Appleton Hearts 1995 and 1999 Jamaica Rum

I had picked up the Appleton Hearts 1995 early this year and found it to be amazing, aged 25 years in Jamaica and 100% pot still with 1400 g/100 LAA congeners. Simply fantastic, but all the bottles have long since been sold out locally.

I went on the hunt and found a 1999 still for sale online. I’d heard it was lighter than the ’95 and it certainly is so, though 855 g/100 LAA congeners is still far higher than most rums. I’m glad I picked it up, as it does impart a little more of the traditional Appleton flavor than ’95’s flavor bomb.

But, needless to say those 585 extra congeners are put to good use in the ’95, which remains one of my favorite rums ever.

And the story ends with a bit of a surprise. I was scanning local retailers for former “daily drinker” pick Appleton 12 (impossible to believe it is in short supply, but here we are in 2022). And while searching for “Appleton” at local chain K&L Wine Merchants I found a bottle of Appleton Hearts 1995 for sale! And for a price lower than when these were new last year. So, I could not resist snapping it up. These vintage pot still Appleton rums aren’t coming back.

Coming Soon: The Ultimate Mai Tai at Tiki Tom’s

Since Tiki Tom’s let the cat out of the bag on their Instagram Story, we can confirm it is true. Our “Ultimate Mai Tai” recipe is going to be used as a premium Mai Tai on the forthcoming new cocktail menu at Tiki Tom’s in Walnut Creek.

We get a kick anytime someone makes a Mai Tai with our Ultimate Mai Tai Rum Blend, a boozy combination of four heavy rums mostly from Jamaica. So it is our honor and pleasure that Tiki Tom’s is interested in trying this for their new menu. And it is not without some significant challenges most notably the limited availability of Appleton 12 rum.

There are some other interesting things coming to the new cocktail menu so be sure to stay tuned to their social media for updates.

Ultimate Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orgeat (Latitude 29)
¼ oz Demerara Syrup (BG Reynolds)
½ oz Orange Curacao (Ferrand Dry Curacao)
½ oz Appleton 12 Jamaica Rum
½ oz Smith & Cross Jamaica Rum
½ oz Plantation OFTD Rum
½ oz Plantation Xaymaca Jamaican Rum
Garnish with Mint Sprig and spent Lime shell

Kon-Tiki Enters Revised Top 10 Mai Tai List

Perhaps no destination demonstrates the search for the ultimate Mai Tai better than The Kon-Tiki in Oakland. Their Mai Tai has always been good, but self-described constant R&D means their 2022 Mai Tai has leapfrogged into the top 10, replacing sister bar The Kon-Tiki Room.

This sweet and savory cocktail uses Super Jugoso Orgeat, rum-based orange shrubb, and a blend of rums from Guyana, Martinique, and Jamaica. The house Mai Tai is excellent at Kon-Tiki, or try one with their special Kon-Tiki Single Barrel Rum from Worthy Park.

Kon-Tiki is also the place where where a customized Mai Tai was the best we’ve ever had.

Here are the top 10 Mai Tais that you can have right now.

  • Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29
  • Dr. Funk
  • Hale Pele
  • Halekulani Hotel
  • The Kon-Tiki Oakland
  • Rumba
  • Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown Trading Co.
  • Smuggler’s Cove
  • San Francisco Mai Tai at Trader Vic’s Emeryville
  • Undertow

Mrs Mai Tai and I are going to New York City at the end of the month and expect to visit Sunken Harbor Club, home of Garret Richard’s famed Mai Tai. A possible new entry in this list, so stay tuned.

Dr. Funk Mai Tai Still Delivers

It seems impossible to believe that Jamaican’s leading rum brand is having supply chain issues, even with being owned by liquor superpower Campari Group. Yet that’s exactly the situation for Appleton Estate 12 year Rare Casks and also Appleton Estate 8 year Reserve. Bars cannot get these popular rums in volume. Perhaps Appleton is running short of their iconic bottles and getting bottles to Jamaica is tricky (can we start a bottle return program, stat?). In any case, let’s hope this gets resolved soon.

In the meantime, bars that use Appleton 12/8 in their cocktails need to find alternatives. Appleton’s lightly aged Signature blend seems to still be in ready supply, but may not be a perfect sub for the longer-aged expressions.

Such is the case for the Mai Tai at San Jose’s Dr. Funk where they replaced Appleton 12 with another longer aged Jamaican-led rum, Denizen Merchant’s Reserve. It is then blended 50/50 with Smith & Cross Jamaica Rum. And nothing against Denizen, a fabulous rum blend of mostly Jamaican and some Martinique rum, but Appleton was a better companion to the Smith & Cross.

