Ron Zacapa Sistema 23 Solera

Power Flavors for the Enthusiast in Cocktails with or AS Dessert!

photo courtesy of Diageo

Whisky Reviewed: Ron Zacapa Sistema 23 Solera
Distiller: Zacapa (Diageo)
Region: Guatemala
ABV: 40%
Suggested Retail Price: $45
Distiller Rating: 92
Rum Howler Blog Rating: 91

Mark’s Review

So I walk into the Carnegie Club for Fine Tobacco NYC’s cigar and whisky event. There, in front of me stands Kelvin. On his small table is a snifter with a dark liquid. I ask, “What’s in the glass?” With the same wide grin he shares with new guests, he lets me smell the contents. Looking odd, I say, “Rum”? Yup! Ron Zacapa 23. He proceeds to tell stories of cigars paired with whiskies and that a good rum is as wonderful an experience as scotch or bourbon.

Feeling every bit of my King Leonidas line, “I’ll put that to the test”, I sat down with a light pour, took out a pen and wrote my impressions, pre-stogie. Right off the bat, BANG! Sweet sugar smacked me upside the head. The force kept straight through the mid palate and as it eased down my throat, fleeting Broadleaf flavors emerged.

This is a splendid drink for the Enthusiast seeking life beyond the usual brown dram. I also knew any strong stick would be a perfect match, provided it had a gentle fade to allow other external tastes to emerge.

So guess what I did? You bet! I lit up! Maybe my evening smolder was not the precise pair but, nonetheless, the combo weaved its magic.

A true benefit here is that this spirit can amplify any cocktail made with it. I mentioned to Kelvin that a pina colada with Zacapa 23 drizzled on top would bring a smile to any cynic’s face. But, even if you don’t smoke, a Glencairn neat or with a cube could be fantastic with vanilla ice cream, banana cream pie or by itself after dinner.

One note, the “23” is Sistema 23 not the minimum age in the bottle. The end product of a Solera process, the number really represents the oldest whisky; the youngest being six years old. That said, I just care how great the power transfer is and how it works with a nice Montecristo #2 Torpedo.  Bliss!

Mark Garbin’s Evaluation

Aromas & Flavor Appeals to: Optimal Client Type Great For:
Subtlety Aficionado Apprentice Cocktails
Power Flavor Admirer Enthusiast Neat Before Dinner
Balanced Devotee Adventurer With Food
Chameleon Lover Hedonist Dessert or Afterwards


Distiller rating: Ron Zacapa 23 Sistema Solera Rum is enduringly one of the most pleasurable dark rums to sip neat. At first the sweet notes of roasted coffee, butterscotch, vanilla and dark chocolate appear, then some fresh citrus and apricot refresh the palate with green herbal accents, nutmeg and ginger. The long finish includes flavors of caramel, pipe tobacco, cedar and roasted nuts. –Amanda Schuster

Rum Howler Blog: (Edited) I have noted in the past, that this rum can at times seem to carry just a little more honey sweetness and vanilla. Dry fruit (raisins and dates in particular), pecans and walnuts, and cocoa are all highlighted in the exit which reveals just a touch of bitterness in the exit (which perhaps is the perfect foil for the honey-like sweetness which characterized the entry). The palate is left with lingering impressions of molasses and baking spices. My final score of 91/100 reflects that I have a high opinion of the Ron Zacapa Centenario (23 Solera) Rum. If I were to have a gathering of close friends and family and I wanted to serve a high quality spirit which everyone could enjoy. This rum from Ron Zacapa would be a very good choice. –Chip Dykstra