Ron Zacapa, the rum that is blended 2300 metres above sea level
August 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
Johnny Depp has made rum (very) cool again. The Rum Diary and of course The Pirates of the Caribbean series have marked a serious return of the seafaring drink to the subconcious of most – (not the younger viewers obviously) .
But rum has always been there, lurking in our background, influencing the course of history. It’s hard to think about rum and not conjure up images of swashbuckling pirates creating havoc and adventure – it’s a drink with spice. No doubt about it.
Now, Ron Zacapa Rum.
Remember that name. Why? Because it is the best and it is launching in South Africa in January or February next year.
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.
Same 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.
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 captivating passion for blending radiates so unharnessed from her that you cannot doubt for one second that this rum is something special.
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 Nicuaraga. 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 is history.
On being a woman in a male dominated industry: When she joined the distilley at 29 years of age it was difficult, especially at the beginning, but her determination and vision for sophistication has motivated her to triumph and present a luxury drink that is widely acknowledged to be the world’s best tasting rum. Her mantra is “create, create, create!”
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. We weren’t in Guatemala but a close second on a cruiseship 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.
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 invovles 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.
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 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.
So once again rum history was made with my own creation – affectionately named Chocky’s Blend – of Ron Zacapa Rum. I can’t wait for the long weekend and for Women’s Day I may just treat myself to a large helping of it over ice. I can tell you that drinking this rum is an experience, full of passion and adventure. Pretty much like the Pirates of the Mediterranean.
Post by: @chocky33