As rare whisky becomes more unattainable, premium rum is taking its place on the shelves of spirits collectors, like Appleton Estate’s newest Hearts Collection rums.
The brand has debuted the 1993 and 2002 vintages of the limited-edition range, two high-aged statement rums that flaunt the terroir of Jamaica and the distillery’s distinctive approach to making the cane spirit.
For connoisseurs, these rums represent a chance to step into a market where high-end Jamaican rums are commanding increasingly exorbitant prices.
Among other rum producers, the Campari Group-owned Appleton Estate stands out for doing everything in-house, including sugarcane cultivation. A copper pot still imparts the rum’s signature orange peel top note, and they are aged for between 18 to 37 years in American oak barrels.
Appleton, which is Jamaica’s longest continuously-operating distillery, also has nearly 200,000 barrels maturing in its warehouses, giving it one of the largest and oldest rum collections in the world.
From the enviable sprawl, Appleton Estate master blender Joy Spence picked out the 29- and 20-year-old rums from just 13 and 20 barrels respectively, and narrowed down the blends’ recipes – they call it marques – with rum expert Luca Gargano, who launched the Hearts Collection together with Spence in 2020.
For the 2002, Appleton Estate’s trademark orange zest aroma jumps right to the fore, followed by ripe banana, caramelised fruit, honey, and hints of vanilla and oak. The 1993 is spicer and more toasted, featuring chocolate, coffee, caramel, cinnamon, and butterscotch.
“Rums aged in tropical climates develop richer, fuller flavours much more quickly than spirits aged at cooler climates,” Spence said, “so when you taste a rum aged for over 20 years like our new releases from the Hearts Collection, it’s a really extraordinary experience.”
Both also display a funky character similar to overripe tropical fruit, which has become a hallmark of Jamaican rum. This primarily comes from two sources: stillage, or dunder in Jamaica, which refers to leftovers from the distillation process. The other is muck, a foul-smelling bacterial sludge of dead yeast and decaying vegetable matter.
Both are added to subsequent batches during fermentation, and limestone-filtered water is used to round out the robust flavours.
But collectors and investors are loving it. Appleton Estate’s latest expressions take the number of rums in the Hearts Collection up to seven, and the oldest – 1984 – is currently selling for around US$1,500 (S$2,000). Hampden Estate, another famed Jamaican producer, releases single cask and vintage rums under the Trelawny Endemic Bird Series, and one example is priced at S$900.
Similarly, Plantation rum worked with small Jamaican distillery Long Pond to create a 1998 rum coming from a single ex-bourbon barrel. Made exclusively for Singapore spirits distributor Proof and Company, it can be yours for the low, low price of S$300.
The Appleton Estate Hearts Collection 1993 and 2002 rums are sold for S$560 and S$460 respectively. Only 80 out of 3,600 bottles of the 1993, and 120 out of 5,600 bottles of the 2002 are available here. Email Campari Group Rare Division’s sales executive, Cathy Sun to purchase.
(Hero and featured images credit: Appleton Estate)