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Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Rum – A Monumental Spirit

The press release from Appleton Estate Rum begins as follows:

“… Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum is proud to announce the release of a world first in Rum, the very rare Limited Edition Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum – Jamaica Independence Reserve

Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum – Jamaica Independence Reserve comprises rums that have been aged for a minimum of 50 years in hand selected, oak barrels and it is believed to be the oldest rum available for sale in the world. Only 800 bottles of this very rare, Limited Edition bottling will be made available for sale around the world at a target Retail Price of US$5,000 per 750ml bottle…”

Wow … Five Thousand Dollars a Bottle!?

This press release compels me to share with everyone an article I wrote a little over a year ago with respect to well-aged, super-premium spirits (I have edited the work slightly to rework the article into the context of this particular Fifty Year Old Appleton Rum)

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In the many spirit reviews I have read, the very oldest and most expensive spirits have a tendency to score lower than their younger siblings within the same family. Or if they score do higher, it is never to such a degree that the large increase in price for these spirits price is justified by a suitably large jump in quality. Yet, these spirits are prized by connoisseurs and collectors, and they are sold at prices far in excess of any rational calculation of their real cost. My own reviews of the Appleton Estate 30 Year Old Rum, the Highland Park 40 Year Old Whisky, the Glenfarclas 40 Year Old Whisky and the El Dorado 25 year Old Rum yield a similar pattern.

In an attempt to rationalize, I have given this phenomena some deliberation, and I believe I have come to an explanation of sorts which helps me to place these super-aged, super-premium spirits into their proper context. Let me begin with a little research which at first glance might seem unrelated.

Ancient Pyramids of Egypt (photo used with permission)

According to Canadian Archeologist Bruce Trigger:

” … The ability to expend energy, especially in the form of other people’s labour in non utilitarian ways, is the most basic and universally understood symbol of power
(See footnote at bottom)

This statement was made in reference to monumental architecture, structures whose practicality is dwarfed by their presence. These structures were constructed and serve to remind everyone of the sheer power of the person responsible for their completion. The oldest surviving example of these structures is the ancient pyramids of Egypt which have served to illuminate the power of the ancient pharaohs much more vividly than any of their surviving histories can.

I believe we have a similar symbolism in the world of fine spirits which is associated with what I shall call, Monumental Spirits. These are spirits which are aged for 30, 40, 50 years and more and which are priced so extravagantly that they have become items of pure luxury. Owning one of these “monumental spirits” is not about having good taste, or about appreciating the finer nuances of complexity and balance, or even a reflection of a considered opinion regarding quality. Owning a monumental spirit symbolizes the powerful idea that you believe that you are worthy of this monument. In might even be argued that enjoying a 50-year-old rum is as close to drinking the same nectar as the gods drink that we mortals can aspire to, whether we can truly appreciate this nectar or not.

The list of these monumental spirits is growing. Appleton Estate 30 Year Old Rum and the newly released Appleton 50 Year Old Rum, the Highland Park 25 , 30 and 40 Year Old Whiskies, the Glenfarclas 30 and 40 Year Old Whiskies, the El Dorado 25Year Old Rum and my recently reviewed Panamonte Reserva XXV are all such a monumental spirits. The price for each is far out of line with its utility as a rum or a whisky. But, and this is the point, the actual presence of one of these spirits upon a consumer’s shelf serves a far greater purpose for its owner than as a mere spirit to be consumed. The presence of a monumental spirit illuminates its owner as a connoisseur, and it lets the select few who are allowed into the spirit’s presence know that they are in the presence of something extremely special.

However, even more importantly, the presence of such a monumental spirit allows those who see the spirit upon its owner’s shelf to know that they are in the presence of not only something very special, but also someone, very special! The monumental spirit is no longer a bottle of whisky or a bottle of rum. Instead it has become a symbol of worth which is claimed by ownership. Thus we come to an understanding of the Appleton 50 Year Old Rum; Appleton Estate Rum, in the case of this release, is not selling rum, instead they are asking a powerful question…

Are you worthy?

They are betting that at least 800 people will answer with a resounding… Yes I Am!

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Footnote Citation: Trigger Bruce G. “Monumental Architecture: A Thermodynamic Explanation of Symbolic Behavior,” World Archeology, Vol 22 No. 2 (Oct. 1990) 119-132

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5 Responses to “Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Rum – A Monumental Spirit”

  1. EricH said

    Well at least the price isn’t as bad as other 50 year olds. The Glenfiddich 50 costs $US 10,000 per bottle (though the few bottles that are being sold here are priced higher than that). That said, I’m not spending that much money on one bottle.

  2. russ said

    hi.although i haven’t abused the policy the total wine/liquor chain allows u to return a bottle that tastes shifty regardless of reason if only a bit is sampled..i have done this a few times when purchasing an unknown and sometimes pricey rum or whiskey after a bit in the parking lot before going home..after too long in the cask some rums taste like i have bitten into a piece of oak or sherry wood and i always marvel that so many of the 17-40$ range has amazing value which degenerates as the price increases. the plantation line,the “icos’,dictadors ,zayas etc are still this peasents rums of choice and each rumfest in miami.chicago ,u.k. or spain has only enforced my humble opinion .u r correct ,chip,it is not about the rum just the marketing or labeling. happy trails russ.

    • Good to here from you again rus.

      I agree that good rum can be any age, but most of the great values are in that 20 to 40 dollar range (In Canada anyways). I popped open a bottle of one of my favs, the fdc 12 last week. Sadly it is already gone.

      Happy trails my friend!

  3. rawkabillyrebel said

    No doubt there will be some rich suckers that will line up to buy this rum. These are the same people that buy supercars and mansions to show their friends and the world what a successful person they are. If you are that well off, donate the money to a worthwhile charity at home, or a project in the developing nation. Perhaps this is a better legacy to show the world.

    • I never begrudge those better off than I from spending their money. If they spend it, then at least the money circulates. In this case, some of the the money spent makes its way into the Jamaican economy, hopefully helping them to develop the country further. (Maybe I am naive, but that is how I look at it.)

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