Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Review 44 - Appleton Estate 21 year old

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Appleton Estate 21: Defining premium rum.

I have been seeming to favor Jamaican rums lately. So it is about time that I give one of the really big boys a go.

You can’t mention Jamaican rum without immediately mentioning the Appleton Estate.

Owned today by spirits mastodon J.Wray & Nephew, the power brand Appleton Estate has been creating rum since 1749. That is a very, very long time.

Further more they create, what I would like to call, pure estate rum.

They have their own cane fields, they produce their own molasses, they do their own fermentation, they do their own distilling, before finally doing their own maturation and bottling. So from cane to bottle, it is all Appleton (or J.Wray & Nephew to be more accurate).

At the estate they use both column stills and small copper pot stills for distillation. Everything is then aged at least 21 years in oak barrels, before a blend of several individually aged distillates are used to create the Appleton Estate 21 year old bottled at 43% ABV.

Note: My fellow rummie Gregers has informed me that according to Joyce Spence, all Appletons products are blends of both coloumn and pot still distillates. An edit has been made to the paragraph above to reflect this information.

Further more measurements by Johnny Drejer indicates that no additives has been introduced to the rum. That reassures me that they actually practice what they preach.

If you have time I strongly urge you to visit the Appleton website. It is by far the best website by any rum maker I have come across so far. Massive information about the products and their methods as well as being easy to use and navigate. Just another addition to the transparency and the ”we have nothing to hide”-attitude.

Honesty and transparency. I like it. A lot!

If all rum brands had this level of transparency, they would be outgunning all other spirits in no time! (there, I said it).

Moving on the presentation there is a lot to be said. This is an absolute stunner.

Beautiful oval cylinder made in plastic, lined with a thick blue cardboard on the inside, and a layer of blue faux leather on the outside.

The bottle is a beautiful curvy thing with a thick glass bottom, a narrow waist and wide shoulders. 
The neck is medium length and dressed in a nice little label which depicts a plantation and a subtle note of ”handcrafting the finest rum in the world since 1749”.

There is only a very small label at the waist of the bottle, which shows the bottle number, the year of bottling, the ABL and the address of J. Wray & Nephew LTD.

Every other detail is written directly on the bottle. The name, age and origin.

Just below the neck we find a little emblem stating that the rum has spent a minimum of 21 years in oak barrels.

The head is a nice ”plop”-producing natural cork with a nice, big wooden stopper.

It screams premium from the every angel and it is perhaps the most premium looking package in my entire collection.

The rum it self is also a looker.

Coloured in nice bronze, it leaves an oily film on the glass.

Twirling results in a nice solid ring, producing some meaty legs which move slowly down the glass.

First up is freshly varnished wood, thick oaks and butterscotch,

It displays a fruity freshness primarily with orange peel and green apples.

Despite the heavy oak it is quite subtle on the spices with vanilla and cinnamon being the most obvious.

In the background there was something qutie surprising which sent my thoughts all the way back to elementary school: Freshly unpacked eraser. Not the brightly coloured and perfumed cartoon merchandise ones, but the big, rectangular white ones, which were actually good at erasing.

Finally there is a nutty and earthy undertone to it, finishing off its complex nature.

The first sip reveals a very rich and flavoursome rum, which feels oily on the tongue.

It is heavy, but controlled on the oak.

Tannic as an aggressive whine. Yes, the H was intentional. Know the feeling when somebody just can’t stop whining, and your face starts cramping and your upper lip starts to curl up over your front teeth? Coincidently, I make the same type of face when drinking very tannic wine.

There is only a mild sweetness to it, but it feels just right. Just enough to be an active part of the expression, but not enough to make it dominating.

It is quite fruity displaying the same green apples as the nose, as well as oranges, cola and raisins.

The spices are mild, but all over the place. I primarily got peppers, but also baking spices everywhere at the same time. Soft vanilla caressing the palate once in a while.

There is also something floral and vegetative about it. A sun warmed garden in the summer.
The first thing that came to mind was fleshy tomatoes or perhaps pees. Freshly picked from the plant and eaten in the sun. Perhaps my mind is just going nuts.

It is a lovely rum no doubt. Incredibly complex and enjoyable.

I feel it lacks a little oomph and some wauw. It is nothing more than a very well put together piece of rum.

I must say that the drying tannic properties are a bit off the reservation for me. In this particular rum I actually like it, as it correlates well with the over all impression of the rum. But in other rums it may be enough to make me dismiss it all together.

After swallowing you get to savour the moment quite some time.

A perfectly balanced, but also restrained trio of fruits, spices and warmth fades into nothingness at a moderate pace and taking its time to wave goodbye.

No surprising last efforts of any kind. Just stability and consistency.

Rating and final thoughts
I love this rum. Although it doesn’t live up to every single of my personal preferences, it is absolutely amazing.
The funky profile is typical Jamaican and it does exhibit Jamaican rums very well. It looks, feels, smells and tastes as a premium product, and that is what it is.

A premium rum. Nothing less.

I could have used a bit more strength on it, as I feel that the over all quality is by far good enough to justify it. A little more sweetness could perhaps have broadened the flavours out even more. And given the structure of the flavours, I feel there would have been room for a little more sweetness, without flattening everything else.

But no matter how I look at it, we are talking very minor adjustments here.

Value for money is pretty good. You will have no problem finding this rum for €100-120, and at that price it is actually quite reasonable. If you do the occasional eBay-shopping, you might be lucky and find it for as little as €80, which makes it a no brainer in my book!

So getting to the end, this has been an absolute pleasure. Truly a great rum and if you ever get the chance, you have to try it out. It has nudged its way into my permanent collection, which will result in a rebuy once my current bottle has been bled dry.

That is by no means a small feat, and further adds to the common sense of giving it a…

Rating: 78/100


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