Whisky Auctioneer Random Rum Tasting

A little bit of a strange one but just run with it……Back in May, the website Whisky Auctioneer held their first dedicated Rum Auction. They decided to do this as they believe that they had seen a significant rise in the number of Rums being entered in their regular monthly Whisky Auctions. As a result of this and to promote their auction at the time, a few writers were asked to write a series of notes about bottles that were to be entered into the auction. Different writers received different bottles. I received a suitably eclectic selection and I had sat on these notes for a few months to ensure that I wouldn’t be posting information on bottlings that would never see the light of day anywhere. But truth be told, I have seen close to all of these bottles pop up on Auction sites in the past few months and some are readily available still so I thought that this would be worthwhile sharing. No real background information, just quick fire tasting notes……so here goes.

Ron Zacapa Centenario Etiqueta Negra – 43% abv – Modern Rum

Nose: Quite confected. A caramel bitterness. Noticeably viscous due to the post distillation additions. Creme Caramel. Wood influence is minimal. Milk chocolate. Prominent coffee notes.

Mouth: Very sweet entry. Almost no alcohol from the spirit which is a slight worry. Palate remains consistent with the nose. Caramel. Fudge. Milky coffee. Chocolate milkshake. Bitterness and a touch of wood influence on the relatively short finish that adds darker chocolate notes to the palate.

Just disappointing. Similar to others in the range to be honest. The extra 3% abv helps lift it above something that you’d expect a child to drink but it’s just dulled due to the additions. Even a nip of harshness from young alcohol would be welcome but it drinks like boozy chocolate milk.



Havana Club 15 – 40% abv – Modern Rum

Nose: Classic longer matured a Havana a Club nose. Prominent honey and vanilla pod. Milk chocolate. Sweetness. A lot of sweetness. There is also a sour note. Tobacco is definitely hanging around but it’s nudged out of the way by the over zealous sweetening and honeyed notes.

Mouth: Honeyed entry carrying a light floral but syrupy sweetness. There is a touch of spice backing this up. Fresh green apples. Vanilla. Cocoa. Sweet wine like notes. The finish is of medium length and is what I now expect from Havana Club. A little peppery barrel spice, mild tobacco and milk chocolate.

I don’t really touch Cuban Rums nowadays, and this is a classic example of why. They’re a touch “samey”. They have hints of promise but fail to deliver consistently for me. Nose outperforms palate close on 100% of the time.



Velier 70th Anniversary Chamarel 2010-2014 – 56.5% abv – Vatted Single Rum

Nose: Heavily spice driven. Fennel seeds. Fenugreek. A hint of jeera. The vibrancy of fresh cane and the sweetness that it brings. Cinnamon. Black pepper. There is also a growing anise note reminiscent freshly cut fennel. Dusty wood, vanilla and red bean paste.

Mouth: Very spicy entry with the full heat of the alcohol hitting hard. Quite apparent fruit carried on the sugarcane notes. Hazelnuts. Lots of dusty oak and wet cardboard. Celery. Definite notes of chicory and the associated bitterness. The finish is led by growing wood spice, drying oak and the ever present cane notes. Not hugely complex but it drinks well.

I fortunately own a bottle already. Not massively complex but it’s spice led approach work and the experience is pleasant. It’s a good drinker.



Velier Enmore 1987 Full Proof – 56.6% abv – Traditional Rum

Nose: Quite a bit thinner than expected. It’s a little spirity and there’s certainly a touch of fuel about it. Conference pear slices with fresh cream. Mid palate brings chocolate. Powdery cocoa. Royal icing. Cookie dough. A hint of spice and wet wood.

Mouth: It hits with a lot of heat and a lot of spice. Citrus oil. A saline like quality. Caramelised Sugar. Vanilla. Creme brûlée. Light wood. Plenty of pepper. Candied citrus peels. Raisins. The finish fades and is the sum of its parts with light oak, vanilla, cocoa and mixed raisins and peels.

I found this too ‘spirity’ and not forthcoming…I also found it lacking in depth.



Damoiseau 1980 (Damoiseau Release) – 60% abv – Traditional Rum

Nose: Full on medicinal heaven. Sticking plasters. A lot of depth. Cough sweets. Liquorice. Bronchial cough mixture. It carries heft but is remarkably approachable. It plays very nicely. Time brings a developing fruity character. Black cherry yoghurt. Sour cherries. Victoria plums. A hint of florals and a cologne like nature that brings a sharper aspect and allows spiced oak to show itself.

