My friend Paul maintains a well-stocked liquor cabinet full of his favorites. On a recent housesitting gig I discovered a bottle of Appleton rum, something I hadn't had in a long time. Appleton Estate is the oldest rum distillery on the island of Jamaica, having been established in 1749. From the Nassau Valley, Appleton produces five varieties, from a basic V/X to the limited 30-year old. This 12 year old version rests in the middle of the product line.
Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Rum
$30/750mL, 43% abv.
Orange peel, vanilla, and an overall bittersweet character. As it warms in the hand, some earthy elements emerge. There's very little of the sugar character left here, instead the flavor is driven almost entirely by the oak aging.
My rule of thumb with rum is that if it's more than 5 years old, I don't mix it. Don't get me wrong, rum cocktails are great, but that's what younger white, gold, and dark rums are for. A Cuba Libre is delicious and refreshing, but you really don't want to cover up a well-aged rum with Coca-Cola and lime juice. Treat an aged rum like good whiskey. It can be sipped neat, but I'll admit to liking a little ice in mine.
Most people associate rum with fun, fruity cocktails or beach vacations, but please take the time to enjoy something like this. After dinner, in a proper snifter or tumbler, perhaps even with a cigar. You'll discover the depth and range that is possible with this spirit.