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Zacapa XO (25 YR Solero)

Review: Ron Zacapa XO (25 Year Solero) Rum  (95/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 25, 2010 (Edited August 27, 2012)

My Original bottle of Zacapa XO (25 years)

Ron Zacapa Rums are made from sugar cane harvested in southern Guatemala, which is pressed into virgin sugar cane honey, a process unique to the Guatemalan style of rum production. This liquid is then fermented, distilled and taken to the mountains for aging, where the flavor of the rums is further refined through the premium aging process known as Sistema Solera.

The Ron Zacapa Centenario XO is blended from these solera aged stocks which range in age from 6 years to 25 years. These stocks were aged in special cellars more than 7000 feet above sea level. The solera barrels are a mixture of reused American Bourbon, Sherry, Pedro Ximenez wines, and Cognac barrels. The combination of solera aging and the wide variety of reused barrels creates a highly complex rum with a rich aroma and flavour.

I recently received a Ron Zacapa Tasting Kit in the mail which for me was the perfect excuse to revisit my previously published review for the Ron Zacapa XO (25 Year Solero) Rum. This review contains some very minor revisions from the original review intended solely for clarity. The scores have not changed, and neither has my perception of this great rum.

In the Bottle  (5/5)

To the right is my original bottle of Zacapa Xo reviewed in January of 2010, and to the left is a current bottle shot. What can I say? The rum arrives in a beautiful crystal decanter, sealed with a  quality cork topper. One of the most wonderful bottle displays I have seen. A brass coloured nameplate, and a touch of brass around the neck of the bottle completes an elegant design. The new display also comes in an attractive box display (not shown) which pleases me.

In the Glass  (9.5/10)

Richness and luxury ooze from the nose of this sweet nectar. Scents of mild toffee and spice combined with a rich oak and vanilla aroma rise from the glass to the delight of my nostrils. There seems to be a light orange citrus weaving through the aroma. The spices I can identify by smell are vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg with just a hint of cloves. The toffee smells of deep dark brown sugar with the firm imprint of real dairy butter. The aroma has nice nutty accents tempering the oak and holding its harsher tannins at bay.

I swirl the glass and a thick sticky oil coats the sides of the glass, and only after waiting until it is ready, does the thick film form nice long legs that trail down back into the rum.

In the Mouth  (57/60)

This is soft and smooth in the mouth, a silky suave rum that coats the palate with a thick  honey-like sweetness. There is so much going on here; we have dried currants and apricot brandy melted into toasted chestnuts and deep dark brown sugar. Oranges and marshmallows lie under soft cinnamon and nutmeg  spices with just a whisper of allspice and cloves. This is striking in its complexity yet every flavour is acting in unison with no off notes or bitterness. The oak and vanilla hold everything together. This is the kind of nectar that until now I believed only existed in my imagination.

In the Throat  (14/15)

The soft oil provides a tremendous finish for the rum. All of the flavour noted in the mouth, stays on the palate long after the rum is gone. An hour after sampling from my glen cairn glass I still taste and feel the delicious spice in the back of my mouth. This is smooth all the way down with the gentlest of burn in the throat.

The Afterburn  (9.5/10)

My goodness, this was nice! A rum full of complexity with almost perfect balance and smoothness. A delicious, sweet rum that had my taste buds absolutely reeling with delight. The only flaw of serious note is that my newest sample of the rum will soon be gone. I am thoroughly impressed.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


Suggested Cocktail

It is almost sacrilege to suggest a cocktail for the Ron Zacapa XO. Indeed this is a rum which my first suggestion is to serve at room temperature, neat, with no ice. The only cocktails I  considered were those which matched the rum with ingredients of the same quality.

When I wrote my original review, I turned to forrest with a few ideas and suggestions. Neither of us was willing to commit the rum to various trial runs as the Zacapa XO is just to precious to fritter away. Forrest noted that one of my suggestions was essentially the same as a recipe called “The Batiste“, which is a cocktail using white rum and Grand Marnier.

My version of course uses the higher quality Ron Zacapa XO  as well as the most excellent Louis Alexandre Grand Marnier.

