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Appleton Hearts Collection Rum Review - 1994 - 1995 - 1999

Jamaican’s Appleton Estate is one of the most recognizable names in rum. Their Signature, 8 year, 12 year and 21 year expressions are known all over the world….even in Canada. Actually, Canada is their largest market. They are great gateways into the fascinating world of Jamaican rum. I use them for mixing, sipping and for rum cake. In Joy Spence, Appleton has one of the most recognized and accomplished master blenders. A true rum celebrity. They also have some of the largest stocks of aged rum in the world, which shows, as they can consistently put 8, 12 and 21 year rum on the market in large volumes. However, there is a small group of people who are always wondering “what else do they have?”.


The rum enthusiast crowd hasn’t been served particularly well by Appleton. Of course there have been several special releases like Appleton Joy and the 50 year old, but these are rare (and expensive) happenings which, just like their core line, typically don’t excite the geeks to a particularly high level. One of the reasons being the lower abv these releases are usually bottled at.


Question is, why would a company as large as Appleton, which is owned by an even larger company (Campari), care about the wishes of a very small group of rum geeks?! I don’t blame them for not doing so. There is a little bit of money, recognition and credibility to gain by releasing an enthusiast bottling of course. But, convincing CEO’s of a major company of these small benefits isn’t an easy task. Here’s where Velier’s Luca Gargano enters the story. A man who’s keen eye for good rum and good business has brought many incredible rums to market over the past decades. He’s a modern day rum hero, walking in front of hoards of rum geeks, wearing a full body armor, fighting his way through rum misconceptions and trying to make the rum landscape more transparent by showcasing the world’s iconic distilleries and the products they have to offer in their beautiful naked form. Some call him the Indiana Jones of rum.


The first time I heard him speak about this project was at UK Rumfest in 2019. In his usual energetic and passionate style he told everyone he had gone on his knees in front of the Appleton/Campari management. To bring the point across even better, he actually went on his knees while telling us about it. He succeeded to convince them and Joy to go ahead with this project, much to the delight of everyone in the room. He added that when they were tasting samples with Joy and a few others, him and Joy both picked the exact same barrels as favourites to be bottled. Great minds think alike. Or is that great palates in this case?!


The result is three very old pot still releases, at cask strength! If that doesn’t excite you then you need to look for another hobby.


Appleton Hearts Collection

The Cast


Appleton Hearts Collection 1994

Age: 26 years

ABV: 60%

Barrel: ex-bourbon

Total Congeners: 1184 g/100 LAA


Appleton Hearts Collection 1995

Age: 25 years

ABV: 63%

Barrel: ex-bourbon

Total Congeners: 1440 g/100 LAA


Appleton Hearts Collection 1999

Age: 21 years

ABV: 63%

Barrel: ex-bourbon

Total Congeners: 855 g/100 LAA


Before these were released to the public, they were presented to a select group of friends, influencers, bloggers, distributors, retailers etc. The way this was done was very classy and professional. Separate packages were produced with three 20cl bottles in it, carrying the same labels as the large bottles. I typically don’t care much about packaging, but really appreciated the effort in this case. The beautiful bottles were in individual boxes and those were in turn put in a larger branded box. Great attention to detail! They were sent to people all over the world. I was one of the incredibly lucky people to receive a package. Of course I had to arm wrestle the border agency and government liquor monopoly to get it released to me. Going back and forth with paperwork and explanations on why I was receiving this and what it was all about. Eventually, weeks later, after paying a handsome amount of money, they released it…..and I was told I was lucky that they did. Double lucky in this case! We are in the stone ages when it comes to liquor. Oh Canada!


Appleton Hearts Collection Packaging

The presentation itself was done through Zoom. Several sessions were spread out over a few days with Luca Gargano, Joy Spence and Ian Burrell doing the presenting in front of different audiences. I was part of the first one, with a small group of people that I heard was the “friends” group. It wasn't very sales focused, which made for a very informal session that went on for hours. I didn’t have my samples to join in the tasting, but it was nevertheless magnificent to listen and be able to discuss rum with such experts as Luca, Joy, Ian and Richard Seale. I was buzzing with energy the rest of the day.



