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Zacapa 23 Anos

Review: Ron Zacapa Centrenario 23 Anos (94.5 pts)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published October 17, 2009

Ron Zacapa rums are made from sugar cane harvested in southern Guatemala, which is pressed into virgin sugar cane honey. The fermentation process uses a yeast strain (saccharomyces cerevisae) isolated from pineapples to transform sugars within the ‘honey’ into alcohol. This fermentation process takes approximately 5 days after which 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 lower elevations. The more stable ambient temperature ensures that the aging barrels are subject to less differential air pressure between the outside and the inside of the barrel.

Ron Zacapa Centrenario 23 Anos

I should note that the bottle I reviewed here is different from the one currently available for sale.  My bottle clearly says 23 anos rather than 23 solero.  This is an older vintage which should be very similar to the version currently for sale.

IN THE BOTTLE  (4.0 /5)

I want more bang for my buck here. The Cardboard sleeve housing the rum fell apart, and the woven grass band around the bottle deteriorated quickly.    (Normally I would not be so harsh but in the case of this bottle I paid a hefty price to buy this rum for my collection.)

IN THE GLASS (9.5/10)

This is very rich and very complex.  Nutmeg and allspice swirl around vanilla and dark molasses.  There is also an earthy, oak filled taint to the nose which is most pleasing.  I think I catch hazelnut and pecans in the air as well, but then again I might be imagining that I can actually tell the difference. As well, a nice slick of oil appeared on the side of the glass when I swirled it.

IN THE MOUTH (57.0/60)

The flavour is almost as good as the aroma. Almost, as I think I am catching a little too much oak tannin flavour making this ever so slightly bitter. There is a lot of complexity here and just the right amount of sweetness.  I really like that the combinations of spices and nuts work so well with the molasses.  This is a caramel, nut, spice bomb in the mouth.

IN THE THROAT (14.5/15)

More of the same. The burn in the throat is very gentle and that nice touch of oil ensures a long finish.  If you like a touch of bitterness at the end this may be just perfect for you.

The AFTERBURN (9.5/10)

The only flaw is the touch of oak bitter at the very end. I can see why many consider this one of the finest rums.  The bottle disappeared far too fast from my shelf.

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:

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)


8 Responses to “Zacapa 23 Anos”

  1. Ian McDougall said

    i got it at Co-Op Liquor store in Calgary, ab last week. $75.

    • Mr Hietalahti from Finland said

      I got mine from Estonia with 45€. I´m going to open it soon. Thanks from great rewiews.

  2. Nuno said

    Where can I buy this rum? The 23 Años and not the Solera nº 23…

  3. Philip said

    The “oil” you’re referring too is an alcohol component (glycerine/glycerol) and has very little if anything to do with fatty acids or oily substances, really.

    • Hi Philip

      You are correct in your assessment, but not in you understanding of how I used the term. I use the word “oil’ as a descriptor which is meant as an adjective which describes that glycerin/glycerol component. The lay person understands that when I use the term ‘oil’ it refers to that buttery mouth feel and ability of the flavours to coat the tongue and throat, whereas if I used the term ‘glycerol’, that would probably leave the lay person confused. To be fair to you, you are not the first person to make the mistake in thinking that that I meant the word as a noun, as my early reviews were sometimes written a little sloppily. So in my more recent reviews I have began to make a conscious effort to be more clear about how the word is used. To be fair to me, when I was speaking with,Bols Flavour Expert, Peter Van’t Zelfde recently, he used the term ‘oil’ exactly as I did and neither one of us misunderstood the other.

      • Philip said

        OK thanks for the feedback – good to know it’s a “formal” term to qualify viscosity and taste of spirts 🙂

        • I wouldn’t say it is formal, (as I admitted I am trying to do a better job when I use the term), but it is in the vernacular of the people in Industry whom I know well.

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