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Ron Zacapa Ambar 12 Solera

Review: Ron Zacapa Ambar 12 Solera    85/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published June 01, 2018

Ron Zacapa rums are made from sugar cane harvested in southern Guatemala, which is pressed into virgin sugar cane honey. The fermentation process (which takes approximately 5 days) uses a yeast strain (saccharomyces cerevisae) isolated from pineapples to transform sugars within the cane honey into alcohol. After fermentation, the fermented ‘wine’ is distilled in a single continuous column. (A distillation by-product called vinasse which contains the fermented must, yeast and other non-fermentable products which are rich in sugars and minerals is recycled and used to nourish and irrigate the Guatemalan sugar cane fields.)

After distillation, the Zacapa rum is transported to the ‘House above the Clouds’ in the Guatemalan mountains for maturation. Special cellars age the rum at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above sea level where the ambient temperature is much more stable and the oxygen levels are lower than at sea level. The stable ambient temperature ensures that the aging barrels are subject to less differential air pressure between the outside and the inside of the barrel. This apparently lessens the effects of the oak allowing the flavour to develop at a more leisurely pace.

Zacapa rums are matured using a complicated process they call ‘Sistema Solero’. The subject of my review, Ron Zacapa Ambar 12, is produced from rums which range in age from 4 years to 12 years. The combination of high altitude aging and the variety of reused oak barrels creates a complex rum with a rich aroma and flavour. This rum is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume, and available through the duty-free trade (at major airports).

Ron Zacapa is owned by Rum Creation and Products Inc. (RCP), who have signed a global distribution and joint marketing agreement with Diageo.

In The Bottle 4.5/5

The Ron Zacapa Ambar Rum is shown to the left. The bottle the rum arrives in reminds me strongly of the style of bottle used for Scotch Whisky with its medium tall height and sounded shoulders which taper gently to the bottom of the bottle. The bottle has a cork seal with foil wrap overtop which elevates the presentation.

I would prefer a heavier glass base for stability; but other than that quibble this is a fine presentation.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When poured into my glencairn, the rum displays itself with a bright amber hue. When I tilted and twirled my glass I saw a lightly       thickened sheen on the inside which released mid-sized droplets which formed thickened legs which ran back down to the dark rum at the bottom of the glass.

The breezes above the glass carried very typical rum scents of butterscotch, vanilla, orange peel, almond and firm wood spices.  There is a light impression of coconut meandering within the butterscotch, and as the glass sits, I notice bits of cinnamon and ginger developing within the oak spices. Canned apricots and peaches, and a hint of grassy tobacco rounds out the aroma.

In the Mouth 51/60

The rum has a light mouthfeel with flavours of butterscotch and vanilla mingling with wood spices. Orange peel, almond and cinnamon round out the initial flavour impressions which are a firm reflection of the nose. I allowed the rum to breathe for several minutes to see if the flavour would develop further. I was rewarded with a deepening of the wood spices as well as a movement of the flavours of orange peel and almond towards marmalade and marzipan. The rum is also exhibiting more fruitiness with flavours of canned apricots and hints of raisins.

When I add ice, I found I could enjoy the spirit as a sipper; my feeling however is that this amber rum is probably more suited to cocktails both short and tall. So I mixed a few servings beginning with the quintessential cocktail for an amber rum, the Cuba Libre’. I followed that up with a Rum and Ginger cocktail and then a simple Daiquiri style serving. I ended my examination with a Rum Old Fashioned and can safely report that the spirit excelled in all formats.

In the Throat (12.5/15)

The medium-length exit carries firm impressions of vanilla and butterscotch. Although there a nice bite from the wood spice as the rum washes by the tonsils, my impression is that the finish is much smoother than I would have expected.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I The Ron Zacapa Ambar Rum, displays nice complexity and character which deepens with more nuances showing themselves if we allow the rum to breathe. For myself, the rum is more of a high quality mixer, than it is a sipper, but I would not argue strongly with someone who disagreed.

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


Suggested Recipe:

8 P.M. Rum Cocktail

2  ounce Ron Zacapa Ambar Rum
1/2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2 oz Bols Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
1/4 oz. Campari
Lemon Peel

Add all of the ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake vigorously until the outside of your shaker begins to frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a Slice of Lime

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

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:


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