Nonetheless, the new formula Mai Tai at Dr. Funk is still outstanding. The house orgeat really shines in this bright cocktail that highlights delicious Jamaican rum. And a reminder that it’s only $10 during happy hour – a total bargain.

It sometimes seems passé to include a Mai Tai on the menu at a tiki bar that serves craft cocktails. Of course they can make it, why take up space on the menu? But to me it is important to include the specs on the menu, not just to show newbies this isn’t a pineapple/orange juice Mai Tai, but also to make a statement with the rums being used. Denizen and Smith & Cross? You know this is a serious Mai Tai. And it’s one of the best anywhere.

Don’t Switch the Rum

Regular readers will know we have Mai Tais all the time and love to play with using different rums. Some are better than others, of course, but you rarely get a dud when doing a Mai Tai that’s been formulated to support the rum in the cocktail.

With more complex cocktail recipes you’d think switching out a little bit of rum for another wouldn’t make a difference. Well, for this one I did find that the swap was definitely noticeable and for sure not an improvement.

I didn’t have any limes the other night so I made this cocktail by Laura Miller that uses lemon juice. I’ve made it before and it is a delicious blend of flavors.

Monkey Business by Laura Miller
¾ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Pearl’s Hideaway Falernum
¼ oz Dry Curacao
1 oz Giffard Banane du Brésil Liqueur
½ oz Hamilton Pot Still Black Rum
1 oz Plantation 5 yr Rum
2 dashes Forbidden Bitters
Ideally, garnish with banana wedge, dehydrated lemon wheel, and plastic monkey.

I subbed the Plantation rum with Real McCoy. I don’t have Forbidden Bitters myself but used 1 dash each of Angostura and Peychaud’s.

Regarding the aforementioned rum swap, when I made a second round I used Doctor Bird Jamaican Rum in place of the Hamilton Pot Still Black from Jamaica. Both rums use Worthy Park distillate and are known to be flavorful and funky. I thought that maybe the higher ABV Doctor Bird would be a possible improvement. It turns out that it really left the entire cocktail a little flat.

I don’t know if this is a credit to the flavorful Hamilton rum or something about Doctor Bird’s Moscatel cask finish, but for sure it was a noticeably poorer experience. Who would have guessed that half ounce would make a difference?

Makai Santa Cruz Waterfront Dining and Cocktails

Celebrating Mai Tai Monday with a real good one that we sampled on lunch on Saturday. Makai Island Kitchen & Groggery is a Hawaiian and tiki themed restaurant on the Santa Cruz pier. We’ve been there a few times and had a good experience, so seemed like a great time to visit again and reconnect with friends. Our meal and service were great.

The cocktail menu is refreshed and there are even more originals here now, plus a very well appointed rum tasting list. I went for the Mai Tai and found it quite good, using Appleton Signature Jamaican rum. Meanwhile Mrs. Mai Tai had the Kahanamoku featuring vanilla rum, lemon, lime, coconut cream, and spiced rum float. Leaning sweet, but still pretty good if you like it that way.

The rum list is extensive and priced competitively. We went a little upscale for some Appleton Hearts 1995, only $62 for a 1½ oz pour. Plenty enough to split between the two parties.

I know that purists hate tiki bars with windows, but I can never penalize a place that has ocean-front views (see also: Trader Vic’s Emeryville). And Makai’s view is really worth it. We saw flocks of pelicans and also hoards of sea lions nearby. It was a beautiful day on Saturday, perfect for a friendly meal and tasty food and drinks.

Golden Devil New Yarnmouth Single Cask 26 yr Jamaican Rum

Thanks to rum mensch Cory Schoolland for turning me on to this limited release of a rum that’s typically unusual to find on the market. You see, New Yarnmouth is one of the two distilleries owned by the J. Wray & Nephew (you might have heard of the other distillery, Appleton). It’s where they produce the famed Wray & Nephew Overproof, but aged rums from here are basically unheard of.

But K&L Wines was selling this Golden Devil release and after Cory gave me a sample to try I thought that I’d be remiss about not obtaining a bottle before it goes away forever.

This rum was distilled in November 1994 and aged for 26 years. There’s no specific documentation on the location of the aging, though deduction indicates the majority was probably in Europe. The rum has plenty of aging notes, but not so much that this age would indicate compared to rums aged completely in the tropics.

There’s no clear marque either, though this is what I’d characterize as a medium ester Jamaican rum. Plenty funky for the average spirits drinker, but for sure not anywhere as a high as you see from other local distilleries. There aren’t notes about the still type, but I’d guess column still just based on the relative lightness of the body.

There’s plenty of flavor here. The ABV is 66.3% so it is a truly a full strength cask strength release. There are amazing lingering flavors that your tongue continues to get notes from for what seem like minutes. Little sips provide a deeply satisfying tasting experience. If you love Jamaican rum this fits right in. The slightly lighter body would be comparable to Appleton, if they issued at cask strength (which they don’t). It’s astonishing.

