ZACAPA – ENJOY YOUR LIFE SLOWLY
After years, the new episode of “Pirates of the Caribbean” is about to take the world by storm. Jack Sparrow's performance is wonderful still. Although there’s little controversy about the new actress, but it’s no harm to the movie and to Jack particularly. Jack doesn’t need a lover, and when he needs one, she can only be the bottle of rum which he tried to hide from others. And if you want to find a rum to drink neat, Zacapa is arguably the perfect choice. This time we are happy to have a short conversation with Lorena Vasquez, the chief blender of Ron Zacapa Centenario and also one of the two female master blenders in the world.
ONE OF TWO FEMALE MASTER BLENDERS IN THE WORLD
Born in Nicaragua, Vasquez studied in biochemistry faculty and is an expert in aromas and flavors in food. She came to Guatemala and joined a brewery many years ago while her first job at the distillery was in charge of the quality control of the fermentation process. Vasquez's expertise coupled with her sharp nose has played a key role in controlling the congeners and aromas produced in fermentation. Later she joined Zacapa which she found really interesting. Being one of the world's finest rum, Zacapa's uniqueness is based on a combination of factors.
M: When was Zacapa established?
L: The five families that made up the alliance has originally the ageing facilities in the city of Zacapa, which was established at 1876 in the Eastern region of Guatemala. They wanted to give a gift to the city denoting the 100th Anniversary of the city, so they create the brand and name it as Ron Zacapa Centenario.
M: What makes Zacapa unique?
L: The style of Zacapa is closely attributed to the landscape and culture of Guatemala. Guatemala's volcanic land is known for its fertile soil and which is suitable for growing various crops, while some of the finest coffee and sugar cane was cultivated here.
Rum is usually made from molasses, which is a by-product in the process of making sugar. Unlike most brands, Zacapa never uses molasses but the sugar cane cultivated by our own. Furthermore, we only use the first press of sugar cane juice – named "virgin sugar cane honey " to make Zacapa, which give the spirits extra smoothness.
After the distillation, the new make spirits will undergo a wonderful journey. Transported from the lowland to the “House above the Clouds” which is 2,300 meters above sea level where it spend years to mature. The cool climate here slows down the speed of ageing, allowing it to develop complex, balanced flavors and rounded texture. From harvest to bottling, Zacapa controls the entire process so we can fully manipulate the final style of each bottle of rum.
THE HIERARCHY OF SOLERA SYSTEM
M: Zacapa undergoes maturation in Sherry’s Solera system?
L: Normally rums are aged in a single style of barrel, typically Bourbon. We multitude of different barrels in the Solera system to create complex and unique flavors. The best way to describe it is a painter uses different colors to paint, creating different hues and therefore depth.
LOVE SWEET, HATE BITTER
M: As a lady, what will be the difference in your philosophy of blending?
L︰Well ... I believe the ladies has a unique sensibility than men. I've always been good about everything that's related to smells and flavors, but I also have my own preferences. I like sweet, I love the aroma of spices, of vanilla and nutmeg, but I hate anything bitter. I tried to introduce at the final stage of the ageing barrel which has been ageing PX (Pedro Ximenez). What I look for is the dried fruits, raisins, fig, prunes with sweeter finish.
M: Rums play an important role in making cocktails. How do you see the trend ahead?
L: Rum is more versatile than other spirits in which bartenders are able to achieve a depth of flavors in their cocktails. There were sort of rum and coke paradigm but the big trend in bars is using aged rum and more premium rums, particularly those with strong personality and suitable for serving neat on rocks. Zacapa belongs to this category. Not only that, it was interesting to have rum in cooking. For example, last night we had a dinner party which we use Zacapa to make a sauce for Peking Duck, and it amazed all the guests.
THE ART OF SLOW
M: Can you introduce the portfolio of Zacapa?
L: As far as I know, there are two expressions available in Hong Kong market. The classic Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 is a blending of spirits aged from 6 to 23 year-old. I will describe it as "the best friend" as it is approachable, palatable exuding aromas of vanilla, toffee, caramel, chocolates, etc; Zacapa XO is made of reserve spirits range from 6 to 25 year-old, and finish in ex-Cognac French oak, which gives extra rounded texture and notes of citrus, red berries, coffee, etc.
As for the upcoming Edicion Nerga, which means Black Edition, is a variation inspired by the natural environment of Guatemala. We have 33 volcanos (3 of them active) in the country so I want to create a smoky version to express the fire and smoke of volcanos. It’s 43% abv, with smoky aromas and drier finish. I believe some whisky enthusiasts would like it.
M: Zacapa's slogan is "The Art of Slow". How does it associate with the philosophy of Zacapa?
L: Different from other rums, Zacapa spends years of ageing in slow making process. I believe you have to take the time to enjoy this things in life.
睽違多年，新一集加勒比海盜快要早前終於在海外率先上畫。Jack Sparrow的演出依舊精彩，影迷雖對女角切換有點爭議，不過她的優劣終究不礙事。對了！有些酒友說出重點——不覊是Jack的座右銘，如果他需要一位情人，那只能是他手上那瓶魅惑的冧酒。若果要找一款最適合淨飲的冧酒，必然非Zacapa莫屬。這次適逢全球兩位女蒸餾大師之一Ron Zacapa Centenario酒廠蒸餾大師Lorena Vasquez來港，Malt&Spirits有幸向她請教品牌的釀造哲學。
L︰Zacapa屬於五個家族所組成的一個聯盟，他們在瓜地馬拉東部城市Zacapa Town擁有陳年設施，因此他們在該處興建酒廠，並於建城一百年的1976，而命名品牌為Ron Zacapa Centenario。
L︰唔……我相信女士對品味跟男士有所不同。氣味和味道是我的專長，但也有自己的偏好。我喜歡甜香，喜歡雲呢拿及豆寇，但討厭苦澀的味道，所以在某些酒款中，我嘗試於陳化的最後階段引進PX (Pedro Ximenez)桶作過桶，賦予酒液乾提子、無花果等帶微甜的尾韻。
L︰以我所知，目前Zacapa在香港市場有兩個酒款。經典的Ron Zacapa Centenario 23，是以6至23年的酒混調而成，我會形容她是「最好的朋友」，因為她極為平易近人，散發著雲呢拿、太妃糖、焦糖、朱古力等多元的香氣；Zacapa X.O 以6至25年窖藏酒混調，最後以干邑桶過桶而成，比前者更為圓潤，並從法國木桶中衍生出柑橘、紅色醬果、咖啡等味道。
至於即將在港上市的Edicion Nerga，就是黑牌的意思，是一種煙燻感頗重的酒款，酒精度43%，結尾會較為乾身，相信會吸引到部分威士忌愛好者，而其靈感是源自瓜地馬拉的33座火山 (當中3座是活火山！)，我希望創造出一款酒，可以表達火山的煙燻及火熱的感覺呢。
M︰Zacapa的宣傳口號是「The Art of Slow」，這跟品牌理念有甚麼聯繫？