For a rum that bills itself as “the world’s finest sipping rum,” Zaya is awfully easy to come by. They even sell it at my local Safeway, for a little over $20, which is less than most widely-available aged rums.
Yet, with 12 years of age, Zaya’s one of the oldest and darkest aged rums on the mass market, a deep ochre color that outdoes most bourbons with its chocolaty hue.
Hailing from Trinidad, this rum is a blend of up to five rums, each aged for a minimum of 12 years in oak barrels. Distilled five times and bottled at 80 proof, the resulting spirit is intense and intriguing.
It’s something that took some time to grow on me, offering a nose of brown sugar but also the unexpected: green tea, powerful vanilla extract, and coffee notes. That all carries over into the body — but it’s the tea that really gave me pause. It’s not unpleasant, it’s just so unusual that I have found it difficult to draw direct comparisons.
Many observers put it up against Ron Zacapa 23, which was formerly produced by the same company. (Zaya was once made in Guatemala, but the brand and production has changed hands (and nationalities) in the last couple of years. How it still manages to be a 12-year estate rum is beyond my understanding, but anyway…) I have to confess to liking Zacapa more — it’s sweeter and has a wonderful finish of sherry notes, fresh cane, and flowers. Zaya is more of the earth and the exotic. Not bad at all — but a different animal.