A Rum aged above the clouds
Aged to perfection in the highlands of Quetzaltenango, Zacapa is an award-winning and exquisite tasting rum, boasting a heritage unlike any other brand. We explore how Master Blender of 30 years, Lorena Vásquez, uses the spectacular Guatemalan environment to instil their Art of Slow philosophy into aging their rum.
THE RUM OF ALL PARTS
Up in the grassy plains of the country’s highlands, nestled between an array of spectacular mountaintops and active volcanoes, hides a dedicated operation committed to producing the world’s finest rum.
With such a unique environment at their disposal in Western Guatemala, local communities and skilful artisans have worked with legendary Master Blender and unconventional rum maker, Lorena Vásquez, to produce Zacapa.
One of a small number of female Master Blenders in the world, Lorena is a master of her craft and self-professed perfectionist. Mrs. Vásquez is widely celebrated for developing the ‘House Above the Clouds’, a unique rum aging facility hidden 2,300m above sea level to better enable a slow aging process.
MOLASSES FOR THE MASSES, NOT ZACAPA
Zacapa does things differently from the get go. Guatemala’s fertile soils and geography lends itself to producing excellent sugar cane crops but, unlike most rums that use the by-product of pressed sugar cane juice (molasses), Zacapa chooses to employ the concentrated first press of sugar cane juice (virgin sugar cane honey) for a sweeter, lighter body that extracts more exotic flavours and begins to develop the rums distinctive personality.
Once harvested and processed on-site, the rum fermentation begins and the Zacapa team employ a unique strain of yeast (extracted from pineapples) for a slower, aromatic method before distillation.
From here, a journey begins high into the mountains, passing volcanoes on its way to start the unique Sistema Solera aging process in the ‘House Above the Clouds’.
The Sistema Solera model is an adaption of the traditional Spanish sherry aging process, whereby a diverse range of rums (in both character and age) can be carefully blended and matured in barrels that previously held American whiskeys, delicate sherries and Pedro Ximenez wines. This differs slightly from the Sherry Solera system; at ‘The House Above the Clouds’ casks are changed every time a new mixture is realised, resulting in rums that boast extraordinary depths of flavour.
THE ‘HOUSE ABOVE THE CLOUDS’
The decision to locate the ‘House Above the Clouds’ 2,300m above sea level was built on the belief that good things take time and was central to the philosophy behind the aging process for Zacapa: The Art of Slow.
Conceived by Lorena, the aging facility in the Highlands of Quetzaltenango was integral to the philosophy for several key reasons: an average 62 degrees Fahrenheit means little fluctuation in temperature and little chance of the barrels drying out. This means the barrels are more ‘breathable’ and form deeper relationships with the liquid under less stress, adding unique impressions through the Sistema Solera process. Additionally, the higher altitude results in less dense air and, combined with the solera method, this creates an atmosphere befitted for slow-aging.
FLAVOURS TO USE IN YOUR BAR
The result of this process is Zacapa 23, which has a smooth, light body but full of robust and decadent notes like roasted almond and dried red fruits.
Lorena Vásquez recommends serving Zacapa 23 neat or on the rocks as an aperitif or digestif after a great meal. Zacapa is also great to use in a cocktail; take a look at 2 recipes to use in your venue:
THE PERFECT SERVE
60 ml Zacapa
40 ml Coconut water
20 ml Pineapple juice
15 ml Lemon juice
20 ml Coconut syrup
Pinch of salt
Chill the glass with ice
Add all ingredients into shaker
Shake for about 10 seconds
Throw the ice in the glass away and add new ice
Strain and fine strain into the glass
Garnish with pineapple leaves
16 grams of alcohol* (according to mls of the serve)
10ml Plum or date syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters
Dash of chocolate bitters
Dash of orange bitters
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice
Strain into a rocks glass over ice
Garnish and serve.
KEY POINTS ON ZACAPA
- Zacapa is made in Guatemala, by a team led by the legendary Master Blender, Lorena Vásquez
- Production uses the concentrated first press (virgin sugar cane honey), rather than molasses
- Zacapa is matured 2,300m above sea level in ‘The House of Clouds’
- A Sistema Solera process is used to age the rums slowly
- Zacapa 23 boasts decadent and robust notes like roasted almond and dried red fruits
- Perfect to serve as an aperitif or digestif, both neat or in a cocktail
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