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Ron Zacapa Masterclass – #SummerofRum

As part of Youngs Pub’s ‘Summer of Rum’ I visited the Shaftesbury Pub in Richmond on Thursday 4th for Ron Zacapa’s masterclass session. Young’s are running these rum events throughout the summer so have a search for one that interests you and there could be one next door!

The masterclass was led by Charlie who throughout the evening demonstrated not only his knowledge of Ron Zacapa, but his knowledge of the spirit world especially barrel aging, be it spirits or cocktails.

The session began with an El Presidente cocktail made in front of us with the Zacapa 23. As we sat down for the masterclass Charlie dove straight into rum, explaining its history, how it’s created and a general overview for those who knew little to nothing about it. Well broken down and simple to understand.

From here the depth of the masterclass moved to the Zacapa 23 in particular. The name itself comes from a town in Guatemala which is where the rum originates from in Central America. We were given an insight into how the sugar cane is grown in Guatemala around 200 meters above sea level. Zacapa takes the concentrated first pressing of the sugar cane juice, called the “virgin sugar cane honey” and distils this once before maturation.

However one of the main selling points of Zacapa is that their rum is matured 2300 meters above sea level, in the clouds no less! At this height, the temperature and the humidity do not fluctuate as wildly as expected in that region of the world. This helps to give consistency to the environment in which the Zacapa is aged.

We were then treated to a neat sample of the Ron Zacapa 23 Solera. Here Charlie explained the difference between the two main barrels that rum is aged in; European and American Oak. He explained the different characteristics taken on by the rum when sat in these casks and then mentioned Zacapa also uses a third barrel which has been used to age Pedro Ximenez Sherry. The entire process is overseen by Lorena Vazquez who is the brands master blender.

As explained eloquently by Charlie, Ron Zacapa has a ‘Sistema Solera’ process when it comes to maturation. Each year, rum has an amount lost during the aging process through evaporation; this is known as the Angel’s Share. Once aged for a year the barrel is no longer full to capacity with rum. Zacapa will take unaged rum to top up this shortfall in the one year barrel. The rest will sit to age once all the one year barrels are topped up. This process is repeated each year with the rum from the younger barrel used to top-up the older barrel. The two year barrel’s contents are topped up by the one year barrel and then the shortfall in the one year barrel is filled by unaged barrel. This solera process is used all the way down to rum that has been aged for 23 years. As a result the barrel which has been sat for 23 years will contain rum that has been aged for a minimum of 6 years up to a maximum of 23 years. Hence the term ‘Sistema Solera.’

We were then treated to a rare portion of Zacapa 23 which had been barrel aged in a small cask for one month. The small cask interacts with the rum at a faster rate than a larger one, and in my opinion helps to soften and blend together the flavours.

Finally to wrap up, we were treated to one of my favourite cocktails, the rum based Old Fashioned. Charlie masterfully produced them with great flair, showing off how even a simple cocktail can taste amazing, to the delight of the crowd who were present. Bravo!

Overall, this was a very informative masterclass from a very well known premium rum brand. They had great cocktails to show off the versatility of the rum, but were clear that Zacapa 23 is a great spirit which is enjoyable neat as well. If you can get a ticket, grab it with both hands and enjoy a fun evening of rum and great cocktails.

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Review 5 – Ron Centenario 30

The Ron Centenario brand is from the Central America’s Costa Rica and is one of the last few remaining independent rum producers. The sugar cane used comes from very fertile land which is created due to the volcanic eruptions that have occurred over the years. That mixture of sub tropical climate and volcanic soil has created the ideal conditions for sugar cane and the best of which is harvested for use in Ron Centenario. The sugar cane is harvested by hand every 15 months. Ron Centenario uses American white oak bourbon barrels when aging its rum.

As we already know, the quality of the resources in Costa Rica have provided some of the best coffee in the world, so it would make sense that the sugar cane produced would also be amongst some of the worlds best.

Ron Centenario has a large selection of rum throughout its ranks, but the 30 year solera sits atop and is their limited edition jewel in the crown. They do not have a massive marketing team and as a result this rum is still relatively unheard of. This 30 year is a blend of softer column distilled rums and the heavier pot still rums.

The 30 year solera is presented in a beautiful heavy glass bottom decanter style bottle. It is a vast change to the 20 and 25 year bottle designs and I think it really highlights the fact that this is premium rum.

On the nose this rum radiates of caramel, honey and vanilla. It comes across sweet yet the hints of oak and spices seem to balance it out from the sweet smell becoming overpowering. The rum has a deep and complex nose that only draws more of my attention to it.

On my first sip I am greeted by sweetness. The molasses, honey and caramel float through coating my tongue and the oak and vanilla balance out the sweetness in a way that is just exquisite. The 20 and 25 year variations from Ron Centenario are definitely sweeter than their older counterpart, yet this aging further on the 30 year only helps to remove a slightly syrup like feel to those into a blend of rum that is extremely drinkable now. The extra time spent in the oak barrels has shone through here. The finish is also amongst the smoothest I have come across, ending with a sweet spiciness that is very moreish.

Having let this sit for a few minutes, the flavours in the rum blend together more harmoniously and the finish is a tad longer and richer. Definitely very smooth and this is a rum that you would return to again and again.

Overall if you can get a hold a bottle (and that is a big if), I would recommend you doing so without hesitation! The only drawback I have with this rum is that the 25 year is quite similar and almost half the price. Trying to remain impartial, I would say that this price differential maybe too much. Personally I think this is a rum that will remain in my collection and won’t be finished until another bottle is ready to be opened!