Jamaica’s history is both colourful and dark. Voodoo witches, pirates, slave traders, Spanish conquistadors and English invaders are all woven into the fabric of this tiny country’s past. If only one thing has remained constant throughout the turmoil of the years, it is the nation’s passion for, and appreciation of, the local spirit. Made from the abundant sugar cane that is cultivated on the island, Jamaican rum is an institution in itself.
Appleton Estate is Jamaica’s oldest sugar estate and distillery, with ownership dating back to the first wave of English inhabitants. It is believed that Frances Dickinson, who came in with the first English fleet, was given an allotment of land as a reward for his services in 1655. The property was later handed down to his grandchildren, who built the distillery around 1749 and began producing Appleton Estate Rum. The estate stayed in the Dickinson family until 1845, after which it changed hands a total of five times until it was purchased by Wray & Nephew in 1916.
In 1997 the distillery underwent a historic transformation when it appointed the industry’s first ever female (and black!) Master Distiller, Joyce Spence. Joy, who started working at Appleton Estate in 1981, began her rum-making career as Chief Chemist and moved into product development and technical and quality services.
Joy says, ‘Creating rum provides the perfect balance of art and science; they are so intricately intertwined it’s difficult to pinpoint where the science stops and the art begins. To be a good blender, you must be a sensory expert, have an artistic and creative flair, have a good understanding of the chemistry of the process, have attention to detail and have a passion for the art.’
Rums come in a variety of types — from the clear, light rum to the dark, planter-style rums that are best in punches, but it is the golden, aged rums that Joy specialises in. Joy explains, ‘To create a new rum, you must first identify the style of rum you want. You then look at the stocks of rum that are available to you, bearing in mind the compatibility of different marks, the effects of ageing and the chemistry profile. Once you have done this, you decide on the best artistic combination of the marks.’
Jamaicans take rum so seriously that Joy was in 2005 awarded the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer (OD) for her service to the industry. As in her true words, Joy has been combining the art and science of rum making to craft premium Appelton Estate Jamaican Rum for 25 years. camparigroup.com/en/joy-spence