"I've never heard of it," I said.
"It is the best. It's my absolute favourite rum. You have to try it."
I admit I was skeptical. There aren't many bottlers of rum in Trinidad, so I've always thought of myself has pretty up on the Trinidadian rum scene. Bless her little heart, I thought. She thinks she knows rum. Bless.
Jenifer, however, would not be deterred. And last weekend, when I was at the EVO Conference, we ran into each other.
"I brought a bottle of Zaya," she said, conspiratorially. "You HAVE to try it."
Well, now, I'm never one to turn down a rum. So on the closing party of the last night of the conference, she snuck the bottle in. And we each poured ourselves a shot.
Sweet mother of Gumby.
I owe Jenifer a HUGE apology. This stuff is GOOD. Like really, really GOOD. It's smooth, and slightly sweeter than most rums, and just ... well, it's just heaven. On my rather unofficial scale of 1 being rotgut, and 10 being sweet rummy ambrosia, this scores a really solid 9-1/2. It's amazing. It might even compete with my favourite rum of all time, Angostura 1919 (yet to be tasted here on this site). It was so mysterious that I'd never heard of it.
When I got home, I started Googling Zaya, and the truth is that not much came up. There seemed to be some vague references that the rum was originally Guatemalan, but had recently been moved to Trinidad, but nothing truly concrete. Furthermore, the bottle says, "Imported from Trinidad" rather than "Imported from Trinidad and Tobago," the official name of my country, so I found that rather suspicious as well. I even called my mom and dad -- because trust me, if I don't know a Trini rum, they certainly would -- and they'd never heard of it. "What babash yuh drinkin' there?" said my mom, referring to the moonshine often made in stills in the mountains of Trinidad. "I never heard of dat at all!"
Clearly, a side-by-side taste test with Angostura 1919 was necessary.
So today, since Marcus had the day off, I asked him to go see if he could find a bottle of Zaya. The mystery had to be solved.
I'm happy to report he failed. But he brought home two different bottles of rum, instead.
"The guy in the store recommended this one," he said, pulling out a bottle of Carlisle Reef. "He said it was really good."
We set up the shot above, and then each took a sip.
"Wow," I said, "that's good."
"Yeah," he agreed. "It tastes ... a bit like ... like ... coconut, actually."
I agreed -- very smooth, and not too sweet. Rich, and deep. Definitely very, very good. I'd put it at about 8.5.
"So what's the second rum you found?" I asked.
"Well ..." Marcus hesitated. "Okay, I'm going to admit to you that I don't hold out too much hope for this rum. I totally bought it because of the picture on the label."
I stared at the bottle.
"Marcus. You bought a rum called 'The Kraken'? Are you serious?"
"It has a giant octopus on the label!"
"Marcus, it's called The Kraken," I said.
"Woman, did you see the octopus?" he insisted.
I looked closer at the label. "It says it's bottled in Indiana, Marcus," I said. "That canNOT be good."
We set up the shot, and took the photograph. Then we tried it.
I looked at him in surprise. "It's actually not so bad," I said.
He looked as surprised as I was, "It's pretty good!" he said.
I thought about it, rolling a mouthful around my tongue. "It tastes like ... toffee."
I still preferred the Carlisle Reef rum, but the Kraken was decent. I'd give it an eight. Who would've thought?
But still, the Zaya rum mystery was bothering me. I finally resorted to the final authority: Twitter.
Within minutes, a response came:
But even better?
And on that note, have a great weekend, everyone. And as they say on the ads: if you drink this weekend, please drink responsibly.