Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Review 51 - Appleton Estate 12 year old

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Honest, classic Jamaican from Appleton Estate.

The Appleton Estate located in Nassau Valley, Jamaica, dates back to 1655, and has been making fine Jamaican rums since 1749. That is 266 years ladies and gentlemen, so I guess there is no harm in calling Appleton one of the forefathers of rum.

When you take a look across the entire international rum landscape, Appleton is probably one of the first places you want to ”visit” when deciding which rums to try next.

The lower end of their product range is made up by the V/X and the 12 year old. Advancing up the shelves you can also find a 21 year old, a rare 30 year old and the insanely rare and priceless 50 year old. In between they have a couple of products with limited geographical availability – the Estate Reserve, the Master Blender’s Reserve and the Exclusive.

So choosing the 12 year old, you are actually on the lower shelves at Appleton. And that says quite a lot, when others have 12 year old as a part of their top shelves. However age isn't everything, so it might not matter at all when push comes to shove.

The Appleton 12 is a blend of rums from pot still and column still, which are laid to rest for at least 12 years in oak barrels.

Some internet sources say that it is a blend of 12 to 18 year old rums, others claim that it consist of 12 to 30 year old rums. I have had no luck confirming any of these claims, so I’ll stick with the ”at least 12 years old”.

I have no information about if any additives has been used, but according to Swedish Systembolaget, less than 3 grams of sugar pr. litre has been added. And that is as good as nothing.

Bottled at 43% ABV, it is a little bold, and a bit more interesting than all the standard 40% products out there. Hopefully the extra power will add to the over all profile of the rum. Let's see.

It usually comes with either a card board box or a metal tin, but unfortunately neither were included with my copy of the bottle.

The bottle is a funny, little, squat, semi opaque, brown girl. It has hips and shoulders (or bust?) and it's wider than it is deep. But picking it up, it all makes sense, as the bottle grants you a firm grip and assures you that pouring will still be possible way into an all night bender.

Before I actually manned up and bought this bottle, I was a little put off by the bottle shape. It seemed unnecessarily unique and quite ugly. But once I got to meet it in person, it turned out to be much more charming than I first anticipated.

No cork on it though. For some reason Appleton has chosen to settle for a tinfoil cap. Oh, how I despise those things. They are cheap and flimsy and is a huge letdown to the overall quality of the package.

On the bottle we find only minor labelwork.
A small emblem on the ”chest” just below the neck which delivers the ”12 years old” statement.
The label depicts a sugar estate in an old style look, and all the usual details.

Inside we find a bronze coloured liquid, which revels nice fat legs moving slowly down the inside of your glass, when poured generously and twirled.

First impressions is of a very subtle nose with a lot of oak and vanilla coming out.

A very clear sense of orange peel and bonfire smoke comes immediately after that.

Beneath those most dominant parts there was also a fruity undertone of apple juice, as well as a tiny sting from the alcohol. The apple juice made we think of the 23 year old Rum Nation I reviewed a while back. However in the Appleton 12, the fruitiness was way more relaxed and subtle, where the Rum Nation was straight to your face.

Bottom line it wasn’t as aromatic as I would expect from a Jamaican and a little bit stingy, but quite acceptable for a rum of this kind and age.

The first sip unraveled a nice and round profile with a buttery feel, giving off huge flavours of soft oaks and luscious oranges and spicy orange peel.

The entourage consisted of sweet caramel with vanilla and cinnamon, as well as a fruity aftertouch of apples and stale cola. The combination of apples and cola bought even more memories of the juicy 23 year old Rum Nation, but again the Appleton was way more delicate about it. Not the sledgehammers to your face that the Rum Nation was – for better and for worse.

Summing it up, the Appleton 12 showed a near perfect balance across the palate.

I am not a huge fan of the buttery feel of some rums. It creates a coating of my mouth that seems to dull my taste a little bit. Kind of how it feels when you burn your tongue on hot food.

But apart from that slight disadvantage, it was very nice indeed.

Subtlety seems to be the codename for this rum, as it also was applicable to the finish. Rather long, but very subtle finish.

Mostly dominated by orange peel, oak and caramel, but also some heat and spices during the exit.
Perhaps the spices take it a little to far. It does have a certain bite to it and it doesn’t exit nearly as smooth as it enters.

I could have wished for a little less restraint on the finish, and have had a stronger starting point with a faster fade. But I guess that all comes down to personal preference.

Rating and final thoughts
At little too withdrawn on the nose and a little to hard on the exit.

But apart from those couple of minor flaws, we are dealing with a super enjoyable sipper here.

Sweet, spicy, fruity, heated – it got it all and very well blended together. There is no heavy overweight of one element compared to the others.

I would have liked to see it do a lot more of all the things it does – because it does them very well. And that makes me feel like, they didn’t go all in on this rum. It feel like it's able to be even more.

It does have an enormous value for money. Priced at around €40 you get a very nice and complex sipper of great quality. Sure you can find a billion other rums in this price range, but this is no doubt one of the better ones.

My advice would be to go get a bottle of this ASAP. It is a great rum, and if you are looking to expand your experience with rum, this is a great introduction to Jamaican rums, as it doesn’t have as overwhelmingly aromatic profiles as more extreme Jamaicans.

Personally I would have enjoyed a more aromatic nose, a less buttery mouth feel and a longer, more flavourful finish, but it is still a great rum.

It deserves nothing less than a…

Rating: 76/100



  1. By Jamaican standards (especially when compared to Hampden or Monymusk rums) this is a pretty refined sipper.

    1. Agreed. For its price, it matches everything else on the market in my opinion.