The Royal Batiste

1 1/2 oz   Zacapa Centenario XO
1/2 oz       Louis Alexandre Grand Marnier

Build in a cocktail Glass on one Large Ice Cube


For those who want to know, ‘batiste’ refers to an extremely soft and elegant  cotton  fabric first produced in France.  Baptiste of Cambrai a (13th Century weaver) is credited with its first production.  My cocktail thus refers to the soft and elegant nature of the two spirits used which make this a drink fit for Royalty.

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


18 Responses to “Zacapa XO (25 YR Solero)”

  1. Burlington Bill said

    Your website rocksI! A neighbour just brought me my first bottle of XO all the way from California. Wow! I already asked him to buy me another one. Now I don’t buy any rum before consulting your website first! Keep up the great insight. Thank you!!

    • Burlington Bill said

      Anyone travelling into the US via Southern Ontario this summer, note that the Peace Bridge duty-free (on the Canadian side) is presently selling Zacapa XO for $69.99!!

      • That sound more like full mark-up and all taxes in to me. Zacapa 23 has bee selling at that price in Alberta for over two years now.

        • Yikes!

          You meant the XO 25 not the Zacapa Solero 23 (thanks fretmonger), that is a good deal. Better check close though, it is usually the Zacapa 15 XO, not the Zacapa 25 XO, that is the Duty free stores.

          • Burlington Bill said

            It’s the real deal. Comes in the coffin-like black box, serial #’d and all. I picked up 3 bottles between my wife and I. Looking for an excuse to cross the border again now..

            • Heck I would go across just to see if the weather has changed. I have heard rumours that Zacapa is making some changes in their rum line-up. Maybe this is the first move to clear out space for something new?

  2. Jordan said

    As a big fan of the 23 Zacapa, I’m now trying to source this through a “local” store. I’m quite interested in the difference as I’ve noticed a difference between even the first and second bottles of the 23 that I’ve had.

    However, thanks to your site, I now know of even more rums I want to try – specifically the Dictador and El Dorados.

    Thanks for all your work!

  3. rus said

    hi..enjoyed following the thread ..our last zac xo bottle purchased in turks and caicos freetrade store had the same wooden top to glass bottle top…purchased for $73 u.s…. we have moved forward from the sweeter western carib area rums in taste preference…last nite at a friend’s fathers wake we had 11 bottles to sip from at jimbos…….dictador20-ron matsulem15{sp}-atlantico-diplo-zaya- were the main favs…going south on the 16th will see whats new!! enjoying your interviews cheers russ

    • I always enjoy a chance to taste multiple bottles and compare the nuances. Started my two month long trek through my sample bottles to do the side by side judging for my Rum Howler Awards. So, far I have worked my way through the Vodkas, and am about halfway through the Rum. Last Friday the gang and I sampled 10 of my highest rated Rums in two fights of five. (All of these 90 plus scoring rums on my scales). Can’t let you know what they all were but some of the rums you listed were on your roll call. It seems each year the rum gets better and better.

      Happy trails Rus,

      (next interview is Alexandre Gabriel from Cognac Ferrand.)

      Cheers! Chip

  4. Jonathan L. said

    I recently opened both Zacapa 23 Solera and XO bottles. I was happily surprised at the 23, it wasn’t half as bad as any previous rums I had tasted in my life, I could even detect small hints of caramel like sweetness to it, it was a nice experience. I can learn to enjoy this rum :o) On the other hand I found the XO to taste less sweet, therefore more alcohol like, I was dissapointed by it as I assumed older meant better. Anyhoot I am happy I almost liked straight alcohol and intend on drinking AND build an appreciation with a few more bottles of Zacapa 23 during my long trip to Central America coming this Decembre.

    Your new pic is the exact bottle I have, they have 1 in english and 1 in spanish versions, both in that beautiful new black book case/box. Unless the master blender can sign her name exactly the same twice, I am sorry to say it’s a printed autograph and not hand written one but still a nice touch. Both XO bottles were bought for me at the duty free in Guat. for 85$ each. I much prefer the 23 Solera at 35$(lucky me).

