We’ve followed the evolution of Ron Zacapa 23 closely here at Drinkhacker, reviewing this standout rum offering from Guatemala twice over the years (here and here) with a separate deep dive into its elaborate construction. While paying ample attention to the flagship bottling, we somehow never got around to the crown jewel in the Zacapa line, Ron Zacapa XO. As a refresher, Zacapa 23 is a blend of rums distilled from first press sugar cane and aged between 6 and 23 years in the solera style using ex-bourbon, sherry, and wine casks. For the XO, Ron Zacapa hand selects rums as old as 25 years and applies a similar solera aging process with one notable exception: the final blend is finished in French oak casks previously used to age Cognac, befitting of the XO moniker. The packaging is also significantly more luxe than the standard offering with perfume bottle curves and topped with a hammered gold collar. It’s definitely sexy to look at but demands an excessive amount of shelf space. Anyway, enough about the bottle. Our review of the rum inside is way overdue, so let’s dig in.
This rum is a gorgeous, ruddy toffee color, perhaps a shade more amber than the standard 23. The nose, unsurprisingly, evokes more age, as well, with deeper notes of aged wine and seasoned oak that pair well with elements of dried fig, sticky prune, dark roast coffee, and creamy milk chocolate. The palate is still bright with all that citrusy, sherry-driven fruit, although a rich layer of dark brown sugar underpins things, adding a silky depth and gentle complexity. Coffee notes, nutty and lightly spiced, dominate the mid-palate before a reprisal of fruit on the long finish, this time more Cognac-driven with golden stone fruits and some poached pear. All told, it’s only a bit more impressive than the standard Zacapa 23, but that’s still saying something. A great special occasion sipping rum. If you can spare the shelf space.