Brand: Appleton Estate, Hearts of Jamaica series
Origin: Appleton Estate, Vauxhall, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Age: 26 years
For our second entry in Sample September, we're looking at another Velier bottling of a rum from a well-known distillery; in this case, it's Appletone Estate!
The Jamaican distillery, located in the Northern end of St. Elizabeth parish, is well-known for their accessible and affordable range of rum blends. The Hearts Collection is a clear departure from these principles.
The Hearts Collection is a collaboration between Joy Spence of Appleton Estate, and Luca Gargano of Velier. The collection features overproof, long-aged, and incredibly limited offerings of various vintages; as of 2021, the oldest bottling is from 1984, while the youngest is from 2003. The original Hearts release comprised of the 1994, 1995, and 1999 vintages, at a quantity of 3,000 bottles for each vintage.
Today, the Appleton Estate Hearts Collection 1994 vintage is in our glass. Distilled in 1994, this molasses-based, pot still rum was aged in ex-Bourbon barrels for 26 years before being bottled by Velier in 2020, in their signature "Velier bottle". Each bottle has an elegantly designed label, featuring the branding, the vintage, and some other details about the rum.
The label discloses that the congener count for 1994 is 1,184 g/hLAA (grams per hectaliter of absolute alcohol), and the casks used for this release were numbered #407597-#407608. This tells us that 1994 (and conceivably all the Hearts Collection releases) is not a single barrel, but a blended release, taking aged distillate from 11 barrels.
Once again, thanks to my friend Andrew Hinton for providing me this sample. I'm excited to crack it open and revisit this fine rum once again.
Golden brown, high clarity, medium-low viscosity
Builder's glue, pineapple rind, blueberries, black tea, butterscotch
Rotting fruit (pineapple, green apples, mango), sour green grapes, cinnamon, builder's glue, rye spice
Medium-short, dry, spicy; cinnamon, clementine, rye spice, gummy bears
This is a fun pour, because it's definitely an Appleton Estate rum, but it's such a different experience than any of the expressions I've previously enjoyed. The Appleton signature of soft, tropical fruit notes mixed with black tea (or possibly bergamot) are present, but we get a higher proof version of the juice itself. It's surprisingly spicy, which could be a side effect of having this sample for ~10 months, but that could also just be the way this rum drinks.
In the glass, Hearts 1994 is a nice golden brown color, similar to other Appleton expressions; it has high clarity and medium-low viscosity.
On the nose, I get notes of builder's glue right away, with pineapple rind, blueberries, black tea following up; after short bit, I get a good dose of butterscotch. Similar to their other expressons, 1994 is subtle on the nose, despite it's high(er) ester content, but I'm sure the extended aging helps mellow those notes out.
Tasting the rum, I get a huge dosage of rotting fruit (pineapple, green apples, and mango), sour green grapes, cinnamon, more builder's glue, and rye spice. The fruit is huge on the palate, and gets right in your face without delay. The sour grapes come in, right before a heap of drying cinnamon, followed up by rye spices and some builder's glue type flavors. The cinnamon is a little intense, and along with the rye, pretty good at drying off the palate and leading to some spicier notes than I would expect.
The finish is medium-short, dry, and spicy. The cinnamon returns and features prominently with the rye spices, while some notes of clementine persist, as does some gummy bear flavors after some time, lending some fruity qualities to an otherwise dry finish.
Appleton Hearts 1994 is certainly a fine rum; I remember it being my favorite of the lineup when my friend Andrew tasted me on it at an event last year. At this point, perhaps due to my handling of the sample or trying the rum in a standalone tasting (when I previously tried it, 1994 was one of many bottles being poured), I'm not as favorable towards it. However, this is a nice (first) look at the Hearts collection, and an example of the heights to which Appleton Estate can soar.