Review – Appleton Estate Rum
One of the many interesting aspects of rum is the fact that despite the fact all are produced from a similar base ingredient (usually some product of sugar cane), the characteristics of the finished product can vary a great deal more than simply the impact of barrel ageing that is often used. In fact, the styles of rum are often dictated to a large degree by the location in which they are produced; and thus Guatemalan rums will for example be very different to those from Barbados.
Jamaican rums are typically fruity and pungent in style, and the Appleton range is no exception. The estate dates back to 1655 when the British captured the Islands from the Spanish. Whilst the estate has changed ownership several times since then, the rum is still produced in the Nassau valley. Both copper pot and column stills are used in the production of the rums before being aged in oak barrels. Those rums that carry an age statement refer to the youngest rum in the blend.
Nose: A very bold aroma so typical of Jamaican rum with heavily sweetened fermented fruit on a molasses base, and top notes of orange peel and banana. The intense fruitiness may not be refined but it does beg to be tasted.
Neat: A drier entry than the nose suggests, and a whole lot lighter as well. After an initial hit of banana, the deeper stewed and fermented dark fruits build along with the molasses sweetness. Plenty of vanilla and a touch of citrus add depth and whilst the slightly flat finish combined with a rough edge or two holds it short of being a sipping rum, the huge flavour profile makes it a strong cocktail candidate.
Mixing: The bold flavours and intense sweet fruit profile of this rum means that it works best in cocktails that include a citrus element to cut through and offer balance. As such a Daiquiri is a decent place to start and a successful alternative to the traditional white rum base. The acidity of the pineapple in the signature Jamaican Breeze (recipe below) offers a similar effect and the spice of the ginger also adds an additional layer of flavour that is well received. This rum is less successful in sweeter drinks such as an Old Fashioned where it has a tendency to become a little sickly and needing of too much bitters to balance. Longer drinks such as the Anejo Highball soften some of the rougher edges and make this a decent offering for such simple serves.
Appleton Reserve 8yr
Nose: A similar profile to the V/X but the additional ageing has brought with it greater complexity and refinement. The same characteristic fermented fruit aromas are present, but here they are balanced by some pleasing Christmas spice and leather. The sweetness is still characteristic but this times more caramel in nature than raw molasses.
Neat: A bigger mouthfeel right from the outset, but again retaining this brand’s characteristic fruity profile. Salted toffee sits alongside prune, raisin and apricot with a moderate sharp citrus, peppery spice, and warm vanilla adding to the medley of flavours. This is still an intense rum, but one that has mellowed and increased complexity with age.
Mixing: With the additional ageing offering a greater depth and range of flavours, this is a more versatile cocktail ingredient in the majority of instances. Aromatic classics such as the Palmetto work well, where the vermouth complement the flavours that the additional time in barrel has added. Mint offers similar aromatic qualities and as such the signature (recipe below) Old Jamaican is another good choice, full of high notes to balance the deeper fruity flavours. Once again, sweeter drinks such as the Old Fashioned are passable, but a little on the one dimensional side. The greater complexity of the Reserve over the V/X means that tiki numbers such as the Mai Tai are significantly improved, although the intense fruitiness might not be to everyone’s taste. There is also a crossover with the performance of the V/X in punch-style drinks and highballs such as the Anejo Highball, where the difference in these two products is immediately evident, but equally tasty.
Appleton Old Jamaica Independence Reserve 50yr
In 2012 Appleton launched their 50 Year Old Jamaica Independence Reserve to mark 50yrs of Jamaican independence. With only 800 bottles released worldwide, and the UK being allocated just 40, this is a rum that will prove to be as rare as it is unique in its status as being the world’s oldest commercially available rum. The rum has been blended from rums aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 50yrs and is bottled in a crystal decanter encased in a striking case, both of which are etched with a seal created especially for the rum using a number of culturally important Jamaican symbols. One of the challenges facing master blender Joy Spence when blending this rum was to ensure the impact of the oak was not too dominant on the final rum. A unique double chill filtration is used therefore, something that reportedly was itself one of the most challenging aspects in the production of this rum.
Nose: A huge bouquet of maple syrup, cinnamon, coffee, orange, coconut and vanilla rises from the glass from quite some distance. Exquisitely balanced with the citrus, spice and sweet notes all working in harmony to create an aroma of extraordinary quality and depth. You just want to dive right in.
Neat: The palate doesn’t disappoint, and indeed such is the intensity of flavour that arrives on the tongue all at once I question that it must surely be greater than 45% abv. It isn’t, my palate has just been caught a little off-guard. Once things settle down, things become clearer and it is a very pretty picture indeed. An off-sweet entry leads through to a spicy (much more so than with the younger expressions) fruit-laden mid-palate and ending with an almost floral and honeyed finish. Except that it doesn’t finish, not any time soon anyway, the flavours stick to your tongue like the world’s finest glue, which is a good job as I don’t want them to leave. Coffee, orange, molasses, maple syrup, dark chocolate and summer berries all make an appearance at one stage or another, but frankly this is a rum of such complexity that that individual notes become almost impossible to detect. Somehow all this is achieved without the heaviness that could come with a spirit of this age. The double chill-filtration has worked and created a product that is light on the tongue and allows the flavours of the rum to sing loud above the oak.
Mixing: You won’t be wanting to mix this fine spirit in any cocktails but it combines incredibly with some fine dark chocolate. Luxury of epic proportions.
Appleton Estate rums are big, bold punchy Jamaican rums cram-packed full of intense sweet fruit flavours. Most definitely worth exploring if you like your rums big on flavour and tasting great in cocktails.
Appleton Estate rums are available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.