Rum Review: Appleton 50
Appleton Estate 50-Year Jamaica Independence Reserve
Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. Such was the case when I visited Phoenix recently and met Dwayne Allen, the owner of The Breadfruit restaurant and rum bar. I wrote more about the fabulous food and cocktails here.
With only 70 bottles in the entire country (that’s less than 14 gallons, folks) and 800 bottles produced in total, this is one of the most exclusive rums out there. And with every drop aged a *minimum* of 50 years, this represents the world’s oldest barrel-aged rum. But considering Owen Tulloch selected the initial barrels for this project from among his best stocks in 1962, much of it is a lot older than the label suggests. The final blend was created by Owen’s former protege and Appleton’s current Master Blender, Joy Spence.
After several prostrations and multiple thank-you’s to Dwayne, I began my attempt to unravel the mysteries of this Jamaican beauty. The color is a very deep mahogany with highlights of copper and bronze in the light. Leggy? Oh yes. A swirl produces a ring that requires encouragement to return to its starting point.
The initial aromas are heavy with oak, which is to be expected considering the age. Not expected, however, was the complete lack of astringency. Bottled at 45% ABV, I was expecting a little bite on nosing, but none materialized. That alone caused me to ponder the evolution of this rum: coming of the stills not terribly dissimilar to J Wray’s younger products this rum had undergone an incredible transformation, with so much of it ending up in the ether. It would pain me to calculate just how much had been lost to the angels, but their share in this case is a rather large percentage.
After pondering a bit more, I’m able to begin picking out the various aromas beyond the oak. There are hints of cocoa, burnt sugar, orange marmalade and the smallest hint of clove. I can’t wait any longer–let’s taste.
With the first sip, the most remarkable sensation is created mid-palate by the shear amount of tannins present. Once acclimated, I can taste the caramel, the vanilla, a bit of the citrus and then a variety of spices including the aforementioned clove and now a hint of cinnamon. The overall impression is still quite bright despite the heavy oak. If I close my eyes, I can reach back into my sense memory and picture the Appleton 21 as a much younger sibling.
With my small (yet generous) pour, I can’t get completely into the spirit as I would with a less exclusive rum, but as I complete my final sip, I’m able to enjoy the ultra-long finish and remark on its complexity as each flavor passes by my taste receptors. The glass now empty, I still can’t seem to put it down; the emptiness somehow yielding other pieces of the flavor puzzle, most notably the impression of fine custard topped with maple syrup.
Considering the cost and exclusivity of Appleton 50, some have questioned the motives for producing a product that so few could enjoy. But I think there’s much more to it than that. Appleton 50 Independence Reserve not only represents some of the best rum Jamaica has to offer–it represents freedom. It represents quality. It represents a product of incredible effort, care, and skill. Fifty years after gaining independence from the UK, and two hundred five years after the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, Joy Spence was able to hand a bottle of her finest rum to another Jamaican woman (who happens to be the Prime Minister) and say: “the best is yet to come”. We’d be fools not to believe her.
- Appearance: 1/1
- Nose: 2/2
- Mouth feel: 1/1
- Taste: 3.75/4
- Aftertaste: 2/2
- Total Score: 9.75/10