The origins of Appleton Estate date back to 1655 when the English captured Jamaica from the Spaniards. Frances Dickinson, whose grandsons Caleb and Ezekiel were the earliest known owners of the Appleton Estate, took part in that conquest of Jamaica, and it is believed that Appleton Estate was part of the land grant that Dickinson received as reward for his services.
After many generations of ownership by the Dickinson family, the Appleton Estate was sold out of the family in 1845. From then on, it was owned by a procession of prominent Jamaican families, each of whom helped to increase the size and potential of the Appleton Estate by purchasing additional acreage of land planted with sugarcane. During these years, the Appleton Estate was producing several different pot still rums, and it began to gain a reputation as a reliable source for quality rum, a reputation that continues to this day.
Meanwhile, John Wray, a successful rum producer in his own right, opened the Shakespeare Tavern in Kingston, Jamaica. Though no one knew it at the time, this tavern would ultimately contribute to the day when Mr. Wray and the Appleton Estate would join together to guide the Appleton Estate to worldwide acclaim. You see, in his tavern, Mr. Wray made it a practice to serve his patrons the rums that he himself produced. His rums were quite well received. Word began to spread of the quality of Mr. Wray’s produce, and as his rums increased in popularity, his own rum production began to prosper. So successful was his venture that in 1862 John Wray invited his nephew, Charles J. Ward, to join him in a partnership. That same year, Wray & Nephew aged rums were awarded three gold medals at the London Exhibition, the first of many to be garnered over the years.
In 1916, the Lindo Brothers & Co purchased Wray & Nephew. Almost immediately thereafter, the new company, J. Wray & Nephew Ltd., purchased the Appleton Estate. Today, J. Wray & Nephew Ltd. produces rums that are unique and distinctly Jamaican. Bottlings include Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum, Coruba Jamaica Rum, Appleton Special Jamaica Rum and the prestigious portfolio of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rums: V/X, Extra and 21 Year Old. Appleton Estate Rums are still produced on the Estate, which encompasses over 11,000 acres of sugarcane as well as a sugarcane refinery and the Distillery.
The Rum Process
Amidst an unspoiled sugarcane plantation in Jamaica, the Appleton Estate has been producing rums since 1749. One of the most famous Jamaican producers, the Appleton Estate is redolent of tradition, history and craftsmanship, and views the process of rum making as an art form.
Distilled from molasses, a derivative of sugarcane, Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum is crafted in a myriad of flavors, colors, proofs, and styles. The process involves many steps, each carried out using traditional methods designed to bring out the finest characteristics of each rum in the Appleton family.
The first step is fermentation. Using a proprietary yeast mixture, the molasses is mixed with water from the Appleton Estate’s own natural spring.
After fermentation, distillation begins. The Appleton Estate uses the traditional "small batch" pot distillation method that has been handed down for generations since Jamaican rum making first began. The pot stills of the Appleton Estate are unique to Jamaica. They impart character and flavor for which the Appleton Estate Rums are known.
Once the rums are distilled, they are aged in oak barrels. The oak contributes to the warm golden color of the rum, as well as adding many rich, complex flavors and aromas. Oak is an ideal wood for this process as its permeability allows air to pass over the rum and mellow it as it rests.
When the rums are ready, they are carefully blended by hand. This careful attention to detail helps give the Appleton Estate rums many of their proprietary characteristics. Joy Spence, the Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, treats blending as an art form, using many different types and styles of rum, known as marks of rum, in much the same way a painter uses colors and hues to create a masterpiece.
On the final step, the blended rums are placed in a vat for an extended period of time for "marrying," when the character, bouquet and flavor of the different rums fuse together to result in a fuller, more rounded rum.
Character and Style of Appleton
- Christmas Cake
Joy Spence – Master Blender
Joy Spence, Master Blender at J. Wray and Nephew Ltd., has the distinction of being the first woman to hold this position in the industry.
Joy's passion for the art of creating rum was inspired by J. Wray and Nephew Ltd’s Master Blender, Owen Tulloch, who was her mentor at the company.
Joy joined J. Wray and Nephew Limited as Chief Chemist in 1981, and held a series of key positions including Product Development Manager, technical Services Manager and Total Quality Manager before she was appointed General Manager, Technical and Quality Services in 1996, a position she holds along with the position of Chief Blender, which she took up in 1997.