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Focusing On Aged Rums, Appleton Estate Seeks To Expand Foothold In U.S. Market

June 22, 2012

Appleton Estate rum is rolling out a 50-year-old variant this year in an effort to raise its profile in the U.S. market. The Jamaican rum, which joined the Kobrand portfolio in 2008 (it was previously with Brown-Forman), saw its U.S. volume grow from about 100,000 cases in 2002 to 150,000 cases in 2009, though it’s been flat since then. Owned by J. Wray & Nephew, the brand’s annual global volume is 1.2 million cases.

“The standard rum category is pretty flat in the U.S.,” says Appleton’s master blender Joy Spence. “But the premium category is growing, so we’ll continue to focus on that segment. Our aged rums—the Reserve, 12-year-old and 21-year-old—are the clear priority.”

Spence adds that Appleton’s aged offerings are matured for the minimum number of years stated on the bottle—akin to Scotch whiskies but unlike many other rum brands, some of which use an average age for their statements.

Seeking to further extend its footprint in the age-statement rum category, Appleton introduced a limited-edition 30-year-old two years ago, and this year it’s seeking to burnish its image with a limited-edition 50-year-old, which Spence says is the oldest rum on the market. The Appleton Estate 50-year-old, which is being released in honor of Jamaica’s 50th year of independence, comes in a Glencairn crystal decanter and sells for $5,000 a bottle. Only 60 bottles will make their way to the U.S. (out of global production of 800 bottles), where consumers can find them through an “online white-glove concierge service.”

The Appleton line also includes a V/X level ($18), which is geared toward cocktails. Spence says that while the emphasis remains on the aged rums, which are mainly meant to be sipped, Appleton’s mixology-friendly extensions are playing a key role in building the brand’s presence in the on-premise, another point of focus.

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