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This article will help educate busy bartenders with an exclusive insight into Ron Zacapa Rum from Global Ambassador Rebecca Quinonez…

Aged above the clouds

The first time I tasted Ron Zacapa Rum was roughly 12 years ago with a group of friends in San Francisco. I immediately knew that Zacapa wasn’t like any rum I had ever tasted before. As cliched as it sounds, I have to say it was love at first sip. Not only was it a love for the taste, but as any bartender will tell you, the journey from land to liquid provides easy and effortless bar chatter.

To put it simply Ron Zacapa rum is a journey captured in liquid form. Although famous for being aged ‘above the clouds’, the Ron Zacapa story actually starts at a lower altitude - just 750 feet above sea level - in an Eastern Guatemalan town.

Guatemala has more than 200 different microclimates and we take advantage of that when it comes to producing our rum. In the eastern tropical lands fronting the Pacific Ocean, where humidity is high and an intense sun beats down, we grow our sugar cane and run our fermentation and distillation processes.

From our sugar cane we extract something called ‘virgin sugar cane honey’. This makes even our raw rum more complex than most and plays a distinctive role in the fermentation process – allowing us to create a liquid with a huge range of different aromas and tastes.

Once the raw rum has been distilled, we head to the mountains. Quetzaltenango is 7500 feet above sea level, with a much colder climate. Here we run our long ageing process, under the Solera system, at our House above the Clouds.

Interweaving earth and sky is the handmade traditional petate – a woven band of dried palm leaves made by villagers living over 1300 feet above sea level. We wrap one of these around each bottle of Ron Zacapa, making no two bottles of our rum the same.

Get to know your product

These diverse climates help give Ron Zacapa its unique taste, but there’s a whole lot more to creating this amazing flavor sensation, and knowing exactly how it’s achieved will inspire your cocktail serves.

Firstly, our raw material – that sugar cane virgin honey – gives a rich palette of flavors to work with. Secondly, there’s the slow Solera-system ageing process during which we use four or five different casks that allow our rum to develop with a balanced, deep complexity and rounded character. Finally, the blend of rums we use (aged between 6 and 23 years old for RON ZACAPA® 23, and 6 to 25 years old for

RON ZACAPA® XO) are what really help our iconic smoothness to stand out.

RON ZACAPA® 23 is exceptionally smooth rum, but RON ZACAPA® XO has an even smoother, more elegant finish. That’s because of its extra two years of resting in Limousin wood casks. These French casks have held Cognac for at least 10 years before we use them. They bring their own character to the blend and allow us to catch more fruity and oaky notes on the nose and in the mouth.

RON ZACAPA® 23 is about a rich intensity of aromas and flavors, whereas RON ZACAPA® XO is more about elegant complexity combined with perfect roundness and silkiness. Put it this way – if in RON ZACAPA® 23 you find bold chocolate notes, then in RON ZACAPA® XO you’d find silky cacao. Similarly, the rich raisin flavors in RON ZACAPA® 23 would be a lighter, dried apricot tone in RON ZACAPA® XO.

'News from the brand'

Our future is just as important as our past – and we have exciting plans for new variants which we want the men and women behind the bar and serving guests to be the first to know about it.

We introduced our first Special Edition rum in 2013 - RON ZACAPA® RESERVA LIMITADA. As its name suggests, this variant is fairly limited in availability; currently it is only found in a few European countries - Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the UK. Spicy and intense, it is aged for one year longer than the regular RON ZACAPA 23, spending the first half of the year resting in re-charred bourbon casks and the second half in old Sherry Oloroso casks.

If you happen to be travelling soon, you’ll be able to get this special ZACAPA edition in Mumbai airport or at Dubai Duty Free. And keep an eye out, because there will be new versions released every year.

We’re also working on the launch (probably in 2015) of a new, regular RON ZACAPA rum, so watch this space!

The Perfect Serve

In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite Ron Zacapa recipes to keep you inspired. It was the winning cocktail of the World Class 2014 Zacapa Gastronomy Challenge – all credit to Singapore’s Peter Chua , pictured creating his winning Zacapa cocktail, The Duck Knight – which takes its name from the food it was created to complement. Introducing ‘The Duck Knight’…

The Duck Knight

- 1.5 oz RON ZACAPA® 23

- 0.5 oz dry vermouth

- 0.25 oz triple sec

- 10.25 oz cherry liqueur

- 1 tsp tobacco liqueur

- 2 dashes cardamom bitters


- 1 dehydrated orange wheel

- 1 candied rose


Pour all contents into a mixing glass with ice, stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel and candied rose.

All drink recipes within this site contain no more than 0.6 fl. oz. (14 grams) of alcohol per serving, equivalent to one standard U.S. drink.

All drink recipes within this site contain no more than 0.6 fl. oz. (14 grams) of alcohol per serving, equivalent to one standard U.S. drink.

To keep up to date with Rebecca Quinonez, you can follow her on Instagram (@QUINREBE) and Twitter (@QuinreQuinrebe) and for everything else check out https://www.zacaparum.com/