Appleton: The magic of rum

After vodka, gin, and tequila, it’s now rum’s turn to experience a qualitative revolution.

By Patrick Désy

Appleton, the renowned Jamaican brand whose official first papers date back to 1749, has just released its 8YearOld Reserve blend, available in a new stylish and modern bottle. Apart from the curvy bottle and minimalist label, the product itself is exceptional. This rum, aged a minimum of 8 years, is sure to please amateurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs alike.    

Just like any fine wine depends on the quality of the vine and grapes, rum depends on the quality of its main ingredient: sugarcane. As such, the authenticity of Appleton rum sets itself apart very early on in the production process. More than a dozen varieties of sugarcane are cultivated on the estate, which is located in Jamaica’s Nassau Valley, a region that boasts nutrient-rich soil and a lush climate. The clear azure water that is used to boil the sugarcane and transform it into molasses is naturally filtered by the surrounding limestone hills and caves. In fact, the unique growing conditions actually make Appleton one of the only rums in the world with a terroir. And finally, the Estate adds its own proprietary, all-natural strain of cultured yeast in every batch, which has been handed down from generation to generation.

Joy Spence, Master Blender: the woman behind this remarkable rum

The magical transformation of sugarcane to molasses would not be possible without the woman working behind the scenes to make it so. At Appleton Estate, the Master Blender behind every bottle is none other than the talented Joy Spence, who has been at the helm of the renowned distillery for close to 40 years. A chemist by trade, Spence is the spirit industry’s first female Master Blender. “Distillation is a true blend of art and science in which expertise and craft play equally important roles,” explains Ms. Spence. The master blender uses two kinds of stills. The first is a traditional copper pot still, whose form is unique to Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. It imparts the Estate’s signature orange peel top note. The second is a more modern column still, which helps the rum develop various aromas (banana, pineapple, coconut, etc.) depending on the alcohol level of the finished product.

Distillers’ secrets

Next comes the ageing process. Appleton Estate uses only American Oak Bourbon barrels, which after three years of use are sent directly to the Kingston distillery. The ageing process begins with the extraction of wood tannins, which impart wood, caramel, and vanilla flavours to the finished product. Contact with air kick-starts the oxidation process, which helps develop the rum’s fruity aromas. Next comes evaporation, which leads to a more concentrated spirit. The tropical climate of Jamaica accelerates the ageing process – triples it, in fact – which in turn allows the flavours to develop quicker.  This method of tropical ageing is unique to Appleton Estate.    

The 8-YearOld reserve was personally blended by Joy Spence and her team, in celebration of Appleton’s 250th anniversary. While some distilleries use the solera or average age method, Appleton adheres to strict ageing guidelines. As such, the age statement on any of the estate’s bottles refers to the youngest rum used in that particular blend. The 8YearOld reserve features rums handpicked by Spence, the youngest of which undergo tropical ageing for a minimum of eight years. Needless to say, no aromas are added to this brilliant rum! Appleton Estate Jamaica Rums are made without artificial colours, sweeteners or other additives.

One-of-a-kind flavour

The 8YearOld Reserve is ideal for anyone looking to initiate themselves to premium rums. Its delicate, refined profile makes it easy to digest and great served neat or on the rocks. The nose reveals seductive notes of marmalade, honey, vanilla, candied banana, ripe pineapple, leather, and a touch of hydrocarbon typical of Jamaican rums. On the palate, it’s rich and smooth, boasting aromas of spice and a subtle touch of bitterness. The finish is warm and pleasant, with a hint of dried, spicy apricot. Ms. Spence prefers to enjoy her 8-year-old reserve with ginger ale, a few drops of angostura bitters, and a slice of orange... a drink known on the estate as “Joy’s Cocktail.”

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