I am looking for an affordable, original, traditional Jamaican style aged rum that is imminently sippable, preferably without additives. I am not interested in mixing rum. I like to sip rum slowly over a single ice ball. I love complex character. I am thinking of trying Smith & Cross though some of the reviews worry me a little (ripe fruit = great!, rotting fruit = no thanks). I am worried Appleton 12 will be too bland and I am not sure I can find Hampden products locally. Insight here would be greatly appreciated. I enjoy all rum styles (Solera, Bajan, Demerara, even some Agricoles) and I am not a purist...though I do prefer less additives.
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Try Appleton 8 Year Reserve Blend or Smith & Cross. Like you, I was hesitant to try Smith & Cross based upon some of the reviews, but rotting fruit is not part of the tasting notes. I had a love/hate relationship with the Appleton 12 Year and won't buy that one again. The Appleton 21 Year is good, but just way too expensive. If you don't mind a little bit of spice added, try Blackwell's Reserve. All three of my recommendations are affordable.
I only started to discover Jamaican rums so my knowledge is pretty limited but I don't think Appleton 12yo is too bland. Yes, Appleton is less funky than Hampden or Smith and Cross but it is full of flavor, don't worry! I first opened my bottle last night and was so impressed that 30% of the bottle is gone now and that only happens when there is a lot to taste and discover in a new rum. Molasses, vanilla, spice and oak on the nose accompanied on the palate with a mouthfull of full burned spiced and smoky sugar and some dark chocolate. Too early for a review yet but it is going to be at least an 8.
With some rums you know right away whether they get a permanent place in your cabinet or not and I am pretty convinced this one stays overhere!
From least expensive to most expensive I would recommend:
Stolen Overproof ($18/375ml)
Appleton Estate 12 year
Hampden Estate (46%)
Worthy Park Single Estate
Hampden Estate Overproof (60%)
You mentioned not having access to things like Hampden. Are you in a state where you can order online? I'm fairly lucky in one aspect in that I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and have loads of stores to shop. Unlucky in that Texas does not (legally) allow shipping of spirits. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen however as there are places that will ship here. ;) YMMV.
Thanks for the input y’all. I guess I should be more specific. I am looking to experience the Jamaican funk but in a rum I can occasionally sip. I enjoy strong character in rums. The only thing I have realized I don’t like is rums that leave a sour aftertaste. I don’t mind stronger rums at all as long as there is serious character there - one of my favorite sippers all time is Foursquare 2007 and that is 60% ABV.
The reviews of Appleton 12 sound so much like those of a Solera or a Bajan rum - which is great and I like that but right now I am on a quest to experience what makes Jamaican rums unique: the funk.
Does Appleton 12 year have the Jamaican funk?
If not I think I will get a bottle of Smith and Cross, and if that goes sideways as a sipper, then I will hold it for making the occasional painkiller.
You review of Smith and Cross leads me to believe that that is the one I am looking for. When I sip rums I tend to do so over an ice ball and your review implies that that would work with Smith and Cross.
Smith & Cross means that you go all-in right away and it is still young (partly really young, partly 3yo).
If funk is what you are after you could also try Hamden Estate Gold (really young) or Rum-Bar Gold (youngest rum in there is 4yo); still too much funk for many but less an overdose as in Smith &Cross.
Reading the reviews for Appleton 12 year Rare Blend (not the normal Appleton 12) state that it also has hogo notes. If that is the case then maybe I will pick up a bottle of that and the Smith and Cross since neither will break the bank for me.
I find almost ZERO funk/hogo in any of the Appletons. If you're wanting inexpensive funk I would recommend Hamilton Pot Still Black @ $26 or S&C @ $29.
Smith & Cross would go very well over an ice ball and tone down the 114 proof.
Now if you want over-the-top Jamican funk and this is not for everyone, may I suggest Wray And Nephew Overproof. I tried one bottle of that and swore to never buy one again. Let's put it this way. In Jamaica, they sprinkle it around the perimeter of their homes to keep evil spirits away. It is very affordable, but I first STRONGLY advise that you watch some of the YouTube videos when these youngsters film themselves drinking this stuff straight and gagging. One either loves it or hates it. I happen to hate it. Their plain white rum at 80 proof happens to be quite drinkable, but with a lot less funk.
And yes, Appleton 12 Year Rare Blend does indeed have some funk.
I can’t get Hamilton, Hampden, or Worthy Park products unfortunately. So I will go with the Appleton 12 Year Rare Blend and a bottle of Smith & Cross. I dislike white rums in general so I can’t imagine I would like Wray and Nephew Overproof. I will eventually try it one day, but that day is not today.
Thanks for the input everyone. I am going with Appleton Estate 12 year Rare Blend and Smith & Cross. I will let you know what I think about the funk.
I see now that the Appleton Estate 12 Year Rare Blend is the same thing as the Appleton Estate 12 year. It is the same liquid rebranded in a newer bottle. The bottle looks different and they are listed here on rumratings separately but they are in fact the same rum. And if you don't know, now you know.
Yep, it was somewhat of a recent brand refresh. Appleton Estate Rare Blend is now Appleton Estate Rare Casks. New bottle, still aged 12 years, supposedly the same distillate.
