Tasting Appleton Reserve and Extra 12 Years Old Rum with Master Blender Joy Spence (2009)

Tasting Appleton Reserve and Extra 12 Years Old Rum with Master Blender Joy Spence (2009)

I had the immense pleasure to host Joy Spence, master blender at Appleton Rum and a 28-year veteran of the company, at Drinkhacker HQ today, where we tasted two of the company’s upscale bottlings. These estate rums, both from Appleton’s Jamaica sugar cane plantations, are impressive and perfect for sipping or — as Spence notes — as an ingredient in a “premium cocktail.” But for both of us, drinking neat is really the way to go.

Appleton’s standard bottling is easy to find, but these higher-end bottles are a little trickier to locate. They’re worth it, though — and both shockingly good bargains.

Appleton Reserve Rum is a blend of a whopping 20 rums, the oldest of which is 12 years old (though the overall bottle has no age statement). A straightforward, high-end, aged rum, this 80-proof blend offers a lovely citrus and vanilla nose. These carry on to the body, where the finish offers light sweetness and a bit of almond. Spence calls it “playful but serious,” and I have to agree. So easy-drinking, quite feminine. A / $24

Appleton Extra 12 Years Old is a bigger, fuller-bodied rum, blended from rums with a minimum age of 12 years old. (According to Spence, many other rum-producing countries allow a label to carry an age statement based on the oldest rum in the blend, not the youngest, as is the law in Jamaica.) This rum has some of the citrus and vanilla character of the Reserve, but it’s much richer and darker too. There’s wood and a touch of smoke in this one, and chocolate comes out throughout the body. At 86 proof, it’s just a touch hotter, but overall it’s just as enjoyable as the Reserve, a masculine rum to the Reserve’s feminine one. A / $33

The Appleton folks left an orange and a fresh vanilla bean (for comparing to the rum) when they departed. I couldn’t let them go to waste so I created this in order to put them to use. Tasty!

The Spence
2 orange segments, cut in half
1/2 oz. piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/4 oz. Appleton Reserve rum
3/4 oz. Licor 43

In a tall highball glass, muddle the oranges and vanilla. Fill with ice, then add rum and Licor 43. Top with a big splash of lemonade and stir briefly.


Appleton Extra 12 Years Old (2009)




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.