Zaya Gran Reserva

A couple years ago I purchased a bottle of Zaya Gran Reserva and found it to be very good, though I had always thought it was over-priced (I pay about $40 in Massachusetts). It was stuck in my head recently, and when I found it at a liquor store I grabbed a bottle. Not too much after that, my friend Phil and I sampled it amongst some other top-notch rums. We were both amazed at how good it was, and how much it reminded us of Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old. Phil grabbed his chilled bottle of the Zacapa and the two rums went head-to-head. We sampled each numerous times, and could not determine which one we liked better. Last Saturday Phil and I did it again, sampling both rums numerous times. Again we could not pick a winner.

This is a rum that is as good as Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old, which I recently called “absolutely the best rum I’ve ever had.”

I recently reviewed the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old so now I’ll do a full review on the Zaya.

Some Information
Zaya is a 12-year-old rum distilled by Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala, the same company that distills Ron Zacapa and Ron Botran. It is double-distilled in copper pot stills, and aged in oak barriques, a 225-liter barrel.

Initial Tastes
The initial smell is heavy, full-bodied and rich. It smells sweet, which is good in my opinion. Some wood comes through, but not overly so since it’s balanced nicely with toffee or caramel smells, and a touch of honey. The smells alone indicate that this is going to be a complex rum with great balance.

The first taste is smooth and fills the mouth with flavors, rich dark-golden flavors. The finish is long, with a touch of a burn and some very pleasant and moderate spiciness. A larger sip comes on like a barrel of sweetness and flavors – wood and dark toffee and a burst of honey and a very long finish that speaks of nutmeg and other spiciness. This is a fantastic rum, there’s no doubt about that.

A Bit Of A Wait, A Bit Of Water
I poured another measure and let this sit for a bit. The initials tastes lead me to believe that Zaya may have more to show than a fresh pour, so I figured that I’d let it sit to see what that brings out. The wait is worthwhile, though it changes only slightly. The sip is a touch smoother, less sweet perhaps, with a touch of vanilla coming out. The finish has changed a bit, a little shorter and the spiciness is lessened (though still quite prominent). I wouldn’t go out of my way to let this sit, as the changes are quite slight.

A touch of water – just a touch – smooths it noticeably and sweetens it a bit. While the flavor is more pleasant, the grand finish is shorter and the spiciness has dropped considerably. In ways the water has dropped the tastes a bit and made it less complex, though it’s certainly more drinkable. If you’re not used to drinking rum neat, a few drops of water may help you out, but it’s not really necessary. (Please note “a few drops” as much more will flatten this considerably.)

The spicy finish may turn off some folks, so an ice cube may be in order. If you chose the ice route I would strongly suggest that you drink it immediately before the water flattens the tastes.

The Zaya Gran Reserva is a fantastic rum, rich with full-bodied flavors and pleasantly complex. It’s a bit on the sweet side, which I prefer, though nowhere near as sweet as Pyrat XO or Pyrat Pistol. Highly recommended.


13 Responses to “Zaya Gran Reserva”

  1. Capn Jimbo Says:

    The “new” Zaya (Trinidad) is quite different than the old. Much hotter, much sweeter, more bold, less complex. But although I’m not a big fan of liqueur-type rums, I really liked the new Zaya. The fact that it can now be had for $29 makes it a no-brainer. Terrific.

    Our very, very long review and ensuing discussion of the new Zaya is way too long for a comment, but for those who are interested, here’s a link:

  2. veryseriousstats Says:

    You might hate me to hear this, but I made dark and stormies with Zaya. Two of my friends had an argument about whether or not it was appropriate to make cocktails with high-end liquors. I will say this: They were the greatest dark and stormies anyone has ever had.

  3. Scottes Says:

    Drink what you like! Heck, I will even pour myself a Zacapa and Coke if I’m in the mood. I have no qualms about using high-end ingredients in any cocktail.

  4. maynard Says:

    enjoying a glass on the rocks as i type. got a 750ml for $32. first time having it. im truly amazed at how good this. just started getting into the sipping rums. just happened to get this one. its amazing!

  5. Michael Says:

    I too am enjoying a glass on two rocks as I type. I just picked up a bottle of Zaya Gran Reserva for the first time yesterday ($32). Fantastic! The best rum I’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping. I’m not a big rum connoisseur (never had or heard of Zacapo), but this stuff beats the pants off of Pyrat.

    Highly recommended.

  6. j chang Says:

    the new zacapa xo is by far the best rum I ever try is 30 yrs the zaya gran recerva is ok but zacapa very smood greate flavor is the cognac of rums.

  7. DK Says:

    I find Zaya to be among the smoothest and easiest to drink rums. Zacapa is wonderful, but perhaps a bit heavier (not that that is bad!)

    Oh, how I wish I could get Zaya for $36. In Canada it runs from $65-80.

  8. Haavard Says:

    Does anyone know where to get this in Seattle?

  9. John M Says:

    Tried Zaya for the first time last night and loved it. The folks next door had just two shots left in their bottle so I can’t wait to try it again.This was there response to the several shots of Kraken Black Spiced Rum we did last weekend at my place. Think this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.But anyway I have had some great (and dangerous) adventures with the Kraken and noticed it was not on your list.I think this is one you should definitely try if you have not already.Has a nice caramel and vanilla flavor with a serious kick (94proof)but goes down smoooooth.

  10. ruml33t Says:

    Having been hooked on Pyrat XO Reserve for a year or more, I found something I can live with when I’m out of the former. XO Reserve has plenty of flavors embedded in its light orange taste. However, it tastes like it costs $75 a bottle when I paid barely $30 for a 750ml bottle. I like the short, fat bottles. Having said that, I threw caution to the wind and picked up Zaya Gran Reserva. I had to, it was on sale for about $22-24 and that’s a deal I cannot refuse! I’m proud to say it lives up to the customers’ claims of how great it is. I hate it when rums go down scratchy and hot. This one was warm but smooth when it went down and has the complexity I expect from rums in the $50-75 range. I’d hand over a maximum of $45-50 for a bottle if I had to. Worth the money.

  11. art drysdale Says:

    Hey Scott, Don ROn Art here of Uncle Ron’s Academy…. I got an email from Don Ron Mike re. what rum to choose for new year’s Eve…. He was trying to choose between ZAYA and Zacapa… SO I sent him your link… Thanks and happy new year…

  12. Richard McWhorter Says:

    I find the comments about ice and water interesting. I thought of how the old sailors (and pirates)
    would enjoy their rum. Bringing the ration up from the hot bowels of the ship and cutting it a touch with a sqeeze from the fresh lemon just acquired from the last port stop made me try it with a brief warming in the microwave and a twist. Sublime!

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