Mouth: Medium body and carrying a pleasant mouth coating oily quality. The bitterness of a classic tropically matured Demerara. Liquorice sweets and liquorice root. Warm prunes. Sweet and bitter in equal measures. Bourbon cherries and an almost dairy quality. Quite medicinal still as on the nose and the mid palate brings cloth sticking plasters, salted Dutch liquorice and stone fruit. The finish just goes on and on. It remains consistent with the beautiful depth of liquorice, stone fruit, bitter / sweet interplay. Kop kop sweets. Cough mixture. A hint of salinity grows. This is a very, very good rum.

If I could afford it….I’d buy it. It hits so many sweet spots for me. Medicinal. Liquorice. Stone fruit. Saline. Floral. It’s why I love the Bellevue independent bottlings. A deep, flavourful and aroma packed delight.


Preparing these notes was good fun spread over a week of tasting. Some were instantly forgetful, some were good drinkers, some were disappointing and one was an absolute belter. I consider myself fortunate to have got to try them and I hope that you enjoyed this eclectic set of notes.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ron Zacapa Centenario 23

*EDIT: Tests from Alko in Finland have shown this product to contain 25g/l of sugar. Buy with care. I was clearly taken in by the advertising and many others have been. Part of my journey, but nowhere near the final destination*

This is a rum that has been written about many times by many people, most of whom go into a far greater level of detail than I ever could regarding the history of the families and industry behind the rum, but all that I would be doing is repeating what has gone before. Instead, I will link to some useful information sources.

The Zacapa plantation is located in the volcanic plains of south-western Guatemala in a place called Retalhuleu, over 350m above sea level. It is here that the fertile, acidic soil and constant sunshine lend themselves perfectly to the cultivation of sugar cane. Unlike a large bulk of rums that use molasses, Zacapa uses the concentrated first press of the sugar cane which is known as ‘virgin sugar cane honey’. This is thought to impart a sweeter, smoother flavour. This is said to be the first key step in creating the Zacapa taste profile. Next, the fermentation process begins using a yeast extracted from pineapples ( Saccharomyces cerevisiae ) which transforms the sugars within the ‘virgin sugar cane honey’ into alcohol. This slow fermentation takes about 5 days and the yeast is said to impart the aromatic compounds that Zacapa requires. After fermentation, the distillation takes place in a single column still, lined with copper to add flavour and to remove impurities. After the distillation process, the rum is taken into the highlands of Quetzaltenango, 2300m above sea level. This place is romantically called ‘The House Above the Clouds’. This location has cooler temperatures with thinner air and atmospheric pressures which mean that the barrels are subjected to less air pressure variation and the infusion of flavours from the barrels is intensified. Zacapa rum is aged using a Sistema Solera which is based on a centuries old Spanish Sherry aging process. The Zacapa Sistema Solera involves the blending of rums of various ages ( in the case of Centenario 23, between 6 and 23 years old ) in casks that once housed Bourbon, Sherry and Pedro Ximenez Wines. Every single drop of rum drops through each type of cask during the process to allow the flavours and aromas present in each one to impart their influence on the aging Zacapa. This combination of the differing cask types and Sistema Solera allows for the production of a complex, rich and flavourful rum.

The Solera System, particularly the one employed by Zacapa is explained on the following page by Refined Vices

Zacapa Petate Band

Zacapa Petate Band

Each bottle displays Guatemala’s rich, Mayan history proudly by adorning itself with a hand-woven petate band. Each one is hand-woven in the villages of the Departments of Chiquimula, El Quiche and El Progreso and therefore each bottle is unique. The petate band is a royal Mayan symbol said to represent ‘the unity of time and space, earth and sky’

Ron Zacapa

Ron Zacapa

Tasting Notes

In the glass: Zacapa displays a dark toffee brown colour with a slight redness. It looks quite oily and viscous and therefore you know that it will coat your mouth. I can smell caramel, toffee, vanilla and tropical fruit ( pineapple and banana ). As the glass sits, there is a warm oakiness developing with a burnt toffee / butterscotch aroma. Even if you’re not a fan of rum, this smells amazing. However, I am a fan of rum, so I go straight in for a sip.

In the mouth: My mouth is immediately warmed and coated with the spicy sweetness of the rum. Sweet fruits ( pineapple, apricot, banana ) appear along with vanilla, toffee and sherry. It is quite oaky but very sweet. There are untold levels of depth to this rum and absolutely no burn or roughness. The finish is long, sweet and with building levels of spice and tobacco ( maybe from the oak ). I found that the finish instantly made me want to take another sip.

This rum may be considered too sweet by some, which I can understand. I’ve even read of people pouring the rum over good quality vanilla ice cream!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the  express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.