1) I like sweet things (duh, I make liqueurs for a living).
2) I have no connection to Zaya other than liking it neat or in a Spiritopia Stormy.
The name sounds cool and exotic, but since no history or etymology is given, it may just be some random spins on the alphabet wheel. Anyway, it is a luscious dark rum from Trinidad. Until a few years ago, I only associated rum with fun-loving Caribbean punch. Then, during a quiet evening at a Mexican beach cafe, I saw anejo on the after-dinner drink menu. It was a contemplative moment and I decided to give it a try. While it might not displace my favorite bourbons, it was a pleasant experience (the soft break of waves and tropical breeze didn't hurt either.) Anyway, it stuck in my mind that rum has other purposes.
Flash forward to last year's NW Mixology Show in Bend. I tasted a number of things, but the Zaya really stood out. Not too long after, I picked up a bottle and got to know it a little better. From the heady aroma to the smooth finish, this is one amazing spirit. It is truly sippable without any help. Of course, that never stops anybody from mixing, too. I blended the rum with Spiritopia Ginger Liqueur, squeezed in a bit of lime, and made the delightful "Spiritopia Stormy" (inspired by the Dark 'n' Stormy, of course).
I also noticed that the rum seemed sweeter than I expected. I shot a sample on the ol' LC (liquid chromatograph, my sugar analyzer) and there it was, plain as day. Two perfectly matched peaks of glucose and fructose adding up to more than 20 grams per liter. This is interesting for two reasons. First, this amount of sugar is very near the legal maximum for many spirits (rum, whiskey, etc). Second, the two matched peaks without any sucrose look suspiciously like the signature of high-fructose corn syrup. It doesn't make any sense that they would use HFCS even if they were being cheap. They are in the heart of cane country and raw sugar is similarly priced to HFCS and tastes way better. Luis Ayala of gotrum.com straigtened me out on this and let me know that it is typically invert sugar. This is cane sugar that has been split apart into glucose and fructose with heat a/or enzymes. In any case, it is sweetened. Now before you get all crabby and throw out the baby with the bath water, taste it. It's excellent. Hopefully, this is due to careful distilling and 12 years of cask storage. When time allows, I'll try to do a little flavor analysis also. Until then, give Zaya a try and tell me what you think.