Zaya Gran Reserva



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 sealBottle.PNGed 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 sugaryOn the Rock 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.



Kirkland Signature Spiced Rum

Rum bottle.pngIt is a bit surprising to walk through a Costco and find the company’s own store brand, Kirkland Signature, adorning bottles of liquor. Named after the town where the corporation was formerly headquartered, Kirkland Signature brand typically adorns well made products, but it’s still hard to let go of the stigma associated with generic products in general, and especially store brands, when buying liquor. But, I’m still very dedicated to trying out anything unfamiliar to myself for this blog, so when I saw the Kirkland logo on bottles of rum I decided to take the plunge.

At around $14 for 1.75 liters, Costco is charging for a half gallon less than many brands charge for a fifth. It felt like a gamble, but at such an inexpensive price it isn’t really much of a risk.

The packaging is very simple, but gives off something of a classy vibe. The bottle is almost rectangular, but has a curved taper like a perfume bottle and is narrower at the bottom than the top. Under the label the bottle is silkscreened with a sketch of sailing ship. Instead of a foil seal, the bottle has a less expensive plastic one. Underneath that is a wooden cap fastened to a synthetic cork.

Opening the bottle, the scent is really magnificent. It’s very complex, and hard to pick out any individual scents, but it’s a rich and tangy smell. The first sip had a surprisingly potent piquant spice burn, but not any alcohol burn. The spices themselves are tasty, but underneath the rum has a flavor that’s rich in a different way from the scent. Leaving a glass out for several hours to mellow, the taste of the spices recedes and leaves just that rich, almost creamy flavor.

Mixed with Coca-Cola, the potent spices in Costco’s rum interact with the sugar in the soda to cancel each other out. The same is true of the base rum and the cola; the flavors of the rum and the Coke work against each other and the result is a very mildly flavored drink. It doesn’t taste bad by any means, but is almost completely bland. I think I’ll try a stronger mix later with more rum in it; after the ice had melted a little the rum came through again, and there was some of that familiar Rum & Coke synergy to the taste.

In a rum float [check “The Silver Book of Cocktails” under “Chilly Rum Soda,” pg.596] the addition of vanilla ice cream to the Rum & Coke somehow makes it all taste bitter, which I did not expect at all. In the future I would probably skip the ice cream and only add whipped cream on top, since the home made whipped cream I added brought out the flavor of the rum and went very well over all.

Rum Float.png
While not the tastiest cocktail, is certainly did look nice

Appleton Estate Signature Blend

Close up - Copy

So here I’ll start with the Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum. The scent opening the bottle is rich a fruity, and makes me anticipate a complex flavor. The scent from the glass seems to be what artificial rum flavoring tries to imitate, but it’s much more enticing than the overpowering chemical taste of that fake flavor. It’s a medium amber color in the bottle, an slightly orangey brown; the color in the glass is much paler, a medium yellow amber.

Neat croppedTaken neat, the texture in the mouth is syrupy and pleasant. The first taste is something woody, though I’m not yet an expert in figuring out what kind of wood a liquor barrel was made out of. It leaves a taste on the tongue of that illusive rum flavor that the artificial flavor people try so hard and fail to achieve, and also leaves a taste of olive in the throat. Subsequent sips didn’t reveal any more flavors deeper within; Oh well.

Overall it has a mild taste, and while it seems a little out of the ordinary from my experience with rum, it certainly didn’t make me fall in love with it. It goes down fairly smoothly though, so there aren’t any complaints from me.

On the rocks, or, since I use a single large whiskey cube, on the rock, the On the Rock, croppedolive taste is brought forward. I taste it now with the rum in my mouth instead of as an after taste, but once again I didn’t find anything new or hidden.

Mixed with Coca-Cola is where I found Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend to shine. Mixing it with a Mexican Coke made with cane sugar from a glass bottle, there’s really something to enjoy here. I’ve never found much difference in the flavor of HFCS as compared to cane sugar, it always seems the difference in taste is masked by other flavors, but that’s not the case here. The flavor of the cane sugar pops out with this rum mixed in and is quite a treat.

The Signature Blend also brings forward the spiciness of the Coke, and the two combine to bring out an earthy flavor that’s quite good. The olive taste is gone, but the rum flavoring taste that lingers takes on a quality I can only describe as a “cleanness.” Sadly, it seems any dilution throws off the balance of flavors, as I found when my ice began to melt. If you like your rum & Coke ice cold, you may want to keep this rum in the freezer with glass beside it, and skip the frozen water.

EggnoggSince it’s less than 10 days from Christmas, I also tried Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend with eggnog. I mixed it with Sunnyside eggnog, which is a pretty mild, middle of the road variety. It’s not overly sweet, not overly (or underly) spicy, and has a texture that’s not too thick and not too thin. The flavor of this rum just blended in for the most part. The rum flavoring flavor sat subtly on top of the eggnog, with neither really intruding on the other. They came out as separate, parallel tastes, but did go well together. My experience with Coca-Cola does make me wonder what would happen when this is mixed with a spicier eggnog however.

With either mix, any roughness was completely mellowed out, and this rum went down smooth as silk. As for intoxication, this went to my head more quickly that some other spirits, but not overly fast. While it did leave me with heaviness to my buzz, it wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling. I didn’t drink to drunkenness as I typically don’t, but that heavy feeling leads me to think this may not be the best drink for that (if you could say there is one.)Glowing (dynamic) - Copy

So, that’s one down. I hope that my opinion might help someone out there decide whether or not they want to try this rum. I’m looking forward to the next spirit I try, and hope someone out there will be reading along. I’ll see you next time.