    P.S. I wouldn’t mind finding a Diplomatico 12years while down there so I could taste it as you rank it even higher than Zacapa 23. I only have 1 of those so I don’t want to open it.

    • Hi Jonathan

      LOL, I expect the media compnies who follow my blog for Diadeo will be happy to learn that the Zacapa 23 “wasn’t half as bad as any previous rums” you had tasted previous, (a lovely backhanded compliment). I think you will like the Diplomatico a lot as it is sweeter than the Zacapa ans you seem to have a preference in that direction.

      I appreciate the additional information you provide regarding the bottle display.


  5. Jonathan L. said

    No, it says 6 to 25 years aged, aka XO 25.The bottle is exactly like yours except the label has more info on it and the bottle top seems to be made of wood(I don’t want to break the seal). The presentation box is also totally different than one pictured in this review

    I never heard of 15 XO,I have 15 anos, 15 solera, 23 anos, 23 solera and this XO 25(solera). The 15 and 23 I also have in both 1 liter and 750mil formats.If it helps I could take a picture of the bottle, the tag and the box itself (it’s all written in english on this one so I think it was meant for tourists and not locals in Guatemala) unlike the 15’s and 23’s that are ALL in spanish.

    I have read so much good about the 23 and XO that I will try to enjoy it in the near future, I will buy some cheapo rum(barcardi or appleton) and drink a shot a day until it’s done, THEN try a Zacapa, maybe I could appreciate it then.I wish I liked the taste of alcohol and enjoyed my collection from a drinkers point of view.Do you think that is a good idea to possibly appreciate this fancy rum? or no matter what I try I will never develop a taste for alcohol? Thank you for your help Artic Wolf and/or any of your fans.

    P.S. I read that a XO 30 is now available but my Guatemalan friends have not been able to find one for me yet.One is going back in March, hopefully he will find one then :o) if not I will attack the high end Ron Botrans.

    • Hey Jonathan.

      I suspect you have bought the same 25 Year XO that I have reviewed, just a different batch bottled for a different market. If you do not appreciate alcohol but just love to collect special bottlings that appeal to you, then I dig your style. Collecting rum for the sheer joy of collecting is, in my opinion, very cool.

      If you want to learn to enjoy alcohol, I think you need to go slow. Don’t sip that Bacardi or Appleton straight. Try a few of my cocktails and see if any of them appeal. It is not unusual to mix. In fact I think most people first mix cocktails, and then slowly over a period of time develop a taste for the beverage in its neat form. Don’t drink to get buzzed, that only gets you buzzed and doesn’t really give you any appreciation for the spirit. It may take years to develop your palate, and it takes a bit of experimentation to find the styles of alcohol beverage you prefer.

      PS: I saw your posting on The Ministry of Rum, you are on the right track to get advise there. The Ministry is full of varied opinions yet it maintains a nice laid back atmosphere where all who demonstrate an open mind are welcome.

  6. Jonathan L. said

    Hi Fellow Zacapa lovers…

    My work buddy just brought me back 2 Zacapas from Guatemala, a 23 year old and an XO, the 23 now has “Solera” on it as opposed to my older ones that have “Anos”, they also changed the box shape and writing, I am ok with that. The XO one does puzzle me though, it came in a big black box(shaped like a huge book) and has a diff label on it than all the pictures I have seen online, including yours here. It also has a numbered tag hanging from the neck that looks to be hand signed by Lorena Vasquez. Anyone know if this version is better or the same and if the autograph is real or printed? He bought it (the XO) at an airport shop in Guatemala.

    Jonathan L.

  7. ZacapaFan said

    Nice review. Have you noticed that the bottle in your picture is the earlier version of the Zapaca XO but the cardbox belongs to latest bottle? 🙂

    • Good Eye Zacapa Fan! I did not know that as this is the first bottle I have ever seen. Obviously the bottles were taken out of the boxes for display, and then I was given a new one instead of an old one.

      Cheers! 🙂

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