When Appleton Estate re-branded their rums in 2015 much was made of the move. The usual conspiracists hailed the blends must have all changed and been down graded.
To be honest this is a familiar and very boring critique which is immediately “asked” everytime a producer decides to re-brand. I found it particularly sad that a brand such as Appleton Estate would also be treat with such suspicion.
To add some balance I will say that it is not surprising rum does get treated with suspicion – many producers do not help themselves. I do feel though in this instance Appleton Estate should have been given a bit more of a break.
Appleton Estate Reserve Blend was previously just Appleton Estate Reserve or Appleton Estate 8 Year Old. For reasons which I do not know the UK got a variant on the Reserve which was sold in most of the rest of the world. This rum was largely felt to be slightly sweeter and less funky.
I have tried both the new Appleton Signature Blend and the 12 Year Old Rare Blend. I cannot detect any notable difference between the old and new bottlings. I tried both side by side over a few sessions. Others have suggested otherwise. I’m not going to argue the point, I can only taste what I taste and comment appropriately.
I’m not sure quite what Appleton Estate really want to do with this particular rum. When I took part in a Twitter Tasting of Appleton Estate rums I was not sent this rum as part of the flight. It was missed out. The flight was Signature Blend, Rare Blend and the 21 Year Old.
A bottle of Appleton Estate Reserve Blend will set you back around £25. The Signature Blend is typically £20 and the Rare Blend can be picked up for as little as £32. The average age of the rums in the blends are in keeping with the pricing. This blend has an average age of around 8 years.
I have reviewed the “old style” Reserve and enjoyed it a great deal.
As I’ve already mentioned I’m not sure if Appleton will persist with this particular line. Even the packaging seems a little half hearted. The colour scheme makes it hard to read in parts and it reflects badly in most artificial light (particularly the label on the neck). It’s only a minor quibble as you still get the classic Appleton bottle and a good quality screw cap but it adds weight to the fact that I’m not sure Appleton want to continue with this rum.
Prior to reviewing this rum I visited the London RumFest. My friend Kevin Brooks very kindly had brought with him a tot of the old label 8 Year Old reserve, prior to the change of formula mentioned earlier. This has enabled me to do a comparison far more effectively than I could have from memory. Hoofing stuff Kev! Thanks!
First up in the glass the Reserve Blend is a lovely golden/orange colour very inviting and very vibrant. Looking at the two rums side by side I cannot tell them apart. But looks (as you should know by now) are not everything in the rum world.
The Reserve Blend is punchy, lots of Jamaican funk. Black bananas and tropical fruit, orange zest and some nice spicy heat. I could mistake it for the V/X quite easily.
On the other hand the older Reserve bottling displays very little funk on the nose. It is a much oakier affair. Nice spicy oak notes similar to the 12 Year Old dominate with only hints of fruit and just a small undertone of funk. It is quite zesty though with drier more zesty peel coming through. For me the nose seems better balanced and more complex than the newer offering.
Moving onto the tasting. A sip of the new Reserve blend is a fruity experience. It’s initially quite sweet – nice fruity notes banana, mango maybe a little grape, which fade into an almost tangy dry zesty spice. The finish is medium long. Althought its pretty spicy and lively on the tongue initially, it is quite smooth with little real alcohol burn.
It reminds me of the V/X/Signature Blend, only maybe a touch older – some of the oak has slipped into the mix giving it some spice and a little more complexity. It’s not bad as a sipper but like the V/X, maybe it has just a little too much of the younger rums to make it a great experience. Good but not quite great. It’s not hugely complex but its tasty enough on its own and it certainly isn’t bland.
Back to the old style “UK” Reserve blend. I can certainly tell a huge difference between it and the new blend. Before re-visiting this rum I did think I might have got my review wrong back then but this rum is a lot different to the current bottling. The old Reserve, definitely has more in common with the 12 Year Old than the V/X/Signature Blend. I remember saying at the time what a great sipper it was. I was right. It has a great balance to it. Less funky and I prefer the drier oakier profile much more.
I guess I’m left a little disappointed with the new blend but at the same time pleased that my re-collections have proved correct.
It’s a touch better than the V/X but I doubt I would readily pay much for it as I would use it for the same purpose. To mix.