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Ron Zacapa Endicion Negra

Review: Ron Zacapa Endicion Negra    95.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra
Published June 15, 2022

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 Edición Negra, is produced from rums which range in age from 6 years to 24 years, and is inspired by the natural elements of Guatemala including the dark fire of its volcanoes. Edición Negra is aged in select barrels which include double charred American oak casks.

Zacapa Edición Negra is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In The Bottle 5/5

To the left is a snapshot of my sample bottle. The bottle the rum arrives in reminds me strongly of the style of bottle used for Scotch Whisky with its medium tall height and rounded shoulders which taper gently towards the bottom of the bottle.The bottle presentation includes a hand woven petate band which supports the Guatemalan community by employing over 700 female weavers.

The bottle is sold in an attractive cardboard canister which elevates the presentation.

In The Glass: 9.5/10

Colour: Deep Bronze

Legs: Thickened Legs form from fat droplets

Nose: The nose is rich and inviting featuring mildly sweet vanilla and caramel steeped in oak spice. Notes of raisins, prunes, dates and figs add to the richness. The oak spice evolves into luscious baking spices which include cinnamon, clove and allspice which grow in intensity as I allow the glass to breathe. Tobacco, marmalade and toasted walnuts drift into the breezes as well with everything mingling together nicely.

In The Mouth 57/60

The rum has a bit of a spicy bite as oak mingles with rich baking spices and luscious toffee. Orange peel adds to the spiciness although it quickly combines with vanilla and toffee giving me a real impression of marmalade. A light bitterness of oak tannin weaves through the rum, and I can also taste dry fruit flavours of raisins, dates and prunes. The richness and complexity is impressive as flavours of leather, pipe tobacco, bittersweet chocolate and espresso coffee also appear. The rum is delicious.

In the Throat  14/15

Long finish full of spicy oak and bittersweet chocolate. The spice outlasts the chocolate, and in the finale, oak tannins pucker the mouth enticing another sip.

Afterburn  9.5/10

Ron Zacapa Endicion Negra is very satisfying with a great balance between the sweetness of caramel and fruit and the bitterness of oak and baking spices. The rum leans just a little towards bitter in the finish, yet this works very well with the overall flavour composition. This is a rum experience that is hard to fault.

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


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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