Review: Appleton Reserve Blend vs Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve

Appleton Estate, located in Jamaica’s Nassau Valley, is the oldest continuous sugar factory and rum distillery on the island, tracing its production back all the way to 1749 (although they are going to close the sugar factory soon).

This year Appleton did some updates to their core range, from rebranding their Appleton White and Gold to Kingston 62, to upgrading the bottles and labels for the Appleton Signature and 12 Year Old and, the most notable change – the introduction of a new bottle, the Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve which is replacing the Appleton Reserve Blend.

The upgrade on the design of the new bottles and label definitely looks more modern and, to be honest, makes it easier to fit in my cabinet. I particularly enjoy the neck label which illustrates the Appleton Estate in the Nassau Valley and the synthetic cork stoppage which gives it a more premium vibe.

Production wise Appleton uses molasses from their own sugarcane on the estate in a 36 hours fermentation using a proprietary strain of yeast that results in a 7% ABV wash. The distillation then occurs in one of their pot stills up to 86% ABV and their column still up to 96% ABV, both being able to produce various marques. While the Appleton range is a blend of column and pot, the ageing of the two happens separately and the blending afterwards – doing so Appleton has more flexibility in case they need to change the recipe for any of their expressions. The rums enter the casks (ex-Bourbon) at 80% ABV and are left to mature in the tropical climate of Jamaica.

I’m doing an old vs new comparison between the two blends, but if you saw my top 10 best value for money rums list, you’d know that I already have a really good opinion about the 8 Year Old.

Appleton Reserve Blend (ARB) is molasses based, pot and column still blend of 20 different rums aged in ex-Bourbon casks, no age statement, but has an average of 6 years old. It is said that it has the most pot still in the rum compared with the other core range Appletons. Bottled at 40% ABV with no flavourings or sweeteners.

On the nose ARB has a very prominent tobacco note. Banana bread, orange zest, raspberries, damp cardboard and pear. Oak spices, marmalade, caramel and pink pepper. Feels like the funk and the oak flavours are well integrated. Fresh from the oven bread with a slight mineral aroma and a touch of saffron.

On the palate the notes from the nose translate pretty straight forward. Allspice, freshly baked banana bread, cacao nibs, caramel and marmalade. Quite oaky with a hint of Fernet in the background. Pear eau de vie, a touch of raspberry and some cinnamon. The finish is medium with banana, black pepper and a touch of bitterness.

Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve (A8YO) was made by Master Blender Joy Spence in 2000 to commemorate their 250th anniversary. Also molasses based and pot and column still blend, but this time it comes with an age statement, meaning all the rums in the bottle are aged for at least 8 years in ex-Bourbon casks. Bottled at 43% ABV, so with slight bump there – also free of additives.

On the nose A8YO already feels different, there’s a brighter funk to it. Green apples, some mint, pineapple juice, glue, plenty of stone fruit and candied bananas. Salted caramel, white pepper and vanilla custard. Lemon and orange zest notes give it a nice edge. It has that freshly baked bread aroma as well.

On the palate it still feels brighter and sharper. Black tea, glue, floral honey, green banana and stone fruits again – peach and apricot. Melon, tobacco and a lovely jalapeno flavour. There are layers of menthol along with black pepper that give it a nice complexity. Blood orange and green apples. Notes of nail varnish in the back of the palate. Finish is medium to long with peppermint, pink grapefruit and caramel.

I definitely prefer the A8YO here, Joy Spence did a fantastic job once again. While ARB is a great blend, I’d rather get the 12 Year Old instead which is also great value and complex. A8YO is unique and layered enough to stand out on its own rather than as a lower tier under the 12YO which is why I believe it’s fantastic value.

ARB can be found at £24.50, but I’d tend to call it more of a mixing rum, while A8YO is quite versatile, but I’d rather sip it even for a few pounds more at £28.50. The 3% bump in ABV is also welcomed.

Appleton Reserve Blend score:
Flavour/taste: 46/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 76/100

Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve score:
Flavour/taste: 53/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 83/100

Cheers!

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