The Community Liason Officer (CLO) at the embassy organized a trip to the aging facilities of Guatemala’s world famous rums – Ron Botran and Ron Zacapa. DiploMom was on-the-ball signed me up as soon as the initial informational email was sent out a few weeks ago, so I was able to secure one of the coveted spots for the trip. On Saturday, we headed out from the embassy at 6:30 a.m. to make our way west, past Lake Atitlan, to the town of Quetzaltenango.

It is about 3.5 hours to the town, so I knew it was going to be a long day, but it was an experience that was totally worth it. The company rolled out the red carpet for us and everyone had a great time. Besides learning about the history of the company (started by 5 Spanish brothers in the early 1900s), we were able to see how the barrels are treated and prepared, even being able to hammer in the top on our very own barrel. We also saw the warehouses where all the barrels are stored for aging, some for 15 or 23 years before being bottled.

Of course, the part we all looked forward to was the tastings, and they didn’t hold back on the experience. If one was only hearing our tour guide take us through the tasting, one would think we were sampling wine, with all the discussion of flavors and smells and aging. The rums they produce are delicious and we even were able to sample their most expensive – Ron Zacapa 23 and Ron Zacapa XO – with a bottle of the latter retailing for $100.

Here is where Ron Botran is being stored before being placed in barrels.

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Mmmm, one of the tastings, with 5 different rums, all from different ages and barrels that previously were used for American whiskey, port and sherry, which contribute different flavors and aromas.

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Huge storage facilities for Ron Zacapa.

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Sampling Ron Zacapa 23 and Ron Zacapa XO – safety first.

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We arrived back at the embassy at around 7:00 p.m., so it made for quite a day of traveling, but as I mentioned, totally worth it. I’m by no means a rum connoisseur, but I can understand why these rums have won so many awards. With a previous visit to the Gallo beer brewery, I’ve now been able to visit two of Guatemala’s largest and most recognized companies.