However you feel about Guatemala’s Rum Zacapa, you have to acknowledge just how much the company has done for rum.
Particularly in a United States market where rum is only just now beginning to find its place as a premium spirit, Zacapa has been, for many years, the premium rum brand.
In places where Bacardi and Captain Morgan exclusively molded the perception of rum, Zacapa was an outlier, forging a place in the consumer consciousness as a high-end rum, proving that rum could be a serious, expensive spirit.
And that’s still true today. Zacapa remains a full-fledged top-tier rum, and is still the favorite for many rum drinkers thanks to a superior product and excellent marketing.
Indeed, it’s become a kind of mass-market standard-bearer for the premium rum category, the one high-level rum even those unfamiliar with rum have probably heard of.
More importantly, it’s a quality rum you can count on to be on the shelf when you’re in an unknown bar in need of the Noble Spirit.
But Zacapa has shaken things up with its latest release.
While the company has long stuck two a two-level portfolio of 23 and XO, Zacapa has now debuted something rather different: Ron Zacapa Edicion Negra, previously available only in travel retail but now on the market in the United States at stores like Total Wine.
So how is it different?
Well, it’s the same blend of rums between 6 and 23 years that you find in the traditional 23, but this one has been aged in “double charred” American oak casks.
So what does that mean?
Thanks to the extra charred barrels, Edicion Negra has a very dark brown color, and a smoky, earthy aroma of caramelized sugar, firewood and even a hint of peat.
The flavor profile is exceptionally bold and far different from the Zacapa you know; it’s got hints of brown sugar, coffee, peat, firewood, cacao and a whisper of licorice.
The finish is bold, too, roughier than traditional Zacapa but, one might argue, a more “resolved” finish than the traditional Zacapa.
This is a smoky, bold rum with personality, a robust rum that is something very new for the brand.
It’s Zacapa with a punch. And it’s very, very good.
– Alexander Britell