Lorena Vasquez is a legend in the world of spirits. One of a handful of female Master Blenders on the planet, she is the force behind Ron Zacapa’s popularity.  A diminutive, spirited woman who loves to dance and enjoy life, Vasquez made the trek from the hills of Guatemala where Ron Zacapa is brewed to host guests at the Ron Zacapa lounge aboard the Azamara Club Journey cruise ship for the Diageo Reserve Global Bartending Finals.

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A welcome cup of Illy’s coffee with a Ron Zacapa dark chocolate.

The lounge was decorated to resemble, complete with mist,  the House Above the Clouds,  the Zacapa Guatemalan facility  where Vasquez employs a method known as the Solera System. This is a process whereby a set of barrels with liquid of the same type but different ages (Rum, Sherry) are stacked on top of each other. The oldest liquid is on the bottom and the youngest is on top. A fraction of the oldest Rum from the barrel on the bottom is removed and bottled, and then this barrel is filled-up with the next oldest rum from the barrels above. This goes on and on until the barrel on top with the youngest rum needs to be filled up with fresh new rum. The barrels are then left to age until the process is repeated.

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Bartenders at the Ron Zacapa lounge pouring welcome drinks.

During the week-long competition, Vasquez hosted a series of Discovery dinners aimed to explain to diners how the flavour profile of the rum from this system works by incorporating them into food.

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Lobster and Avocado salad rolled in crisp Lebanese cucumber

The seven-course meal, for example, featured a pineapple sorbet as a palate cleanser. Daniel Dove, Global Brand Ambassador for Zacapa in the UK explained that in the fermentation of the Zacapa 23, orange yeast strain from fresh pineapples are used and is the secondary note you get from Zacapa.

He explained that another item on the menu, the Macadamia Nut and Brown Sugar Mud Pie was created to show the top flavours gained from charring the second barrel. “In that charring, you extract nutty and caramelized flavours,” he said.

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Surf and Turf

Other items on the menu included a tasty smoked tomato veloute, Surf and Turf which was a giant prawn, savoury braised beef, short rib croquette, asparagus, creamed morels and citrus pancetta sabayon.

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Herb roasted prime angus centre cut striploin with Zacapa apple puree, walnut butter, creamed spinach and apple toasted walnut chutney.

Dove explained that Zacapa rums is heavily involved in food and recently hosted the 50 Best Restaurant Awards in the UK. He worked closely with the Azamara head chef Frederick Camonin to create our menu.

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a selection of cheese with artisan bread, dried fruit, nuts, apricots and dates chutney

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After dinner digestif Zacapa 23 and XO

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Macadamia nut and brown sugar chocolate mud pie, Zacapa XO and white chocolate mousse.