Now for the tasting. I’ve done this in 3 different sessions. I always taste in at least two sessions, but I find with such high abv rums it is important to take a lot of time.


Nosing


Appleton Hearts Collection 1994

Brown sugar, orange peel, oak and mint are the first things I pick up. The smell of a wooden cigar box then takes over. I love that smell! Rounding it off are candle wax, coffee, toffee and a little bit of grass…surprisingly. Love this nose!


Appleton Hearts Collection 1995

It’s instantly clear that this one is much fruitier than 1994. Just like 94 the oak is pretty strong. There are tons of berries, raspberry is a strong one. I’m smelling a glossy magazine, deep dark molasses, cookie dough, candle wax, prunes, raisins and a very faint trace of glue.


Appleton Hearts Collection 1999

Bit more alcohol on the nose. The oak is strong again, orange peel, caramel, candle wax, newspaper, salty licorice, honey and ham. It’s a bit briny and meaty.


94 and 95 are both excellent noses to me. 95 is more intense and fruity, 94 easier going and complex, 99 slightly sharper and less interesting than the other two.


Tasting


Appleton Hearts Collection 1994

It’s intense. The oak is strong but it doesn’t result in massive bitterness, luckily. There is vanilla, orange peel, mint, tobacco and wood spice. It has a sweetness that’s intertwined with black pepper and wood spice that is glorious. The finish is long, woody and spicy with a diesel oil note to it. It drinks well below its abv. What a rum. I'd like to take a bath in this.


Appleton Hearts Collection 1995

It’s super dry, fruity and estery. The wood spice is intense. I’m getting toffee, mint, molasses and all sorts of fruit (not the high ester rotten type). A slightly bitter chocolate note on the long and intense finish. It reminds me a bit of Long Pond rum. I'll gladly have a life time supply please!


Appleton Hearts Collection 1999

It’s a lighter profile than the others with a bit more alcohol burn. I’m tasting burnt wood, tobacco, strong orange peel and salty minerals. The finish is long and oaky. Slightly underwhelming next to the other giants.


Conclusion


What an experience! A unique experience can give one a positive vibe that makes it more difficult to be objective. However, I’m confident in stating that two of the three Appleton Hearts expressions are outstanding rums. Are they quintessential Appleton rums? Yes and no. Yes, as there are recognizable Appleton elements in them. No, because they’ve never released anything like this before and are basically setting an new Appleton standard. I’m looking forward to this continuing, even if it’s only for a small group of rum enthusiasts.


The 1994 is my favourite. It gives me a Worthy Park 2006 vibe. Not that it tastes anything like it. It’s just that Worthy Park makes incredible rum that’s very Jamaican, without the flavour extremes of some of the other distilleries. Same principle applies here. The best part about the 1994 is that it’s incredibly intense, spicy and complex, while still being extremely easy to drink. The lack of alcohol burn makes me feel there is some sort of wizardry going on. Proper tropical ageing, performed by experts, likely is the foundation of this wonderful outcome.


1995 is very different from 94. More estery and much fruitier. It reminded me of Long Pond a bit. I found it took a little longer to open up but then started giving and giving like a proper rum Santa. Not as easy going as 94, but that’s ok. Every mood has its rum. The oak and fruity notes play with each other as if we are at the winter Olympics, watching the figure skating event for couples. It really is impressive.


The 1999 is less impressive to me. It’s lighter, less complex and less expressive. Still a good rum, but it’s just had the misfortune to be compared to a couple of giants.


I heart these rums and wish I had full size bottles to enjoy them much longer. As it is, I’m so happy and thankful I could taste a part of important Jamaican rum history, because that’s what it is. It might not be as big an occasion as Hampden bottling their first distillery aged rum in history, but it’s up there. I think sales have proven there is more than a market for products like these. More please Joy!


Scores


Appleton Hearts Collection 1994 – 94

Appleton Hearts Collection 1995 – 91

Appleton Hearts Collection 1999 – 83

Click here for info on the scoring method.


Click here for the complete list of reviews.

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