A bottle of Zaya Gran Reserva rum has sat unopened, staring at me, beckoning me for about three days. Today, I finally opened it. It’s sealed with a black painted aluminum foil, and when I tore out the pull tab I was pleased to see a cork inside. It pulled out quite easily, and turned out to be a synthetic rubber cork, but still made that satisfying “pop” sound.
Taking a sniff, I was genuinely surprised at what I sensed. Zaya’s scent is tangy, spicy, sweet, and a little fruity. Its smell is simply amazing. It is very dark in color, certainly a black rum, and when held up to a light only lets a bit of reddish brown through. In the glass it quite a bit lighter, but is still a darkish red brown.
Its taste is very very mild. There are just hints of spice, and a little bit of fruitiness, but the way I’d describe it primarily would me delicate. There’s a little bit of burn going down, but its smoother than many other spirits.
One the rock it takes on a smokey bouquet. I’ll call it mapley, because it smells like sugary wood smoke. However, iced down the flavor recedes. Given the choice of iced or neat, I’d take it neat for sure.
Mixed with Coca-Cola it sinks into the background. The Coke definitely tastes different, but if I hadn’t mixed this rum in my self I might not know what was in it. This rum’s laid back personality has me intrigued about how it would taste in other cocktails. Since it’s not so in your face like other rums, I would think it would allow new character to come through in otherwise familiar combinations.
A little while after I wrote my original draft of this article, I was experimenting with different rums, and realized that I tend to make my Rum & Cokes a little light on the rum. I usually put some ice in a glass, pour about the equivalent of a shot of rum in, and then fill it with Coke. But, I decided to change up the ratio a bit, and found that when mixed at about 1:1, Zaya Gran Reserva really comes alive.
In an unchilled glass I mixed room temperature Zaya with cold Coke with no ice. After a few minutes to let the flavors mingle and the temperature equalize, Coke really brought the fruitiness of Zaya out. It was no longer just a vague smell and taste, but recognizable flavors. A strong Zaya & Coke takes on strong notes of strawberry and mango, with peach in the background. It was almost like I was drinking a cocktail with muddled fruit in it. It was surprising, to say the least.