Review: Zaya Gran Reserva Rum

Review: Zaya Gran Reserva Rum

zaya rumFor 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.

80 proof.


Zaya Gran Reserva Rum




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Edoc on August 6, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I have Zaya, and regrettably, it’s just too sweet for my palate. This rum is sweet and mild like maple syrup. I can deal with sweetness, but I’d prefer a deeper rum flavor. I also prefer Zacapa to this, but I think both are outclassed (for my tastes) by more flavorful rums ( e.g. rums from venezuela and guyana: El Dorado, Pampero, Santa Theresa, El Dorado). On the high end, Gosling’s Old Rum Family Reserve is very sweet, but has great depth like a port wine.

  2. J. Lindsey on August 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks for the review. This just popped up in my local liquor store and now I won’t feel bad passing it up. I’ll have to stick to Pampero until they get Zacapa.

  3. Edoc on August 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    I should mention that I’m a bit shocked by the low price you list. I think I paid close to $50 for my bottle of Zaya last year.

  4. Justin on October 26, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    I disagree with Edoc, as I find Zacapa to be sweeter than Zaya. I find Zaya to be a a fantastic rum with nice sweetness, with fantastic spice, vanilla, and tobacco notes, perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks. I do, however, agree with Edoc, that El Dorado is an incredible rum.

  5. Darfly on May 2, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I happen to love Zaya and prefer it over Zacapa. I find Zacapa 23 leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and I love the vanilla finish.

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