciated, and sweeter "super premium" rum, maybe marginally preferred to the El Dorado 21. For me, though, you would drink it like a cognac.

    My preference (and ultimately that is all it is) for a quality drinking rum, is the El Dorado 15, drunk with a little ice and, if you like, a dash of water.

    For alternatives, I agree the Zaya is nice, as is the Haitan Barbancourt Estate Reserve (15yr) – good value. If you can find it, I would recommend the XM 10 year old (like El Dorado, a dark Guyanese rum) – it is an excellent rum.

    For everyday cooking rums (i.e. for giving to folks who want it with a mixer or general house party rum, I tend to stick to El Dorado 5 or (perhaps lowering the bar somewhat) the Mount Gay Extra Old, both of which come in around $13/bottle.

    Final tip: store your rum in the freezer. It'll pour smooth and cold. Trying to get the temperature of rum down with ice is truly ridiculous.

    Happy drinking!