Appleton Estate Limited Edition 30 Year Old Rum
Review: Appleton Estate Limited Edition 30 Year Old Rum 78/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on December 17, 2010
The Appleton Estate Limited Edition 30 Year Old Rum (produced of course by Appleton Estate in Jamaica), is a well aged rum composed of several marks of rum selected by the Appleton Estate Master Blender. These selected marks were originally aged for 8 years in oak barrels. However, once they were blended, they were then placed in oak barrels once more where they were matured for an additional 22 years in an unusually long dual aging process. According to the published information from Appleton Estate, only 1440 bottles of the 30 Year Old Rum were produced, and these were released onto the word-wide market in 2008.
Now this is a special rum and I was determined to get the review right. To that end, my review of the Appleton 30 year Old Rum is based upon 5 independent tasting sessions in my private tasting room. As well I also carried out side by side tastings with several other well aged spirits which included two Scotch Whiskies (Mosstowie 1979 28 Yr, Cask No.s 12771 & 12772, Bottle No. 162, and Bunnahabhain 1978 29 Yr, Cask No. 2584, Bottle No. 275 of 581); one 30 year Old Canadian Whisky (Canadian Club 30 Year Old 150th Anniversary Edition); and one Dominican Rum (Oliver and Oliver, Opthimus 25). I felt it was important (even though I am a regular consumer of aged spirits) to compare the Appleton 30 Year old with other well aged spirits as part of the review process.
The result of this labour of love is detailed below:
The presentation of the Limited Edition Appleton 30 Year Old Rum is solid. The rum comes in an attractive display box and bottle presentation pictured to the right. The bottle design is nice and classy and is crowned with a nice solid corked closure. Each bottle comes with a beige certificate sealed with a red wax seal in the bottom right corner. This certificate authenticates that the bottle of rum is indeed one of the few (1440) bottles of 30-year-old rum handcrafted by the Appleton Estate Master Blender in this limited release. The certificate is a nice touch especially as it is personally signed by Joy Spence, the current Master Blender for Appleton Estate Rum.
This 30 Year Old Rum, is however, an extremely expensive rum, priced at $300 per bottle in my locale. Based upon prices I have seen reported, this is actually a low price compared with other regions of the world. Based upon this price I admit I expected even a little more in the presentation to reflect the obvious opulence that this rum purchase represents.
In the Glass 8/10
The rum is a dark and rich reddish-brown colour which leaves a thick film on my glass when it is tilted. This film slowly releases thick fat legs back into the rum. As I watched the legs slowly crawl down the sides of the glass, the rum was bringing heavy notes of a woody sap and oak tannin to my nostrils. I allowed the rum to decant, and I hoped that rich baking spices would present themselves as well. This would allow a nice strong mixture of woody oakiness and brown sugary baking spice to evolve. But…, that did not quite happen. Instead, as the rum decanted, freshly cut oak timbers dripping tannin and sap continued to dominate the nose. The sweeter accents of baking spice and brown sugar were strangled by the woody presence of oak. Even the normally sharp smell of orange peel which is omnipresent in Appleton Rums was held at bay by the harsher stronger sap-like aroma from the well aged rum. I received only hints of the lighter baking spices and caramel from the glass as I nosed it.
In the Mouth 47/60
In the mouth, the rum presented itself onto my palate with a peppery bite. The flavour was of a slightly acrid sap and tannin, which dominated the lighter more pleasant flavours typically present in aged rum. I could taste the brown sugar, the caramel, the vanilla, and the spicy nutmeg and cinnamon, but these flavours were in a sense devoured by the oak. The only flavour impressions which stood up to the oak tannin and punched back were the spicy orange and citrus peel, but even here the battle was lost, and the result is a peppery, somewhat harsh and somewhat bitter rum dominated by aged wood.
I have read so many postings on internet forums where the Appleton 30 year Old Rum is praised as the pinnacle of achievement in blending and aging. I can only shake my head and wonder about that tale I read as a child about the emperor and his clothes. To me, it is obvious the rum has been overwhelmed by the oak and lessened by the time spent within its dwelling place.
In the Throat 11.5/15
The Appleton 30 Year Old rum has a long finish punctuated by the peppery harshness of sap and the sharp bite from oak tannin. My palate was left with only beaten down flavours of brown sugar and baking spices and an unsettling bitterness from the oak which had settled into a sharp banana peel flavour. The sharpness of the oak and banana peel tends to leave the palate dried out and puckered.
The Afterburn 7.5/10
I was not sure what I would encounter when I sampled the Appleton 30 Year Old Rum for the first time. So many persons have written such eloquent articles of praise that it seemed I could hardly go wrong. But, here and there, if you looked for them, were other postings and articles by a few writers which told a different tale. A tale of bitterness and disappointment. If these postings showed up on internet forums, there was always a quick reprisal that followed, and these voices of dissent were shouted down. Somehow, this rum had become a holy grail of accomplishment which could not be criticized. The Emperor, it seems has many advocates who do not want the illusion of their clothed Monarch broken. But…, it is an illusion. This rum is no miracle of achievement. Instead, the result of dual aging, first for 8 years and then for 22 years, is a rum which has been broken. The Oak Gods have taken far more than they have given, and the money I spent on this indulgence could have served a far greater purpose elsewhere.
A Note from the Arctic Wolf:
In my side by side tastings with other well aged spirits it was obvious to me that the severe oak profile I tasted in the Appleton 30, was not indicative of the other old spirits . The heavy oak is there to be sure in the other spirits, but far more balance was apparent in the other old spirits with the oak melting into the flavour profile of the spirit instead of dominating it.
In spite of my feelings of misgiving regarding the Appleton 30 Year Old Rum, I realize that I have purchased more than just a rum. This rum represents a historical landmark attempt by Appleton Estate to blend a rum of great age and character. Flawed as I feel the rum is, it still deserves a place in my collection and still sits on the top shelf.
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)