Appleton Joy vs Appleton 21YO

It’s duel time again and this time the contenders are two official bottlings from Appleton. Both are of comparable age (25 versus 21 years) and abv (45% vs 43%) but differ in price by a factor of ~2.5 (175-230€ vs 75-85€). As you’ve probably already read in the title, we have the Appleton Joy and the Appleton 21YO. I will blindly taste both rums next to eachother.

The Bottlings

Official bottlings are very rare on this blog, if they aren’t coming from one of the French overseas departments. Basically the only other countries with which you can reliably get unadulterated rums without reverting to independet bottlers (IB) are Barbados and Jamaica, where it is legally forbidden to add sugar or other additives to rum. As a result, the distilleries from these countries are among the most highly regarded among rum connoisseurs and Appleton is absolutely no exception. However, even then official bottlers often don’t come close to the IBs in terms of quality. Why this is the case is absolutely beyond me but many producers do not seem to understand what the rum geeks really want. Or it is just not profitable enough since there are just too few of us. Nevertheless, it never hurts to check their releases from time to time and I am very positive that we are about to experience a slow but steady wave of transformation.
The Appleton Joy has been released to celebrate Joy Spence’s 20th anniversary with Appleton Estate. She is the world’s first female master rum blender and paved the way for the likes of Lorena Vásquez (Zacapa) and Jassil Villanueva Quintana (Brugal).  Her story tells that she discovered her love for chemistry at the age of 13, when she dreamt on becoming a scientist. After her studies at the University of the West Indies, Joy joined Appleton Estate in 1981 as their Chief Chemist, where she could develop her sensoric capabilities. The Joy Anniversary Blend consists of two rums that got to age for 25 and 35 years, respectively. The older one dates back to 1981, the year she joined the company, while the younger one is said to be her very favorite pot still rum Appleton has produced over the years.
The Appleton 21YO on the other hand consists of pot and column still rums that age for a minimum of 21 years. Joy Spence choses and blends these rums before they are “married” for two additional years in a barrel.

Dégustation “Appleton 21YO and Appleton Joy”

Key Facts: The 21YO contains rums that are at least 21 years old, the Joy contains rums that aged for 25 and 35 years in 150 litre casks. Both should be blends of pot and column still distillates. The 21YO has been reduced to 43%, the Joy, which has been released in 2017, to 45%. My version of the 21YO has been bottled in 2013.

Colour and viscosity: Both are tawny and not very oily, likely due to the water reduction. Both should be coloured.

Nose: Let’s start with the younger one. The 21YO is easily recognisable as a Jamaican rum but doesn’t really have as a fruity profile as we know it from the other Jamaican distilleries. Instead we get a lot of roasting flavours such as peanuts and coffee. I’d describe it as earthy. Then banana bread, almonds, cinnamon and sugar. After some time in the glass the rum finally reveals more fruity aromas as well. It is quite appealing and not very challenging.

The Joy comes with minimal esters, is fruity and relatively thin in the sense that the alcohol isn’t integrated very well. I think it didn’t like the dilution as much as the 21YO. My first associations are banana, pineapple, roasted peanuts and rich cake/ fruit cake. Then also tiramisu. At least in the nose the Joy is more restrained than the 21YO and gets beaten by a distance.

Palate: The alcohol is relatively spicy with the first in the 21YO but besides that it is very balanced. I get pineapple, fine almonds, coffee and again a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Later also a few wild herbs and some roasting flavours, but to a lesser extent than the Joy. Given that this one only has 43% I’d say that it is very thick at the palate and has a good mouthfeel.

The Joy reveals flavours which did not find in the nose. There are pineapples, peanut flips and way more fruity aromas than the 21YO, mostly green apples and mandarins. Then also roasting flavours and Ceylon tea. The profile turns a bit sour and bitter with the second and third sip. Now more and more apples and tea. It has a few parallels to Agricole Vieuxs as far as the mouthfeel is concerned. Generally, it’s a bit milder than the 21YO.

Finish: Medium long for the 21YO, with sour apples and roasting flavours. For the Joy, it is rather short, with apples, bananas and almonds.


I am a bit surprised by the result but for me the Appleton 21YO is the clear winner of this battle. Especially in the nose and finish it made itself stand out in this small cross-tasting. I like the taste of the Appleton Joy but that alone isn’t enough to make up for losing out in the other two categories. Especially if you also take the price into consideration. Generally, whether I can recommend the Appleton 21YO depends on where you live. If you have plenty of other high quality rums available to you then I’d give it a pass. If you only have access to certain standards, I’d give it a try. It’s huge upgrade from the 12YO in my opinion and I think it is worthy the additional investment. The Joy, no matter what, is way to expensive for what it has to offer. I get that old rums like these don’t exactly provide a huge margin for the producers but quality-wise it just isn’t worth it if you ask me.

21YO: thumb-60x60 (82/100)
Joy: thumb-60x60 (80/100)

Other impressions: It feels like 95% of the other reviewers out there already discussed the 21YO so I am not going to provide you with links on that. More or less the same is true for the Joy (just google it) but The Rum Howler and Inu A Kena gave it a 97,5/100 and 9,75/10, respectively. To each its own but I have absolutely no clue what went wrong there; or if it’s just me who doesn’t get it…

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Johannes says:

    Thanks for your interesting and differing take on the Joy – I’ve tasted it and really enjoyed it but I haven’t tasted the 21yo yet.
    Just wanted to point out that there are several more female master blenders in the rum industry; most prominently perhaps Lorena Vásquez of Zacapa and also Jassil Villanueva Quintana, master blender at Brugal.


    1. Ouch, how could I forget about them… thanks four pointing it out, I’ve corrected it already 🙂


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