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Rum Review: Appleton 12-Year

Appleton Extra / Appleton 12 Year

Appleton 12-Year aka Appleton Extra

For my inaugural review, I have chosen the Appleton 12-Year, also known as Appleton Extra.  Appleton’s Master Blender Joy Spence was kind enough to answer one of my questions during her recent Facebook chat, so I thought I would return the favor by buying the most expensive bottle of Appleton I could find (at BevMo, anyway). Fortunately for me, it was on sale for $29.99–a $5 less than its regular $34.99.

The first thing I noticed about the Appleton 12-Year was its color. Holding it up to my bottle of its younger brother the Appleton Reserve, it was noticeably darker with a rich red hue. The label also suggests this difference with the addition of a black background on the upper portion of the label.

To open the bottle, I twisted and broke the seal on the metal cap. At this point, I was reminded that I love the sound of a cork being removed from a bottle of rum.  A quick online check confirms that even the 21-year has a metal cap. Only when you get to the 30-year does Appleton change the bottle shape and closure (available for about $350 online).

With the bottle now open, I poured a generous serving into my tasting snifter and swirled. The color in the glass is just as vibrant in the glass–more so when it’s held up to the light. If color was the goal, this rum would be perfect.  Thick legs  became pronounced as the swirled bits slowly cascaded back toward the bottom of the snifter, indicating a viscosity that would yield a nice and slick mouth feel.

Now to breathe in the aroma. As I passed the snifter under my nose, I was surprised by the astringency. A deeper sniff into the bowl yielded an altogether unpleasant result reminiscent of lesser spirits. Maybe I had breathed too deeply.

Now for a taste. The slick mouth feel suggested by the legs is here–it felt right, but the tingling that followed was again more than I expected for a 12-year old rum. There are pronounced citrus notes (mostly orange) as well as vanilla, caramel and of course the woodiness of oak. There is a bit of a smoky character coming from what I imagine is charred oak and burnt sugar. The level of sweetness is moderate. In the aftertaste there is a moderate spice flavor.

I continued taking small sips and breathing in the spirit for a while as I attempted to refine my notes and I kept coming back to the astringency of the aroma. As a sanity check, I poured an amount of another 12-year old rum from the bar–an El Dorado. Granted, this is a completely different (demerara) rum, but what I wanted to see was whether or not the level of astringency was similar. In short, it wasn’t. When I breathed deeply into the snifter of El Dorado, my breathing was unaffected. The same experiment with the Appleton 12 produced an unpleasant burn and cough.

In summary, I was hoping to enjoy the Appleton 12-Year much more than I did. While I prefer more mellow rums, I can see a scotch drinker loving this. So while I can think of many other sipping rums I would prefer at this price point, there is a silver lining: this rum is excellent in cocktails. When blended with Clement VSOP it makes a great Mai Tai, for example (as noted by Beachbum Berry here).

Now on to the scores:

  • Appearance: 1/1
  • Nose: 1/2
  • Mouth feel: 1/1
  • Taste: 3/4
  • Aftertaste: 2/2
  • Total Score: 8/10

Buy Appleton 12-Year online

I have read many glowing reviews of this rum, so I’m sure you have your own idea about this spirit. I’d love to hear your feedback.
12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2012 8:30 pm

    What you’re probably getting are the esters from the dunder. Basically, whatever is left in the still after a run is dumped into a big pit where it is colonized by all sorts of microorganisms. Portions of dunder are added to the molasses mash during fermentation, which means that lots of fatty acids and long chain alcohols are produced. These react to form esters, which are volatile compounds that give Jamaican rums their distinctly “funky” character. If you’ve ever tried Smith & Cross rum, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s an acquired taste, but makes for some really interesting cocktails.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      August 6, 2012 12:53 pm

      I’ve been called a dunderhead before–now I know why! In all seriousness, though, I think I’m beginning to like the Jamaican style more and more. It is most definitely a great addition to cocktails. I recently bought a bottle of Plantation Jamaica 2000, and it’s great. I hope to post a review on that one soon. Cheers!

