Appleton Estate 21-year-old

“Born in old copper stills and aged in oak casks for a minimum of 21 years, the rich full flavour of Apple Estate 21 Year Old rum is the ultimate expression of the rum maker’s art.”

“Hand Blended”

Intrigued yet? I’ve always loved Appleton Estate rums, so I was very curious, and I consider myself lucky that I found a place that stocked it. For $63, it seems that I got a good deal, since I’ve regularly seen mention of pricing most often at $90 and spiking to $110. For that much money, I truly hoped for a very, very good rum, but I felt confident that J. Wray & Nephew wouldn’t let me down, nor would their 21-year-old rums.

After letting it sit on my shelf for a week, I just cracked bottle number 2189 of the 12,000 bottles produced in 2004.

Selection And Blending
The process of making this rum is quite interesting. Each rum used in the blend is selected by Joy Spence, the master blender at J. Wray & Nephew. (She’s the first woman in the rum industry to be a master blender.) The rums are carefully chosen for unique characteristics – taste, aroma, etc. – that will result in a fine blend. They are then blended by hand, and this concoction is placed into oak vats for a year, allowing the rums to fully blend and “marry” the tastes and aromas. The care taken in this process is exquisite and must certainly produce a very fine rum indeed.

To say the least, I was looking forward to trying this rum, and finally found myself with the time and mood to enjoy it.

Initial Tastes
This rum has a dark golden color, though lighter than I had expected for a collection of rums that had been in oak barrels for 21 years or more. The legs are thick – they don’t move on the glass at all. A faint green ring can be detected in the right light, indicating its long existence in those barrels.

The rum initially smells sweet in that typical Appleton way. Hints of good things to come. Some faint smells of vanilla and almond came out with some concentrated sniffing, carefully keeping my distance from the glass to make sure I didn’t burn out my sense of smell. The rum is 86-proof, so that’s relatively easy to do.

The first sip was less sweet than the smell indicated, with a wonderful flavor, and a very long finish accompanied by a very mild burn. This rum is absolutely sippable neat, and ice would be a form of heresy. (Mainly because it would go down so easily that you’d kill the bottle in one sitting!) A second sip found me hunting for some other tastes, and they did take some hunting. I consider this a simple rum – that is, not complex. This is not a bad thing – though I do like more complex rums, this rum is extremely good with the taste it provides. It has mild hints of vanilla and almond, light fruitiness – orange is there if you concentrate. Some slightly darker tastes can be found – at times I thought I detected some spiced apple tastes.

A Little Water
I added a little water, just a few drops, which didn’t seem to do much. It brought up the sweetness just a bit, and let a touch of spiciness in, but I certainly had not added enough water. So I added another few drops – which resulted in a bit of a splash due to carelessness. I was afraid that I had ruined it – too much water can certainly dull down a good liquor. But this rum held up to my splash of water quite nicely, and it still retained that wonderful taste. A touch of water is definitely recommended here – it brings it up a notch, not enough to change it but just enough to heighten the tastes.

Almonds and Vanilla
Once the first shot was done, I wiped the glass with a paper towel to prepare it for another tasting. Yeah, call me lazy – I should have rinsed it or gotten another glass, but I just wiped it out. Thinking that I should have rinsed the glass, I smelled it to see what smells I had left behind that might interfere with another tasting. To my surprise the glass reeked – in a very pleasant way – of vanilla and a slight almond smell. It did not smell of rum at all, just the vanilla and almonds. Wow, that was a nice smell.

A Little Wait
I poured another small shot, and let this sit for what turned out to be 7 minutes. This didn’t have much of an effect, really. Some very subtle changes, but not much at all. It was certainly not worth waiting for! Add a few drops of water and start sipping.

Summary
This is an excellent rum, there are no doubts about it. It’s a simple rum – not complex – with a wonderful taste. There’s no doubt that the care taken in making this rum has produced a very high quality rum. It’s extremely sippable, with the mildest of burns, and an extremely pleasant long finish. For the price I paid – $63 – it’s a no-brainer for a lover of fine rums. I would hesitate if I found it at the higher prices I’ve seen on the Internet. A $90 price tag would make this difficult to justify.

But it is damned good. I would have to place this as my third favorite so far – after the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old and the Flor de Caña 21 (which I enjoy slightly more because of its complexity). One day I’ll have to sit all three of these rums down and do a comparison. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.