Contributed by Robert Haynes-Peterson
Posted on Feb 20, 2018

 Ron Zacapa ages its rum in the “House Above the Clouds” in mountainous Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Ron Zacapa ages its rum in the “House Above the Clouds” in mountainous Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

When we think of rum, our minds wander straight to the white-sand scenery of the Caribbean—palm-tree-lined distilleries located next to docks, waves lapping against the shore. But the fact is rum can be produced anywhere in the world, including the mountainous regions of North America, Nepal, Guatemala and Brazil. (Well, Brazil produces cachaça, but we’ll get into that.) More importantly, it turns out that making rum in the mountains versus the lowlands has an impact on the flavor and character of the spirit

As more producers have come on line globally and as brands have stepped up their game with premium expressions, geographic identity has become increasingly useful. Plantation, a French company that sources Latin American rums and finishes them in cognac barrels, has a series of Grand Crus, exploring the distinctions between rums produced in spots like Nicaragua, Jamaica, Trinidad and elsewhere.

When it comes to understanding high-altitude rum, Guatemala is a good place to start. There’s a long tradition of taking advantage of the mountainous volcanic terrain around the city of Quetzaltenango in the western highlands. Ron Zacapa, a prominent producer in the region, is a prime example of mountain rum. Its sugar cane is harvested on the valley floor and distilled nearby but then trucked up the hillside to the “House Above the Clouds,” to warehouses to age.

Read the rest of the article, including a highlight of Montanya's rums, here.