  2. September 11, 2012 12:44 am

    I also baulked at my first experience with Appletons 12, BUT I knew somehow that this was a very, very good rum so I let it rest and then went back to it. I poured a glass and gave it a good 5 minutes before sipping. Better. Worth a second. Then as my experience with rums advanced over time I became to love this rum and my palate seems to now really appreciate the change from say, to use your side by side, a Demerara to a Jamaican. I drink this rum with joy, but sometimes forget the Jamaican profile when offering a rum to a inexperienced friend and it is often a mind blower for them. I think it’s a good comparison against whisky styles with Jamaican rums being matched with peaty Islay or Irish whiskies and not necessarily great for new rum drinkers. Or experienced drinkers that perhaps are more inclined toward Demeraran or Venezuelan etc.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      September 11, 2012 8:00 am

      Agree on all counts. I think that’s one of the most interesting things about rum–discovering the distinct styles of each region/country/producer. It’s all rum, but it’s so varied that the flavor journey never ends.

  3. Will permalink
    January 17, 2013 7:24 am

    I have tried most of the molasses rums available and Appleton Extra is one of my favorite sipping rums. There is a caramelized…”burnt”… component that I cant find in other rums. I assume this is from the use of pot stills. (Not that I want this to be the ONLY flavor in my rum either) I cant think of another rum with so many interesting elements .The 3 bottles I have had over the years have not had a strong alcohol component at all. Perhaps this is a change or hopefully variance by batch.

    As a reference though, as proposed in the review, I do drink Scotch and other whiskeys as well and find something like Zacapa cloying.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      January 17, 2013 8:21 am

      Thanks for your feedback, Will. The high dunder/cogener carry-over from the Jamaican pot still rum is something that can be an acquired taste. It’s typically referred to as “funk”, and I think that descriptor is pretty spot-on in this case. Since I originally published this review, I have begun to appreciate the Jamaican style more, so I suppose I’ll have to formally revisit this review and probably a few others.

      By the way, if you like the funk of Appleton 12, I would recommend trying the Plantation Jamaica 2000 bottling. It’s quite good and quite funky. It’s on my review schedule–I’ll try and get it done soon so you can get a sense of it (assuming you haven’t had some already, that is).


  4. April 18, 2013 10:26 am

    I can see how one could have this sort of reaction the first time tasting the 12. It’s certainly the kind of rum that requires a patient approach to enjoyment. I agree that a good resting period out of the bottle is best to let it breadth a bit before noising. Spot on with the Scotch comparison. It’s our go-to for our peat loving friends. This is exactly who Appleton targets with this rum.


    • Josh Miller permalink*
      April 18, 2013 10:34 am

      Thanks for your comment–this review was written very early on in my site’s existence, and since then I have definitely come around to Appleton’s way of thinking. I should probably write a proper follow-up.

      It’s good to see Appleton and Brugal going after the Scotch drinkers with their drier, more complex offerings. As for me, I’m just happy we have so much variety in the category from which to choose.

      BTW — I’ll be in on May 6–looking forward to having a rum or three there!

  5. Shek permalink
    January 7, 2016 1:46 pm

    Hi! Thanks for all the reviews, very informative. I’m making a foray into rum and this is the first one I tried; I enjoy it a lot but am always up for trying something different. Can you recommend any good sipping rums to move onto in a similar price range?

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      January 7, 2016 1:51 pm

      Hi Shek–wow, so many choices. If you like this one, I might try other dry flavorful rums such as Mount Gay XO and The Real McCoy 12 (both from Barbados) or perhaps Brugal 1888 from the Dominican Republic.

      • Shek permalink
        January 19, 2016 11:22 am

        Thanks for the reply, I will keep those in mind next time I’m looking to make a purchase 🙂


  1. New Rum review: Appleton 12-Year « Inu a Kena

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