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Appleton 8 Reserve vs Appleton 12 Rare Cask - Rum Review

Last year I found an old bottle of Appleton 8 in Holland, which filled me with joy. I was looking forward to the prospect of comparing it to the newly released Appleton 8, which was about to replace the Reserve. However, when I asked Appleton’s master blender, Joy Spence, about the differences between the two 8’s, she said they are exactly the same blend. That ended my potential 8 vs 8 experiment before it even started.


The excitement about the new 8 remained though, as I wasn’t a fan of the younger Reserve. I never felt that was enough of a step up from Appleton Signature. This new arrival came hand in hand with a packaging change and the seemingly unavoidable price hike. Luckily the price increase was very small, making sure it remains incredible value for money. From reactions online it’s clear not everyone likes the new bottle design. I had to get used to it as well, simply because they kept the previous bottle shape for so long. It’s a fresh, more modern look, which is nice. The aim was likely to become more “premium”. I’m not a marketing pro, so I have no clue if they succeeded in that. I’m sure they surveyed people.


I’ve reviewed Appleton rums before. That time the 21 was a clear winner with the 12 in second place. The more surprising conclusion was how little I liked their 15 year old. Click here to read the result of that blind tasting and for more info on Appleton in general.


This is a blind tasting, where I know which rums they are, just not in which order.



Nosing


Rum 1

Quite strong on citrus, nice chocolate note, wet wood, baking spices, light menthol. Candle wax is quite heavy. It has a bit more fruity sweetness compared to rum 2.


Rum 2

Wood is stronger than in rum 1. Familiar citrus note, vanilla, faint tobacco, red fruit, olives, it’s musty, light cardboard , molasses, caramel and light licorice.


Can’t say I find one much better than the other on the nose. I like the additional sweetness of rum 1 but rum 2 has a bit more going on, which makes me think that’s the 12.


Tasting


Rum 1

Burnt wood, tobacco, white pepper, caramel and a good amount of wood spice. I don’t get that fruitiness from the nose as much. It’s not a sweet rum. Finish is on the short and light side. It’s not terribly exciting.


Rum 2

Fairly sweet at first. Nice oak, chocolate, licorice, molasses, citrus and caramel. It’s more mouth coating and punchy than rum 1 and has a longer and more pronounced finish. Clearly more interesting than rum 1.

Reveal

Rum 1: Appleton 12

Rum 2: Appleton 8

Conclusion


The surprising thing to me about this tasting is that I enjoyed the 8 more than the 12. It’s bolder and carries more weight. Gives a bit of a punch to the mellower 12. It’s a more interesting sipper imho and also works better in a rum and Coke, although I still prefer Appleton Signature for that particular drink.

I have massive respect for Joy Spence. The first female master distiller in the world, she’s accomplished so much in a male dominated industry. She’s an electrifying personality, who can silence a room full of rum enthusiasts simply by walking through the door. I’ve been fortunate to have a few short one on one chats with her, including an interview, and found that she’s an incredibly nice, knowledgeable and giving person. She also knows how to make good rum! The critique from the rum enthusiast crowd about Appleton is typically that it doesn’t have a strong enough Jamaican funk component to it. It’s very mellow compared to some of the rums from Hampden and Long Pond for example. I understand that critique but it doesn’t mean Appleton isn’t still very much a Jamaican rum. They just run a different course. Joy herself has said she doesn’t believe high ester rum is premium to her. I’m happy they aren’t all doing the same thing. The differences between the Jamaican distilleries are big. That’s a good thing in my book.


My conclusion is that Appleton’s core range remains incredible value for money. Tropical ageing is very expensive, thanks to the high rate of evaporation. Despite that, I can buy an Appleton 8 for less than CAD $40. That’s cheap! Next to that, the 8 and 12 are perfect gateway rums for new drinkers. A lot of people typically like to stick the gateway label on sugary, misleading rums with a massive marketing budget like Zacapa and Diplomatico. I don’t know how those can be called gateway rums, as taste wise they are further away from a classic rummy rum like Mount Gay XO for example, than a good bottle of Scotch or Bourbon would be. Is that bottle of Bourbon a gateway rum? I wrote about it here already, before I digress too much.


Appleton 8 can give a very good introduction to rum in general. It’s well made, has a true age statement, has no added sugar and it’s rummy with a mild Jamaican funk which is ideal to gently move people into the fascinating realm of Jamaican rum. Winner for me.


Scores


Appleton 12 – 73

Appleton 8 – 76


Click here for info on the scoring method.


Click here for the complete list of reviews.

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