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Appleton Estate Reserve Rum

Review: Appleton Estate Reserve Rum  85/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Revised May, 2017

The Appleton Estate is located in Nassau Valley in St. Elizabeth which is part of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country. The Cockpit Country is a karst formation which was formed over millions of years as the underlying limestone was eroded by the chemical action of rain.  Within a cockpit karst formation are valleys known as Poljes. They are formed where a river floods, then recedes and forms a flat valley over millions of years. The soil in the poljes is very fertile and rich in nutrients because of the sediments left behind after the river had receded.

Sunset in the Nassau Valley

In 1749, within the polje known as the Nassau Valley, the Appleton Estate Sugar Factory was founded. The Nassau Valley has a special mild micro-climate which is ideally suited to the growth of sugarcane. As well, a water source wells from the limestone formation and provides an exceptionally soft pure water which used for the production of Appleton Estate Rums.

The Appleton Estate Reserve is much like its predecessor, the Appleton Estate VX.  It has the same signature Appleton profile flavour and aroma.  However, things seem to be brought up a notch with a higher level of smoothness, and more complexity.  The higher level of complexity arises from the additional rums used to blend the Appleton Reserve, 20 select aged rums in all. Although the rum does not carry an age statement Appleton Estate website tells us that the blend of 20 rums have an average age of 6 years.

In the Bottle   4.5/5

The same stylish Appleton Estate bottle is used for the Appleton Reserve as was used for the Appleton VX. I like the Appleton bottle, but I have felt that the closure (which is a pressed on metal screw cap) just does not do the task well enough. Several years ago I dropped the cap by accident on the floor, and when I tried to seal my bottle again the cap had deformed and would not tighten. Fortunately I had a cork which fit the bottle. A durable plastic cap would be better. The saving grace is that the Appleton Reserve is not an expensive rum, and I can be  forgiving of small deficiencies when my wallet is not pummeled.

In the Glass   9/10

The color of the Appleton Reserve is a warm copper which is just beginning that turn toward bronze. 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. The greenish tint reflects the years of tropical aging in white American Oak barrels. Reddish orange highlights seem to appear in my glass as I swirl it, and long skinny legs run down the in side of my glencairn glass from the thickened crest which has formed at the top.

When I bring the glass to my nose zesty oak spice is foremost in the breezes. The oak carries some obvious sweetness with vanilla and light baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) accenting the honeyed wood spices. Spicy orange peel and light aromas of the Jamaican pot still (camphor and resin, bits of menthol, and vague hints of tar) begin to arrive as well as a light grassy quality which has wound its way into the air. Almond and hazelnut seem to lie within the menagerie of nasal impressions. The rum shows great complexity in the breezes.

In the Mouth   50/60

The Reserve Appleton Rum brings a spicy zip across the palate that is full of citrus peel, oak spice, candy apples, cloves, and cinnamon. The spice is, (in spite of the softness of the rum on my tongue), a sharp and intense and seems to thwart my ability to sip comfortably. Underneath this spiciness are additional flavours of honey, butterscotch, and vanilla. I taste plantain and banana as well as hints of herbal menthol and baking spice. Nutmeg in particular comes through. Rounding out the flavour profile is a winding grassy almond flavour.

As indicated I have trouble sipping on the rum neat. So I added an ice-cube and found the experience much more to my liking. The ice -cube seemed to quell the spiciness of the dram and bring out the pot still flavours.

In the Throat  12.5/15

The Appleton Reserve rum is much nicer to sip in a glass of ice than it is to sip neat. The sharpness of the spice is mellowed with the ice and the effect is to bring a lighter sweetness to the fore as well as to accentuate the pot still flavours of camphor, resin and menthol. It would be true to say that even with ice, the finish is long with a spiciness that heats the palate dries the throat.

The Afterburn  9 /10

Going over my scores, I was a little surprised that they did not add up just a little higher. I find the rum has a nice complexity and balance of flavours. It is a rum with remarkable depth in the flavour profile. Since my overall impression of the rum seems to be more than the sum of its parts, I have scored this part of the review more strongly to recognize that this rum is more than the sum of its parts.

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


Suggested Cocktail

Appleton Estate Reserve Rum excels in the cocktail format. Here is a recipe I created 7 years ago which has become my favourite cocktail for this particular rum.

The Reserved Gentleman
a cocktail by Chip Dykstra (Aka The Rum Howler)

1 1/2 oz  Appleton Reserve Rum
1/2 oz   Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/4 oz  Triple Sec
1 tsp  Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Citrus Peel for garnish

Combine ingredients into a metal shaker with ice.
Shake until the metal shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with lime slice, or a flamed grapefruit peel

Enjoy Responsibly!


Joy Spence, (Master Blender for Appleton Estate Rum) shared her favourite cocktail with me during an interview several years ago. It is nice to know that those who make great rum also agree with me that it is more than acceptable to mix great rum with a splash of soda.

SpenceThe Spence Cocktail

2 oz Appleton Estate Reserve Rum
1 Orange Slice
1 0r 2 drops Angostura Bitters
Ginger ale

Muddle 1 slice of orange with 1 drop of Angostura Bitters in a rocks glass
Add 2 oz Appleton Estate Reserve Rum
Top up with ginger ale and ice

And of course enjoy responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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)





4 Responses to “Appleton Estate Reserve Rum”

  1. F Hoyos said

    I found the Reserve to be excellent. I have tried other rums from other makers and can truly say
    that the Appleton Estate Reserve is wonderful. I was introduced to the Reserve while on a
    Caribbean cruise a couple of years ago. At 70 it was truly an amazing experience. It is now my
    preferred rum for all occasions.

  2. I’m watching a thread on the MoR that links here, and was curious…did you ever find out what the true ageing of the rums in the blend was? My research suggested eight years, but this was never confirmed.

    • Hi Lance,
      Om the ministry there is a great interview with David Morrison a blending expert from Wray and Nephew where he discusses all of the Appleton Rums and the differences. He has blended these rums since the early 2000’s and knows them intimately. At about the 4 minute mark of the interview he begins to discuss the Reserve. Interestingly enough he says his favourite way to drink it is over ice with a splash of ginger ale and a squeeze of lime, yet another person who actually makes the spirit believing that a cocktail is the best way to serve it.

      As for age, he makes the statement that if a rum has the right elements of taste and aroma, then age is not really important (another statement I agree with). The conclusion I draw from this is that the Reserve is blended to a specific profile of flavour and aroma not to any standard of age. People like to pigeon hole the age at 8 years because that falls neatly between the VX and the 12, but such a conclusion is only superficially correct. If it requires a younger rum within the blend to maintain the flavour profile, then a younger rum will be used. Since from batch to batch the youngest rum in the blend will change, no consistent age statement is possible.

  3. Estazolam said

    Good article

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