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’.

SISTEMA SOLERA

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

The Zacoco

RECIPE

60 ml Zacapa

40 ml Coconut water

20 ml Pineapple juice

15 ml Lemon juice

20 ml Coconut syrup

Pinch of salt

METHOD

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)

ZACAPA OLD-FASHIONED

RECIPE

50ml Zacapa

10ml Plum or date syrup

Dash of Angostura bitters

Dash of chocolate bitters

Dash of orange bitters

Orange zest

Rocks glass

Orange zest

METHOD

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice

Stir

Strain into a rocks glass over ice

Garnish and serve.

ZACAPA OLD-FASHIONED

KEY POINTS ON ZACAPA

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