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Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend

Review: Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Rum   (97.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 24, 2017

On March 23rd, 2017 I attended to a very special tasting event hosted by Joy Spence, Master Blender for Appleton Estate Rum. This wasn’t an ordinary tasting event. Joy Spence and Appleton Estate were serving a very special new rum.

Joy is celebrating her 20th anniversary as Master Blender of Appleton Estate Rum. She joined Appleton Estate Rum in 1982 as Chief Chemist and was appointed as the brand’s Master Distiller/Blender in 1997. At that time, Joy Spence became not only first woman to be the Master Blender of a premium rum brand, but also the first woman in the world to be the Master Blender of a global spirits brand. Since then, she has earned numerous awards, including the honorary Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Louborough and, in 2016, the Golden Rum Barrel Award for the Most Influential Rum Blender of the Last 10 Years.

To acknowledge her extraordinary career, Appleton Estate is paying homage to the revolutionary Joy Spence by releasing Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend, a rare 25-year-old minimum aged limited edition rum.

After the event I was given an opportunity to interview Joy Spence to discuss her career, and the new Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend. I learned that the creation of her Anniversary rum was a project which Joy was not only humbled and honored by, she was also intimately involved with each aspect of its completion.

Joy Spence personally selected all of the rums within the blend and created all of the prototypes. She chose two very particular marques of rums to form the heart of her Anniversary blend, a 35-year-old rum (which I like to believe pays homage to her 35 years of service at Appleton Estate) and a very special 25-year-old Pot Still rum which was representative of the characteristic Pot Still style of Appleton Estate Rum. Particular attention was paid in this selection process as Joy’s aim was to choose rums which displayed harmony between the well aged oak character and the underlying Appleton Rum spirit.

In the Bottle 5/5

It is my opinion that the bottle and canister chosen to house the Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Rum (the selection and design of each was guided by Joy Spence) has an elegant feminine quality. This is a rum which not only celebrates Joy Spence’s 20 years as the Master Blender of Appleton Estate Rum; it is a special rum which celebrates Joy Spence, the first woman to be the Master Blender of a Global Spirits Brand. It celebrates that within the World of Rum, gender does not define the limits of a career. (This is aptly illustrated by the fact that now Zacapa Rum and Flor de Cana Rum, both major global brands, are each also guided by Master Blenders who happen to be women.)

I love the look of the bottle which not only captures the theme of celebration, but also pays homage to all women who achieve greatness not just with the World of Rum but in whichever endeavors they choose.

In the Glass 9.5/10

The rum has a very pleasing dark bronze colour in the glass, and when the spirit is examined closely you can see that it has a very light olive-green colour at the crest of the meniscus which forms at the top of the rum where the spirit meets the glass. This pale green meniscus is the result of tannins drawn from the oak cask which have a greenish tint when held up to the light. In this particular rum the greenish tint is quite obvious reflecting the years of tropical aging in white American Oak barrels.

When I brought the Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Rum to my nose, I was taken aback. I was expecting the breezes above the glass to be assaulted by oak and spice with the underlying rum smothered by those years of tropical aging. However, I was extremely pleased to find Jamaican pot still character (camphor and resin, bits of menthol, and vague hints of tar and iodine) very much in evidence within the oak and spice. Also within the merry little breezes was the Appleton Estate Rum signature of orange peel combined with dark brown sugar and rich baking spices (vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and hints of allspice).

The aroma deepened with the orange peel moving to marmalade, a welling up of nutty aromas which moved towards marzipan, and the light bitterness of coffee and cocoa rounding out my olfactory notes. The rum is deeply complex and extremely inviting.

In the Mouth 58.5/60

Everything I sensed in the breezes above the glass translated perfectly into lush flavour across the palate. In particular I was stunned by how much attention had been paid to restraining the overt oak, integrating its flavour into the overall profile of the rum. Other well-aged Appleton’s I have sampled have perhaps been a touch overbalanced by oak which overshadowed the spirit to some extent. That is not the case here. I can taste oak in all of its sap-like and spicy glory; but I also taste rich chocolate, coffee, camphor, touches of tar and iodine, rich baking spices with robust nutmeg and allspice. There is a light brown sugary sweetness which balances the pungent spices and turns the sap-like oak into toffee. There is also a lovely mildly bitter quality which puckers and dries the mouth making me want to reach for another sip.

This is certainly the best Appleton Rum I have tasted.

In the Throat 14.5/15

The Joy Anniversary Rum has a long finish which coats the palate with rich baking spice and oak elixir. I am left with lingering thoughts of baked cinnamon rolls and roasted pecans and sincerely wished my sample glass was not empty already. That empty glass though still provided enjoyment as rich scents of dark rum with vanilla, oak and baking spice poured into the air for quite some time after the rum was gone.

The Afterburn  10/10

I asked Joy Spence after the event how she would recommend serving her Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Rum to a small gathering of close friends. She told me to serve it neat first, to give everyone a chance to taste it in its pure form. Then she said she would serve another glass over a large cube of ice and enjoy how the flavour changed as the ice melted into the rum. Finally she said she would pair the rum with some rich dark chocolate (with a cocoa content of no more than 70 %).

Those three simple servings would each showcase a different facet of the rum, each as enjoyable as the other.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)



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