K&L still has a few of these for sale at the SF store or via mail order. Price is less than you’d expect for a 26 year rum from a distillery that literally doesn’t issue long-aged rums. Below the Mendoza line, baseball fans.

More info: Jamaican Rum Distillery Cheat Sheet (Cocktail Wonk)

The Murderqueen Cocktail: a Dark Cocktail for Halloween

This original cocktail was developed by Tonga Tim Harnett of Tiki Underground bar in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It was featured last week on Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour on YouTube, named in honor of Spike’s girlfriend Larissa – otherwise known as the Murderqueen. Check out the video on YouTube, and then check out the amazing surf/horror single “Theme from The Murderqueen” that Spike put out a couple years ago on Hi-Tide Recordings.

The Murderqueen Cocktail by Tim Harnett
1½ oz Pink Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Solerno Blood Orange Cordial
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Passion Fruit syrup
½ oz Raspberry syrup
1 oz Plantation OFTD Overproof Rum
1 oz Rum Bar Overproof Rum
4 heavy dashes Peychauds Bitters
Shake with ice and garnish with three dark cherries

I subbed Liber for the Blood Orange Cordial, and Chambord liqueur for the raspberry syrup. I used Latitude 29 Orgeat and Small Hand Foods Passion Fruit Syrup.

Despite the grapefruit juice and heavy rums, this cocktail is actually pretty easy to drink. It has a real nice set of flavors and seems timely for Halloween season.

Glassware: new Halloween Mai Tai glass from Trader Vic’s, available for sale online.

Kon Tiki Single Barrel Release Party

Congrats to our friends at The Kon-Tiki who celebrated Monday evening with the long-awaited release of their Worthy Park Single Barrel Rum. This cask-strength rum from Jamaica comes in at a hefty 66% ABV and you’ll taste every bit of the flavor. Obviously overproof and quite funky by general rum standards, but not so much that this can’t be sipped neat or on the rocks. It’s from barrel 717 and aged five years in the tropics.

These bottles are for sale. Prices vary depending on whether you buy one, two, or a case, but think ~$60 per bottle. It is a great rum and supplies are limited, so be sure to visit The Kon-Tiki soon to secure this great rum.

For the party on Monday, there were some cocktail specials featuring this rum along with other products from the Worthy Park / Rum-Bar Rum portfolio. Of course I had to try the Kon-Tiki Barrel Mai Tai and this rum is simply a great choice. One of my favorite Mai Tais of 2022. Expect to see this as a higher-end Mai Tai option in a revised menu coming soon.

Got to speak a little with Zan Kong who is the Commercial Manager for Spirits at Worthy Park. Such a nice guy and knowledgable and passionate about what Worthy Park is doing. 

For many years the distillery has made a tidy profit selling bulk rum to the likes of Hamilton Rums, Doctor Bird, and others. But lately the distillery seems to be using more of their rum for their own products. I’m a fan of their mainstream aged rum release Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve, but also their unaged Rum-Bar Overproof expression and Worthy Park 109, a lightly aged dark rum. 100% pot still rum, always.

SF Rum Fest Recap: The Rums

Had a great time in the city for this annual Rum Fest, this time being billed as the San Francisco Rum Fest now that there’s a companion new event in Los Angeles.

This is an event that’s mix of educational seminars, rum education, rum exploration, and social meetup. Having tasted more of these rums over the years, I lean more into the social side but there’s always some new brands or expressions to try. View the video of the layout.

I was impressed by the single-still releases from El Dorado: Enmore, Versailles, and Port Mourant. These are all aged 12 years and provided at cask strength. I was told these would retail at ~$90, in which case that would be a steal. I do see them offered online for ~$150 which seems to be more what I’d expect. In any case, these are flavor bombs that are so great. I was most impressed by the Versailles, with the Port Mourant being a close second.

Diamond Distilleries was also showing off a fruity and light white 151, aged six months. And a heavier dark 151 aged two years, somewhat more reminiscent of the famed LH151 but still quite lighter.

Rhum Barbancourt had a white expression I’d never tried before and liked. It’s a lighter style than the Haitian rum clairin from Saint Benevolence, which has an aged expression in the market and more things to come.

Copalli rum from Belize seems to be everywhere. I liked both the white and the barrel rested expressions. They were serving a great daiquiri riff by local bartender Maritza Rocha-Alvarez that was superb.

Rhum Saint James from Martinique seemed to be making a push to get better distribution and had a number of new and interesting expressions.

I spoke to the Hawaiian producers about their product, which will be covered in a deeper dive in a couple weeks.