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This week we’re helping 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 clichéd 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 229m 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 2,300 meters 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 400m 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 flavour 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 flavours 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 flavours, 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 flavours 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 favourite 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

45ml RON ZACAPA 23
15ml dry vermouth
10ml triple sec
10ml of cherry liqueur
5ml of tobacco liqueur
2 dashes of cardamom bitters

(*2.67 standard drinks, 14.22 grams and 1.8 units per serve)


1 dehydrated orange wheel
1 candied Rose


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

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/

(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)