Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Review 14 - Zacapa Centenario XO

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Some of the best Ron Zacapa has to offer - and it's not bad at all.
One of the most acclaimed rum brands in the world is Ron Zacapa. The story of how they won the Worlds Best Rum-award at Caribbean Week ”Rumfest”  Barbados 6 years in a row, just to be excluded from future competitions, is legend.

The first 4 years it was the Zacapa 23 Solera that brought home P1, and the last 2 years it was the Zacapa Centenario XO.

The rum on my table today is the latter – Ron Zacapa Centenario XO.

A refined version of the legendary RZ 23 Solera with 2 extra years of cognac cask finishing under its belt.

As will all things Z, this one is made in Guatemala and ageing takes place 2300 meters above sea level i cooler conditions.

The rum is made from virgin sugar cane honey (which means that the cane is only pressed once) and is ultimately bottled at the usual 40% ABV, after spending 6 to 25 years in a solera consisting of casks which previously contained American whiskeys (bourbon?), sherries and Pedro Ximenez wines.

I would have loved to scour the Zacapa webpage for more information. But at the time of writing my collective of three web browsers failed to load the mandatory age gate and therefore I was treated to nothing else than a pretty skyline.

So no more random information. If you need more, try their webpage – perhaps you are luckier than I was.

There is no doubt that the Zacapa XO is a top of the line product at the Guatemalan power house. The copper coloured rum is presented in a flat and wide decanter style bottle closed by a natural cork with a large wooden stopper. Quite nice but also a bit gaudy

The bottle only has a very small golden label on the front showing off a few details on the rum and then of course the name of the product. On the back we find a larger transparent sticker with more information. Most notable we have a short story about the XO and the solera system.

The decanter is kept in a large, black, reinforced cardboard box which sports the name on the front along with the information from the front label of the bottle. A nice touch is a woven pattern along the middle that mimics the pattern on the bottle which again mimics the bagasse skirt from the Zacapa 23 Solera. A nice consistency letting you know that you are holding a Zacapa – if the huge golden letters weren't enough to convince you.

In the glass a solid ring forms following the swirl and fat droplets emerge in its wake.

Nosing the glass reveals lots of caramel and oak spice. The cognac cask finish is very evident and makes this rum really stand out against the renowned RZ 23.

After the oak starts to clear I am treated to a wave of fruitiness with grilled bananas, raisins and figs. 
There is a slight pungency behind it all trying to add to the complexity, but in reality it just takes away from the welcoming arms of the initial goodies. Too bad.

The last thing caught by my nostrils was a slight winey aftermath – you know, that scent that makes your head ache in advance when nosing a red wine? That is the one. I sincerely hope that particular scent doesn’t translate onto the palate. We will see.

Not bad at all. It all starts out a little bit complicated. A bomb of insanely sweet oak spice follow by a fruity freshness and ended by a winey dryness. The delivery is timed so well that it all just comes off as a strange complexity, even though I feel that the levels are way off.

The spice is too prominent, the sweetness is too sticky, the dryness is way too winey. But they all seem to negate each others misfortunes and sum up to something quite nice.

I have to admit there is a lot of caramel taste in there. Too much for my personal taste. But in this case it is actually needed to keep the other elements in check.

After the weird abundance of tastes the cognac cask finish does a mellow sweep, that seems to clean up the mess from the initial destruction.

No head ache though...

The end of it all goes down pretty quietly. The enormous oak spice stays on as a warmth in the back of the throat for quite some time. Eventually it is countered by the sticky caramel sweetness and finally the dryness of the cognac casks removes that stickiness from your mouth again.


The finish is actually my favourite thing about this rum. Is does indeed clean up the mess once the freak show of too big tastes are gone. And I thank you for that Zacapa.

Rating and final thoughts
It is by far my favourite Zacapa so far. I admit I haven’t tried any of their more special products yet, but among the 15 and the 23, this one is way ahead in the polls.

I am not a huge fan of Guatemalan rums as I find them way too sweet. The haze of the solera method also takes off a point in the scores.

I do however feel that this is an excellent step forward for syrup fans wanting to try something a little more exciting. When you are done with the Millonario, the RZ 23 and the Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, this is the one to grab. It gives you the funk of the cognac finish which has a way bigger effect on the rum than I ever expected.
Perhaps the multi-cask approach has something to do with it as well, but I never found a quality like that in the RZ 23 which is made with the same multi-cask philosophy – except from the addition of the cognac casks in the XO.

Like I remarked in my review of the Abuelo Centuria this is a rum that perhaps would have benefited from a higher ABV. And then perhaps not. The tastes were so overwhelming than additional torque might just have floored my taste buds. So perhaps this particular rum actually wouldn't be better if it had been 43% or 46%. And that is one of its weaknesses.

Price wise we are a bit up the ladder. On a good day it can be found close to €70. On a bad day we are looking more at €90. And in that price range there is a lot of other options. But if you are a Zacapa or Millonario fan this is definitely worth a shot.

Well a review is not much good without a scoring.

The interesting use of the cognac casks are definitely a plus. The brute force of the tastes are definitely not. A more well composed rum would have been a little more tippy-toed about it.

A brand like Zacapa with all its history and acclaim had me expecting more from their top end product. But to be frank this is just a mere variation of the RZ 23. And that is just too unimaginative.

I wasn't surprised or awed in any way when ignoring the effect of the cognac finish and when dealing with the top shelf products of one of the most acclaimed rum producers in the world, I do expect to be dazzled a little bit. Just a little.

That is why I can’t go above a…
Rating: 68/100

http://www.zacaparum.com (However the age gate failed on all my browsers…)

No comments:

Post a Comment