Brand: Appleton Estate, Hearts of Jamaica series
Origin: Appleton Estate, Vauxhall, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Age: 21 years
Sample September marches on, and we're now halfway through our scheduled programming. If you couldn't have guessed after the Appleton Estate Hearts Collection 1995 followed 1994, this next review puts a bow on the 2020 release lineup.
The Appleton Estate Hearts Collection 1999 vintage, like its sibling bottles, was distilled from molasses through Appleton's copper pot still in 1999. It was then aged in ex-Bourbon barrels for 21 years, at which point reaching 63% ABV, and was selected by Joy Spence and Luca Gargano for bottling in 2020.
1999 contains distillate from barrels numbered #407819-#407830, and was limited to 3,000 bottles; it features a congener count of 855 g/hLAA, much lower than the previous vintages. This will be interesting, because this is the only vintage that has an analogous bottling in the core Appleton Estate lineup: Appleton Estate 21 year. I'm curious to see how the higher proof version of this age statement compares to the 43% core version.
Thanks again to Andrew Hinton for providing me this sample. Now, let's dive into the final Hearts Collection bottling!
Golden brown, high clarity, medium viscosity
Grilled pineapple, floral perfume, almonds, orange, butterscotch, paint thinner
Pineapple, orange, sour grapes, butterscotch, black tea, nutmeg, gummy bears
Medium-long, tannic, fruity, slightly bitter; gummy bears, mango, nutmeg, bourbon oak, coffee
Appleton Hearts 1999 hits it right on the money. It's strong, offers subtle Appleton funk, flavorful, and is just oaked enough to let you know this had some time maturing, but not enough to make you rush for a glass of water. This is the 21 year old Appleton Estate that we all deserve; while I enjoy the core lineup 21 year, the 1999 Hearts vintage packs a bigger punch and really shows the full range of the distillery.
In the glass, the rum is similar to its sibling bottles, featuring a golden brown color and high clarity. However, it's a bit more fluid than the others, exhibiting medium viscosity.
The nose provides notes of pineapple, floral perfume, almonds, orange, and after a short bit, butterscotch and paint thinner. This is definitely recognizable as an Appleton rum, with lovely aromatics, but bumped up thanks to the proof. That said, it's nothing remarkably funky, which makes sense given the lower congener count.
On the palate, Appleton Hearts 1999 offers pineapple, orange, sour grapes, butterscotch, black tea, nutmeg, and gummy bears. Like the nose, the palate is Appleton through and through, but turned up a few notches. The fruity notes are a bit subtle, with the sour grapes offering some funk that transitions into some slightly drying nutmeg. This is a noticeable pull back from the higher esters of 1994 and 1995 (which were remarkably high), so there's no rotting fruit bomb presented to me, but there is still plenty of complexity to go around.
The finish is medium-long, tannic, fruity, and slightly bitter, with notes of gummy bears, mango, nutmeg, bourbon oak, and coffee prevailing throughout. Compared to 1994 and 1995, this has a much nicer, well-constructed finish that does well to ease the drinker through the final phase of the sipping experience.
Appleton Hearts 1999 is certainly a delightful rum that shows up its Hearts siblings in most respects. I've maintained that Appleton Estate rums could use a gradual bump in proof for each release after the Signature Blend, and the 1999 vintage shows what a 21 year at full proof could be. While I won't hold my breathe in anticipation of the day that happens, I am impressed with what the Hearts Collection has presented to me, and gives me confidence that Appleton is not resting on their laurels.