Zaya Gran Reserva Rum
Review: Zaya Gran Reserva Rum 86.5/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on December 5, 2012
Zaya Gran Reserva Rum is a brand currently owned by Infinium Spirits. This rum brand was originally distilled and aged in Guatemala, but in 2008, Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala entered into a distribution arrangement with the Diageo spirits conglomerate which elevated some local brands such as Zacapa Rum, but which left other Guatemalan brands like Zaya without a similar arrangement. Because the Zaya brand was gaining a lot of momentum as a luxury sipping rum, the manufacture of Zaya was moved to Trinidad and Tobago where it is now produced by Trinidad Distillers Ltd.
Zaya Gran Reserva is apparently constructed from a secret recipe (in other words a blend) of several well aged rums to meet a specific taste profile which is very similar to (but not the same as) the original Guatemalan rum. All of the rums in the Zaya blend are aged for a minimum of 12 years in small oak casks.
In the Bottle 4/5
I have owned my 2 bottles of Zaya Rum for a couple of years now, and when I finally opened one of them for this review it was with some angst on my part. This is because each bottle had accumulated a small layer of a white globby substance which had settled to the bottom of the bottle. (This substance has roughly the same look as my sugar does just before it dissolves when I make sugar syrup.) Although (as you can see from the picture to the right) the bottle presentation for Zaya is superb, that accumulating white substance has distressed me enough that I deducted one point from bottle presentation.
(Note: I tried to investigate the source of the white precipitate and was told that it is probably lipids (from the oak barrel) which have precipitated out of the rum. I filtered some of it out and discovered that the substance is very sweet, and has a bit of an oily or greasy texture. My feeling is that there is more to this substance than lipids which should not be intensely sweet. Whatever is at the bottom of the bottle, it disappears when the bottle is shaken and does not reappear again for several months.)
In the Glass 8.5/10
When I pour my Zaya into my glencairn glass (after shaking the bottle to dissolve the white substance) the Rum displays a dark walnut color with some rich coppery highlights. The initial aroma from the glass is very complex with rich vanilla, oak spice and pipe tobacco leading out into the air above the glass. Sweet caramel winds through the breezes, and I seem to catch accents of dry fruit, marmalade, marzipan and banana peel as well.
Although I find the nose to be very rich and complex, I am a little dismayed by the way that the vanilla and sweet caramel continues to pour out of the glass. There is a sticky richness apparent in the aroma which seems out of proportion with the tobacco, the oak spice and the dry fruit.
In the Mouth 52/60
In the late seventies (boy am I aging myself), there was a rock band from Calgary called the Stampeders. They had a hit single called Ramona. My only real memory of that song is the part where everyone in the band sings “Ramona… Ramona… Ramona”. As I sip on my Zaya, I am reminded of that song, only this time the band is singing “Vanilla… Vanilla… Vanilla”.
And I think it is a real pity because there is so much more in the rum that should be front and center. Rich nutty flavours of almond and Brazil nut; baking spices like allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg; oaky flavours of wood spice and tobacco; and nice dabs of dry fruit and orange marmalade. But for me, all these flavours and nuances seem to be taking a back seat to the vanilla. The only flavour that stands up to the vanilla is sticky sweet caramel.
A lot of my readers (especially those who like vanilla) will really relish this rum; but for me, the sweet vanilla and sweet caramel became cloying, and what should have been a great rum was diminished.
In the Throat 13.5/15
The sweet caramel and rich vanilla allows the rum to display a long finish. Baking spices and nutty marzipan break through the vanilla dominance allowing some nice oak spices and wood smoke to linger.
The Afterburn 8.5/10
When I tasted this rum recently as part of my review process, I was not alone. I had three friends with me. Although I thought the Zaya Gran Reserva was a solid sipping rum, I also felt it lacked balance due to the over the overabundance of vanilla (and to a smaller degree the sweeter than usual caramel). My friends however reveled in the flavours of the Zaya declaring it one of the best sipping rums they had ever tasted. It is my score which is reflected here in this review, but in my current Rum Howler 2012 Top 30 Rums Countdown, the love which my friends have for this rum (who acted with me on the Judging Panel) is reflected in its top 20 placement.
You may (loosely) interpret the scores 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)