Ron Zacapa, the rum blended 2300 metres above sea level

August 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

Rum blending session with Lorena Vásquez, master blender Ron Zacapa Rum.

Johnny Depp has made rum cool again. His swashbuckling antics on screen have earned this marvelous beverage a deserved comeback.

Rum has always been there,  influencing the course of history, adding spice – no doubt about it – but now there is a new game-changer on the South African rum scene and his name is Ron Zacapa.

Ron Zacapa Rum.

Most of us are used to drinking rum in a cocktail, or a rum & coke, but a quality product like Ron Zacapa is reinventing the way we drink rum. Why dilute it with a mixer when a serving of Ron Zacapa XO in a signature Zacapa Riedel glass (a mere 50ml of absolute perfection), could be the best way to end off an evening.

With the Ron Zacapa 23 EN, all one needs is a large cube of ice and you are set up to enjoy a drink purely on its merit.  And of course the list of cocktails one can mix together with this product is endless.

What makes Zacapa so special? Well 2 things – it is made 2300 metres above sea level in Guatemala, and secondly it is blended by a woman whose passion for her product and her unique blending techniques has made her a name in the liquor industry.

Lorena Vásquez

When I asked her how she got into rum blending her response was “la vida la vida” – “life life”!  But the answer is she was born and grew up on an orange farm in Nicaragua. Her father was a doctor and instead of studying medicine she opted to look after the farm. She studied chemistry but preferred the food and beverage side of mixing and blending. When Zacapa was looking for a quality manager in their distillery she applied for the job. The rest of the story is her passion and skill has made this the top drinking rum in the world.

Lorena’s mantra is “create create create” and when she joined the distillery at 29 years of age in a male-dominated industry it was difficult, especially at the beginning.  But her determination and vision for sophistication has presented the drinking world with a luxury drink that is widely acknowledged to be the world’s best tasting rum.

You can’t watch Lorena Vásquez for one minute without wishing you were 2300 metres above sea level with her in Guatemala blending rum. I had the pleasure of doing exactly that  on my trip to the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year Global Finals in July 2013. We weren’t in Guatemala but a close second on a cruise ship in The Med. An incredible trip all round but one of the highlights for me was definitely the rum blending session with Ron Zacapa.

Watch this short video (taken with my iPhone) – just a taster of what it is like to be blending rum with this legend in the rum industry.

Now we get to the blending part of the story:

Ron Zacapa is not just another rum made from molasses it is made from virgin sugar cane honey – as you can see in the picture below – and it has a much smoother and more refined taste than molasses. We tried both and the difference is obvious.

The virgin sugar cane honey is on the left.

In the highlands of Quetzaltenango, 2300m above sea level, lies The House Above the Clouds and it is here that the unique Sistema Solera is used to store the rum. This involves blending rums of various ages in casks that once held American whiskey, delicate sherry and fine Pedro Ximenez wines. You will have noticed the different casks in the short video.

For our blending session purposes we could choose our own percentage of rums from the different casks.

The fermentation and distillation facilities, and the sugar cane plantations of Ron Zacapa Rum are at sea level in front of the Pacific coast in Guatemala where it is extremely hot and humid. When the rum was originally aged at sea level the heat caused it to become aggressive, the process of extraction was violent and not ideal for extracting from the wooden casks. So Lorena made the decision to age and extract at altitude.

Today’s Zacapa is smooth, gentle and rounded and balanced because it is aged at altitude where it is colder and the rum is extracted from the wood slowly.  The same reason you should not pour boiling water into tea. Rather let it cool a bit and it will extract the flavour from the tea less aggressively. Makes sense.

Everything about this rum is a delight to the senses. From its magical blending home in the clouds to the final product – it is a special drink.  Enjoy.

Post by: @chocky33

4 responses to Ron Zacapa, the rum blended 2300 metres above sea level

  1. Love this post Cath!!!!!!!!

  2. Who is responsible for the distribution of this product?

    • Brandhouse will be launching the product in January 2014. By the way I tasted my Chocky’s Blend this weekend and it was awesome. If I do say so myself. I can’t take the credit though, that must go to the rum…

  3. I have an empty bottle of Zacapa Centenario 23 on a shelf in my study. This bottle has been there in it’s sadly empty state for more than 5 years after my 3 month trip to Guatemala, El Salvador in 2008.
    This is great news Zacapa is coming to SA.
    Will check in from time to time – cannot wait to get my hands on a bottle or crate of this delicious stuff.
    Lets hope you keep the pricing realistic so I can afford a crate.
    Better start saving for it now…

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