It seems like Appleton are at the top of their game lately, with these unique Velier collaboration and their legendary Appleton 17 Year Old which is supposed to emulate the long lost original Mai Tai rum, Wray & Nephew 17 Year Old. Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, a lot of these bottlings are outside my budget, but luckily the rum community is very generous.
After attending the German Rum Festival, Lance aka the Lone Caner invited me around his mother’s place in Berlin to sit down, sample and write some tasting notes of some really rare and expensive rums. On that note I’d really like to thank Lance and his mother for the kindness they treated me with!
Most of the rums we tasted were from VSGB (Velier Small Great Bottles), so basically from 10cl sample bottles that look like an accurate scaled down version of the originals – which is nice because they’re pretty photogenic.
Now onto the rum, the Hearts Collection is a collaboration between Appleton and Velier, more exactly between the Appleton’s Master Blender, Joy Spence, and Luca Gargano. The whole idea was to release some limited edition vintages from Appleton that were only pot still distilled – as Appleton usually uses a blend of pot and column distillates for their expressions.
Not sure why or how Appleton accepted Luca’s collaboration proposal given that they are owned by the Campari Group which are big enough to just do their own thing – I mean it worked well so far. Maybe it was more for promotion and marketing before they released their own Appleton 17 Year Old – or simply they wanted to flex, who knows.
What I have here are two vintages, the 1993 (fun fact, that’s my birth year) and the 2002 – both vintages are a collection of single marque barrels that were blended together (by the year) and bottled in 2022 .
Appleton Hearts 1993
This is molasses based, pot still distilled and aged for 29 years in, probably, ex-Bourbon barrels. Bottled at 63% ABV (seems like a familiar strength) without any additives. This is a blend of 13 different casks with only 3600 bottles available.
On the nose it does feel like a pot still, although not very funky or Jamaican. Aromatic tobacco, sharp stone fruits, wasabi and moth balls. Earl Grey tea, newly bought leather shoes and dusty oak. It seems similar to a pot still Beenleigh actually. Tic Tac, maraschino cherries and cloves. Some raspberries and grapefruit zest as well.
On the palate it’s still very intense. Moth balls, intense stone fruits, plums, cacao nibs and English Breakfast tea. Black pepper, aromatic tobacco and old shoes covered in fresh polish. I feel like I’m chewing on a piece of leather dipped in acetone. Tic Tac again, strawberry jam and coca biscuits. The finish is long with acetone and aromatic tobacco.
Wow, just wow! This is like if Appleton 12 Year Old was on steriods that have had steroids themselves. The profile is similar, but the intensity is greatly increased. Tobacco and leather galore with a lot of woody, aromatic spices and some hints of fruitiness – absolutely beautiful!
Appleton Hearts 2002
This is molasses based, pot still distilled and aged for 20 years in, probably, ex-Bourbon barrels. Bottled at 63% ABV without any additives. This is a blend of 20 different casks with only 5700 bottles available.
On the nose seems less sharp and aromatic than the 1993. Vanilla custard, black tea, moth balls and cinnamon. White cardboard, sweet stone fruits and some black olives. This one seems a bit “sweeter” and easier going, there are less sharp flavours here. Sourdough covered in flour, caramelised walnuts and yellow apples. Marmalade and tobacco too.
On the palate it’s less intense than the 1993 but more intense than what I got on the nose. Stone fruits (they keep appearing), palm sugar, cinnamon and moth balls. Overripe bananas, fresh ginger and ripe pears. This is less oaky, which is to be expected given it’s younger, but I do enjoy it. Fresh tobacco, mulberries and burnt orange oils. The finish is long with rich honey and sharp stone fruits.
This one seems a bit dialled down regarding the intensity of the flavours and the spice. Has more of a rounded, easier going profile with fruity notes and more perceived sweetness. Still delicious, but after trying the 1993 I find it kind of lacking.
The Appleton 1993 is one of the best rums I have sampled and wins this versus against the 2002 pretty easily. The balanced intensity and its “dark” profile got me hooked – too bad I can’t afford a bottle. The 2002 was good as well, it’s still quite complex and, arguably, easier to drink, but it doesn’t have as many layers as the 1993 does.
Appleton Hearts 1993 can be bought for £325 (The Whisky Exchange) and the Appleton Hearts 2002 is priced at £225 (The Whisky Exchange). These prices are pretty spicy for me, but I do think they are fair for the rarity, strength and uniqueness of the rums here. If you think about it, Appleton 30 Year Old was around £350 when it was available, and that was a pot and column blend – so yeah, it could’ve been worse.
Appleton Hearts 1993 score:
Value for money: 15/15
Appleton Hearts 2002 score:
Value for money: 13/15