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Zaya alternative?

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I generally like my rum with a bit more bite, but tried Zaya recently, and could definitely enjoy its vanilla sweetness once in a while.

It's pricey though. Anyone familiar with similar rums which cost less?

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  1. How much is Zaya where you are? It is $35 here in NC, but I have seen it for $26-28 elsewhere and on sale in California recently for $23.

    I can't say you will have much luck finding rums with a similar flavor profile for much less money, Zacapa 23 is similar but usually $35+. El dorado 12 is robust and sweet, but costs about the same as the Zaya. I can't think of any other rums that are similar enough to mention, there are a lot of sweet rums out there but not many of them are as flavorful as those three. Maybe try the El Dorado 5 or 8 yr old which can be found for under $20.

    I have bottles of Chairman's reserve ($22) and Plantation Barbados 5 yr ($15) which I have not opened yet, but both of which are supposed to be along those same lines.

    9 Replies
    1. re: ncyankee101

      I bought it for $33.

      I try to look for things on sale, but for instance, have NEVER seen Baralito Three Star on sale.

      El Dorado goes up to a 15 year, doesn't it? If so, I thought I saw the 12 for low $20s.

      1. re: Alcachofa

        Yes, the 15 yr is usually higher than $30, and often closer to $40. I recently got the 12 yr on sale online for around $23 but it normally is more in the high 20s.

        I got very good prices on the Barrilitos a while back but have yet to open them ( I've been on a mission to finish off some of the many bottles I have open) I paid less than $25 for the 3 star and less than $20 for the 2.

        1. re: Alcachofa

          El Dorado has higher ages. I've tried 17 yr. which I don't think they bottle anymore, 21 yr. and 25 yr.

          I think the 12 yr. is the best bang for the buck.

          1. re: JMF

            I used to think the 12 yr was the best bang for the buck at $20, before it went up by 30-40% and I found out about all the added sugar.

            I recently got bottles of 5 and 8 year on sale for $13 and $14, at those prices they were a steal. Even under $20 they are very good bargains.

            I think my new best bargain rum is Doorly's XO for $15. As with all Richard Seales's products it is 100% pure and unadulterated. Doorly's 5 yr gets honorable mention at $10, or $20 for a handle. Seales 10 yr is an outstanding rum for $22.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              How do some rums (possibly Zaya included) sweeten their rums? Do they literally dump a cup of sugar or whatever in the mix? That seems lame.

              1. re: Alcachofa

                They add sugar, molasses, sugar syrup, etc. plus some add dried fruit and spices to round out the flavor. If a rum is sweet, sugar has probably been added.

                1. re: JMF

                  Well the fruit and spices I'm familiar with. I guess what I'm curious about is how "brazen" is the sweetening process. Is it part of the aging (like the better examples of spice addition), or do they really just add some sugar before it goes in the bottle?

                  FWIW, I don't get that annoying "sweaters on my teeth" feeing like I do when I have cheap triple sec in a crap margarita, when I drink Zaya.

                  1. re: Alcachofa

                    Liqueurs are a lot higher in sugar content, I think most are more than 10%. The sweetest rums are about 5%, but most are 2% or less. The weird feeling on your teeth might be caused by cheap sweet and sour mix.

                    The reason they add sugar is because sweet rums sell. For years Zaya and Zacapa were considered the best rums in the world, it is only relatively recently that there has been some backlash against added sweeteners. Many Cognacs blend in some sugar to smooth the final product, up to 2%.

                    Some day I am going to spring for a bottle of Samaroli Demeraran rum, which is a pure rum by an independent bottler, but at close to $100 it might be a while before I pull that trigger.

          2. re: Alcachofa

            ED 21 year is a fantastic sipping rum (I generally do not like neat spirits), a bit sweeter with a lot of flavor

            It runs about $100 a bottle, i got mine on sale for $90

            I like ED 12 year for multipurpose mixing / drinking at a reasonable price point

        2. Priced some rum this weekend. Zaya was at $30, Zacapa 23 was $43!!! (Martignetti's in Boston, MA)

          1. I almost don't think of Zaya as rum any longer. It's like it's almost it's own beast. There were a handful of rum competitions that stopped allowing Zaya to enter because it just won everything. Hence the price these days.

            I'd keep an eye open for Flor de Cana and Ron Matusalem. There are various expressions at all sorts of different price points but even the lower end of the both portfolio's are pretty darn good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ArchibaldDrinks

              Yes, I've had several "levels" of Flor de Cana, and their 4 year is a staple for daiquiris for me. I've also enjoyed the 15 and 10 year Ron Matusalems.

              As I sort of hinted at the beginning, I agree that Zaya is almost in its own category. Not that it's better, though, just that it serves a different purpose.

            2. How about a dark spiced rum? Maybe Kraken? Like some others have said, Zaya tastes so artificially sweetened and spiced that it's hard for me to think of it as anything other than a "spiced" rum.

              1. I find the Zaya very sweet, and marshmallow flavored. I prefer Plantation. It is also sweet, but less sickly sweet, and better spiced.