Become a better bartender by discovering the unique production process of the extraordinary Zacapa rum and learn the best ways to use it in your serves.
Author: Lorena Vasquez, Zacapa Master Blender
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
A Spirit High Above the Others
For Zacapa rum, having your head in the clouds can be a good thing. Aged 2,300m above sea level in the Quetzaltenango highlands of Guatemala, Zacapa follows the ‘Art of Slow’ to produce their awe-inspiring rum.
Overseen by Master Blender Lorena Vasquez, Zacapa does things differently. Learn about how the high altitude affects the ageing process, why Zacapa uses virgin sugar cane instead of molasses and the distinctive Sistema Solera model used to age their rum.
Filled to the brim with decadent tasting notes like almond, dried red fruits and tropical pineapple, Zacapa is perfect served neat or as part of a cocktail. Get inspired by the Caribbean-like Zacoco or see how the spirit twists tradition with a Zacapa Old-Fashioned.
A Heavenly Process
Distilled in a facility hidden among the clouds, you’d be forgiven for thinking that angels crafted Zacapa Rum. Although not quite as mystical, the production process is still extraordinary.
Like a lot of rum, one of the base ingredients for Zacapa is sugar cane crops. Most brands use the by-product of pressed sugar cane juice known as molasses. Zacapa takes a different approach.
Instead, Zacapa uses the concentrated first press of sugar cane juice - known as virgin sugar cane honey. This creates a sweeter, lighter body and pulls through a more exotic flavour.
To add a tropical burst to the rum, it’s then fermented with yeast extracted from pineapples, creating a more aromatic flavour.
Once fermented, this liquid is aged at altitude in the self-proclaimed ‘House Above the Clouds’
The Sistema Solera model is an ageing process adapted from the traditional Spanish sherry method.
Various rums are expertly blended and matured through this method in cask barrels that once held American whiskey, sherries, and Pedro Ximenez wines. This method brings in some of the subtle notes of the previous liquids.
The casks at Zacapa are changed every time a new mixture is released, creating rums with incredible flavour depth.
Why So High?
Despite being a stunning location, the reason for situating the Zacapa ageing facility in the Quetzaltenango Highlands aren’t purely romantic. There’s actually a lot of practical reasons for its location.
When you’re that high, there is little temperature fluctuation, meaning the area enjoys a consistent 62 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). This stops the barrels from drying out, making them more porous and ‘breathable’. A more breathable barrel will instil more flavour into the liquid ageing within it, adding to the taste profile.
The air is also less dense at higher altitude, which complements the slow-aging process that Zacapa employs to create their delicious rum.
The combination of the location and process creates a rum perfect for enjoying neat on the rocks, allowing the robust flavours to dazzle the tastebuds.
The rum also works brilliantly with various tropical cocktails as well as more floral drinks options.
- Zacapa is made in Guatemala, aged at an altitude of 2,300m in the Quetzaltenango region.
- Zacapa has been led for over 30 years by Master Blender, Lorena Vasquez.
- Its distinctive flavour comes from using virgin sugar cane honey instead of molasses.
- The Sistema Solera process is used to age the rum very slowly in pre-used barrels.
- Learning Zacapa’s history and understanding how to use it can make you a better cocktail maker and add value to your guest’s experience.