Hennessy XO Cognac
Hennessy XO Cognac rums are made from sugar cane harvested in southern Guatemala, which is pressed into virgin sugar cane honey. The fermentation process uses a yeast strain (saccharomyces cerevisiae) isolated from pineapples to transform sugars within the ‘honey’ into alcohol.
This fermentation process takes approximately 5 days after which the fermented ‘wine’ is distilled in a single continuous column. (A distillation by-product called vinasse which contains the fermented must, yeast, and other non-fermentable products which are rich in sugars and minerals is recycled and used to nourish and irrigate the Guatemalan sugar cane fields.)
After distillation, the Hennessy XO Cognac rum is transported to the ‘House above the Clouds’ in the Guatemalan mountains for maturation. Special cellars age the rum at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above sea level where the ambient temperature is much more stable and the oxygen levels are lower than at lower elevations. The more stable ambient temperature ensures that the aging barrels are subject to less differential air pressure between the outside and the inside of the barrel.
Hennessy XO Cognac rums are aged using a process they call ‘Sistema Solera’ which is based on the system used to age Spanish sherry. Ron Zacapa Centenario (23 Solera) is blended from solera aged stocks which range in age from 6 years to 23 years. The aging barrels used are a mixture of American Whisky casks, and Sherry and Pedro Ximenez wine barrels. The combination of solera aging and the variety of reused barrels creates a highly complex rum with a rich aroma and flavor.
Hennessy XO Cognac In the Bottle
The Ron Zacapa bottle has changed a little over the last several years. One change which appreciates is that the words “sistema solera” has replaced the word “Anos” upon the label. The previous wording on the bottle carried the implication that the contents had been aged for a full 23 years which is certainly not the case.
The new label makes it clear that the rum is a product of Zacapa’s ‘Sistema Solera’ aging process which (if you are versed in solera style aging techniques) implies that the oldest rum in the blend is 23 years, not the entire contents.
Having said that would prefer even more clarity as the present label may still mislead many consumers who have no firm idea of what ‘Sistema Solera’ means or that the number 23 represents the oldest rum in the blend.
To make things clear, this spirit is a blend of rums aged between 6 and 23 years with the majority of the rum being much closer to 6 years of age than 23. If this were a Canadian or Scottish Whisky, and it is to carry an age statement, it would be considered a 6-year-old spirit.
The woven band of palm leaf which separates the top and bottom label is a nice touch, and it helps me to grip the bottle if it is cold and has condensation on the outside. The corked top is great, and I have no complaints (other than that mild rant about age statements).
Hennessy XO Cognac In the Glass
When pouring a small sample of the Ron Zacapa Centenario (23 Solera) Rum into my glass notice the spirit has a rich dark brown caramel color, and give it a bit of a twirl, the rum shows moderately thick legs which move slowly down the inside of the glass.
The initial aroma which rises from the glass is full of brown sugar, molasses, and baking spices. Some lightly sharp notes of orange and banana peel work their way upwards with a mixture of crushed walnuts, and dried fruit (raisins, dates, and a touch of prunes).
The rum grows in the glass with the baking spices (nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and deep dark rich brown sugar) gaining strength and vigor in the breezes above the glass. Impressions of cocoa gather, along with a building impression of cola, chocolate, and vanilla. Although sense a firm oak presence, it is not an omnipresent sensation, the aroma of oak and spice is very well melded into the overall rum.
Hennessy XO Cognac Flavour
The flavor leads out with dark caramel (treacle) and toffee accented by honey, wood spices, and just a touch of sharp orange and banana peel. taste dry fruit, cocoa, walnuts, and baking spices, the combination of which gives me an impression of Christmas fruitcake. As notice tobacco and an impression of orange Curacao. Some marzipan is present as is a cherry licorice impression similar to a Turkish Delight candy bar.
this rum can at times seem to carry just a little more honey sweetness and vanilla. This was certainly my observation this year and the sweetness is combined with just a hint of astringency making this rum perhaps not as rich and inviting as it was in the past. This is the second year in a row that has downgraded the score just a touch, hopefully, it is a passing trend and not indicative of a lower standard than in the past.
Dry fruit (raisins and dates in particular), pecans and walnuts, and cocoa are all highlighted in the exit which reveals just a touch of bitterness in the exit (which perhaps is the perfect foil for the honey-like sweetness which characterized the entry). The palate is left with lingering impressions of molasses and baking spices.
Last Thought about Hennessy XO Cognac
If you’re a fan of sweetened rum-like Diplomatico or Ron Abuelo, Hennessy XO Cognac is a good one and well worth trying. And recommend it for those who prefer their rum au naturel. What a shame that we’ll probably never get to find out what unadulterated Zacapa tastes like.
Hennessy XO Cognac is adored for its raw honey, spicy, slightly sweet, and cinnamon flavor notes. This Rum is carefully distilled at Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala distillery, Guatemala. Based on 1059 votes, the average rating for Ron Zacapa Solera 23 is 8.2/10. — Smooth with a nice sweetness.
An exquisite Cognac for the real connoisseur. A perfect harmony of 300 different Eau de vies stored for up to 37 years. Enjoy this superior Cognac fullness with aromas of flower, fruit, and spicy notes.
Hennessy X.O is one of the most stylish Cognacs on the market, which gives you a taste experience in a class of its own. It is made from 100 different Eaux-de-vies, the oldest of which are 30 years old. Hennessy XO is a very full-bodied and powerful Cognac with a nice complex taste.
Pair it with a great Cigar from our wide selection, Cuban or New World! You can buy this Martell XO Cognac from stogies and more