Doctor Bird...as funky as S&C but easier to sip
I join the crowd voting for Appleton 12y Rare Blend - it's my favorite, go-to, best price/performance rum, good enough sipper that is ridiculously cheap for what it can do. Not everyone has to like it, though. Then there is Smith and Cross, of course, which is really extreme funk, anything from Hampden Estate (high ester rums, also very fruity and funky), and if you really have money to spend, you can by Hampden Estate production bottled by Compaignes des Indes or Velier, and get a very nice, often single-cask, overproof experince, however for a price that would buy you 5-10 Appletons 12ys.
So the choice is your - but there is surely a lot to choose from! Jamaica and Barbados are two rum empires.
Update: I bought a bottle Appleton Estate 12 year Rare Casks and a bottle of Smith & Cross. I opened the Appleton Estate 12 year Rare Casks first...and it is damn delightful. Different and fruity and pungent... and excellent. It has funk and I love it! I love it so much that I uncorked the Smith & Cross and immediately got punched in the face with overripe Bananas. I will hold off on drinking the Smith and Cross until tomorrow, but if it tastes anything remotely like it smells and if it has the same funkiness that Appleton does it has a chance to become a major favorite. Man, I am excited!
Glad you like the Appleton too; I think it is an amazing rum at an amazing pricepoint. Definitely not 13 in a dozen stuff!
Nice that your enjoying the appelton 12 Mujuru, it’s a great rum! love appelton, but I never found them to possess the classic funk expression. Perhaps you will agree once you try that awsome, slightly wierd, fermented fruit Smith & cross explosion:-)
Maybe it’s just me but one of the nicest things I found with the Appleton 12 Rare Blend was the fermented apple taste in lingering in the background. I also tasted grilled pineapple on the finish and a pungent floral bouquet on the nose. None of these very different attributes were overpowering but they were definitely present and it’s what made Appleton 12 Rare Blend stand out for me. I have not experienced those aspects in any of the other Soleras, Bajans or Agricoles I have had thus far.
Well i geuss we all expirience rum a little different. I do agree on the apple thing though, a nice note that seems present througout their range of produts, but I dont pick up that heavy fermentation that my brain normally associate with jamaica. If it’s there, it’s perhaps to subtle for my tastebuds. Anyway this doesn’t really matter at all, as long as you dig the flavours, and appelton 12 is no doubt a very flavourfull sip.
*Update* I just tried the Smith & Cross and.... That. Is. Amazing. It had the apple and sangria fruit notes which are subtle in Appleton hitting me a gale force with salted caramel, sour cherries, and rhubarb. It's funky as hell in the most delightful of ways. Its an all-out assault on the senses that I keep wanting to experience over and over again. Its not for the faint of heart, but damn is it good.
So damn glad that you took my advice on Smith & Cross and liked it very much. And for the price, you cannot beat it! There is really no need for you to search any further on Jamaican hogo funk, especially at this price. As for my former tip on Wray & Nephew Overproof, save that one for one of your very wild moods. As for Hampden, you will be wasting your money after finding these two definitive Jamaican funk rums.
I know you are not a fan of Hampden and I don't want to ruin your day but Smith & Cross is a Hampden distillate bottled by Hayman Distillers. Sorry....;-)
Good old smith & cross is bloody exceptional value, but there are nonetheless many more wonderful jamican expressions out there, worthy of seeking out in my opinion. Every jamaican distillery has their own unique take on the style, all fantastic in slightly different ways.
Thanks for the in depth research on Hampden. I would have never known until you mentioned it!
I tried the Hampden 8-year and swore to never again buy any more from them. S&C is actually bottled in the UK from rum distilled in Jamaica. I only visited Jamaica twice in my life and that was twice too much.
I am not so far into Jamaica that I tried the Hampden 8yo (it is on my list) but really enjoyed their Gold (which is afaik a white one with caramel coloring). But Hampden appears in a lot of distillates from different blenders, sometimes hard to find out which is which, and I think that what they bottle themselves is a the minor part of what they produce.
I did some research on Hampden rums from Jamaica. They have been exporting their rums to Europe for more than 10 years, which is why I have not seen them for sale in the USA until last year. Their website is obviously geared towards the USA market and only shows two rums, the 46% ABV (which is the one that I already tried and rated it as a 5) and the overproof 60% ABV. The distillery has quite a history in Trelawny Parish on the north coast and I actually drove through that capital of Falmouth way back in 1988. The other thing that I found from their website is that due to the high esters of their rums, they really should be consumed on the rocks, which I did not do for my one bottle that I tried. Due to no additives, there was absolutely no penalty the next day, which was the best part for me.
I guess they focussed on Europe has probably something to do with the Jamaican/English history (for good or bad). There are quite some bottlers in the UK who buy casks and blend themselves and some of them have been customers for centuries.
Smith & Cross is shipped from Jamaica and bottled in the UK, which explains the Hampden connection that you mentioned earlier. Having been to Jamaica twice, I never could get over how the original British ownership of that island still lingers to this day. Modern Jamaica has absolutely nothing to do with Great Britain.
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