Steve Crotty tests his tastebuds on this Jamaican rum.
Appleton Estate VX Rum
Approximate price: £15 – 20
Ah Jamaica. A mecca for drifters and wasters everywhere and seen as the epitome of the laissez faire lifestyle, it has given the world many things it covets (both illegal and legal, though I condone neither). As a Caribbean island it has made its contribution to the rum industry. Indeed, with records going back as far as 1749, Appleton Estate is one of the most ancient distilleries of them all (trumping a previously reviewed Lamb’s by a full century). Once again it was one of us booze-thirsty Brits, a man by the name of Frances Dickinson, who probably ‘gently persuaded’ the locals it would be a good idea to produce rum on his newly seized estate. Today, Appleton is owned by the Wray & Nephews group most well known for their mind-bending over-proof rum.
Appleton Estate VX rum is one of the cheapest of the rums bearing the Appleton name and has been made by blending together a combination of 15 different rums aged between 5 and 10 years old. It is also becoming increasingly popular in this country. Many bars have it available and it is now common place in many supermarkets and specialist stores. Its newfound fan base is down to clever advertising on behalf of Appleton’s PR and advertising teams who celebrate the heritage and history of their product to give it extra credibility, as well as playing on the versatility and quality it adds to cocktails. This of course is nothing more than hyperbole that you would deign to hear from any distillery in the world. The proof shall be in the tasting.
First impressions are that the time the various rums that make up the finished article have undergone aging was well spent, as they have lent a dazzling golden sheen to this rum, along with a clarity you would expect to see in crystal. Pour it slowly into a large ice-filled glass and it shimmers tantalisingly. The hard work done aesthetically, Appleton then goes on to commit hari-kari by being a massive let-down to smell. Politely put you may get a waft of spice but not much more. Impolitely put: what nose? Even their own website describes the smells as ‘subtle scents’ (i.e. not really there).
The emotional rollercoaster reaches its loop-the-loop on the taste buds. Remember that smell of nothing? It was all hiding in the taste. It took me a few attempts to decipher everything that my mouth was telling my brain (I’m no rum expert) and even then I was still sniffing the damn thing and befuddling myself as to how so much flavour can derive from so little smell. The thing I really admire as that there is no progression here, the apricot, orange and sugar hit you all at once with the power of a three-armed boxer. Doubtless, rum aficionados everywhere will be shaking their head in disbelief and pointing out that this shows the rums lack of subtlety and depth. Me? I love the fact it hits you like a tsunami leaving no room for compromise. Bonus points definitely to Appleton for the way the flavours linger long after you have swallowed, the brown sugar being the last one to have its say.
So the hyperbole is correct. I see how this would improve many a cocktail, as the fruit that is present would complement whatever cordial or syrup was added, whilst the sweetness of the sugared finish would be a welcome parting gift for all you sweet-tooths out there. My advice would be to mix with lime juice and the sweet syrup of your choice. Or feel free to borrow my own recipe, which is three shots rum, two shots sarsaparilla, top up with coke in a tall glass and add cocktail cherries to taste. I call it the Rum KO, although I should probably point out that most sane people find it thoroughly revolting.
Looking at other people’s opinions on the Appleton VX, there are many who say the taste is too delicate to be drunk on its own. I can understand this point of view, as there is no real defined rum ‘kick’. Instead there is a fruit punch to the temples and a sweet twist to the tongue. This in my opinion more than makes up for the lack of potency, whilst it also worth remembering this is a rum specifically targeted towards the cocktail market and it is exceptionally good value. Bob Marley once sang “No woman, no cry”. That has absolutely nothing to do with the review. Buy the rum anyway. You won’t be disappointed.