Sips Review: Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23

  • Distiller: Zacappa
  • Rum
  • Region: Guatamala
  • Cask: ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso sherry, ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry
  • ABV: 43%

I was looking for my favorite rum, the Zacapa XO, which was not to be found in the store. In its place I decided to give a try to the Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23. Essentially the Solera System 23 means that the rums used are aged between 6 and 23 years and then blended together in a solera process, rather than this being a 23 year old rum. A Solera process indicates that after distillation the rum is aged in a series of casks which, in this case, once held bourbon, oloroso sherry, and Pedro Ximenez sherry.

I am told that it was first produced in 1976 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Zacapa, a town in Guatemala. The sugarcane honey from which it is made, I understand, is still grown high in the hills of Guatemala. I also learn that Zacapa has a proprietary strain of pineapple yeast that is used when fermenting before everything is distilled in a copper-lined column still.

It’s beautifully packaged and I’m, as always, hopeful. The color of the liquid is a dark mahogany, which is pleasing to the eye. When I open it, I can immediately smell the sweetness, with a fruitiness, vanilla, and chocolate flare to it.

I grab a glass and get ready for this new adventure to see if it lives up to the XO. Upon tasting it, I find that it has a very pleasing liqueur-like density so that it clings in the mouth. It’s incredibly balanced and incredibly sweet. It tastes of butterscotch, vanilla and chocolate. I can also taste some fruits but I cannot name them. I find there is only a light spice taste to it and that there is an incredibly long finish of caramel and nuts and only a medium burn.

Overall, I find I am still a fan of the spicier, richer XO. However, this is a very pleasingly sweet, rich and easy rum to sip. I would not use it as a replacement for the XO but I don’t feel cheated in having it as part of my collection in any way.

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