What is it? Molasses based rum from Jamaica, distilled in pot stills and then aged in ex-bourbon barrels for a minimum of 21 years (I assume tropically). This is produced in small batches, once a year, and sold on allocation only. For reference my bottle was bottled in 2015 and is bottle number 34876.
Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 43% abv.
Sugar? No. Appleton do not add any sugar to their rum, or any other flavourings.
Nose: Ah, very elegant. Straight away you can tell this is well crafted and blended from quality casks. Pungent and aromatic with over ripe bananas, a little dried papaya, caramel, candied orange peel and honey. There is a lovely floral note to this and then the big “old” smells of light tobacco, warm leather, roasted nuts, roasted coffee beans and damp leaves. Interplaying with the sweetness at the start are savoury smells too as you get deeper in with a little aniseed and hot tyres. There is a backbone of toasted and open oak which provides a warm woody incense like smell, cloves and some cinnamon. Certainly very complex, with many layers to discover the longer you spend with it.
Palate: Medium to heavy mouth feel, quite coating. Dry, very dry, almost no fruit here except for one very black and gooey banana. It’s all the “old” tastes, with lots of oak, cloves, deep dark brown sugar that you bake cookies with, vanilla, walnuts, pecans – oh, butterscotch and pecan yum yums (google them) – old leather, tree sap, mushrooms and a little olive oil.
Finish: Medium in length. Quite bourbon’esc on the finish, plenty of warm toasted oak, white pepper, clove and a little ginger, fairly spicy. Lingering tastes of very ripe banana and some of the orange peel that I picked up in the nose but that was missing in the palate. Things bitter as it tails off, with some sappy notes and walnut shells. The bitterness isn’t very welcome I must admit. Throughout the palate and finish there is something I can’t quite put my finger on; it seems like some sugar has been added, I know it’s not, and I doubt they’ve put glycerine in but it seems like it at points – there is just some slight artificial note that flattens things down, especially on the finish.
Thoughts? It’s a very, very nice rum. It’s been “crafted” and aimed at a market segment, priced also accordingly! Here is the issue I have with this rum; ok, it’s 21 years old, but it’s sitting at around £140/£150 at many online retailers. Now I do really like it, but I honestly don’t find it 4x better than the 12 year old, in fact some of the things that make the 12 year old so damn good are lost in this as it’s got older. Has this been “premiumized”? Have there been hands in the cookie jar (a little dabble with the old additives)? I hope not. Would I buy this again? Well, yes, because I only paid £80 for it and I can still pick it up for £85 right now. For that price it’s worth it – but it aint worth £150 in any world.
Point to add; When I first opened this I was very disappointed. I wasn’t getting much from the rum at all. You’ll hear people say that spirits don’t breath – bollocks. Spirits certainly do. They oxidise in the bottle as more is drunk, and if left long enough they’ll loose a lot of their finer notes and go “flat”. My experience with older spirits is that they benefit significantly more with some time and headroom in the bottle, so after about 2 months this has really changed, opened up and settled down – it’s become much better for it. So if you do find you’re not getting on with a bottle you’ve just opened it, put it away (with some missing in the top to let air in), don’t put any preserving spray in it, and let it breath for a month – chances are it’ll change over time.