Jamaica is a beautiful and diverse island with beaches along the coast and mountains that stretch into the clouds. A drive through the interior will take you past lush landscapes and the friendly people of this country that celebrates 50 years of independence on 6 August. One of the most recognised products in Jamaica is Appleton Rum produced by the revered J. Wray & Nephew Ltd, and anywhere you go you are bound to see local bars with the familiar Appleton Estate logo proudly displayed.
The history of the Appleton Estate
Appleton Estate is the oldest sugar estate and distillery in Jamaica with the first recorded production of rum documented in 1749. The history of the estate goes back to the mid-17th Century when the British successfully captured Jamaica from the Spanish.
It has been suggested that it was given to Frances Dickinson as part of a larger land grant in reward for his role in the British conquest. It was passed down through his family with his grandsons listed as the earliest confirmed owners.
William Hill purchased the estate in 1845, followed by A. McDowell Nathan who subsequently died in the 1907 earthquake that destroyed Kingston and killed over 800 people. J. Wray & Nephew Ltd eventually acquired his substantial holdings and they still own the Appleton Estate.
The 11,000-acre property is unique as it is located in the Nassau Valley, part of Jamaica’s famous Cockpit Country. This is a limestone formation, known as a Cockpit Karst, and as a result Appleton produces the only rum in the world that has a “Terroir” as special as exists in that particular valley. Terroir refers to the geography, geology and climate of a particular place which bestows specific characteristics upon products such as wine, tea and, of course, rum. Therefore even though the Appleton Estate has had a number of different owners over the years, the consistency of its product has never wavered.
The Appleton Estate tour takes visitors through the process of distilling and creating the rum, including giving them a chance to see how it was done in the “olden days.” A manual cane press is fun to try out, but it probably wasn’t fun for hours on end back then. Donkeys were used in the 18th Century to extract juice from sugar cane, and an example of this process is also on display complete with resident donkey.
Sugar cane is harvested every 12 months at Appleton. The molasses is extracted and diluted with spring water and cultured yeast, and then the mixture is allowed to ferment in a temperature controlled process that completes within 36 hours.
The distillery is a huge building housing giant copper pot and column stills where the magic happens. Once the distillation process is completed, the blending commences. Master Blender Joy Spence ensures that the blend is just right before it is transferred to barrels for storage in the ageing house. Due to the tropical climate, six per cent is lost each year. As the ageing process is three times faster there than in cooler climes, the Appleton 21-year, for example, would be the equivalent of a 60 year-old spirit.
Appleton produces a range of rums from those perfect for mixing and cocktails, to exceptional aged rums that should be savoured neat or on the rocks. The most familiar line is Appleton Estate, which begins with Appleton Estate VX through Reserve, 12-year old, Master Blender’s Legacy, 21-year old, 30-year old, and now, incredibly, Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum – Jamaica Independence Reserve. This crowning achievement was revealed in Kingston on 7 June, 2012, and only 800 bottles will be sold throughout the world. It is believed to be the only one of its age available for purchase, and is truly a unique product with all the rich flavour that one would expect from a rum of its quality.
Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum was recently awarded the Chairman’s Trophy for the Best Rum at the 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
Appleton is distributed throughout the world to discerning rum drinkers. From Canada to Russia and everywhere in-between, it is much sought after by those who appreciate its medium-to-full bodied richness. Jacques Scott in the Cayman Islands is proud to be the local distributor of Appleton products, and has been since 1962. You can find your favourite Appleton rums at all of their fine stores throughout the island, including a limited number of the 50 year-old Jamaica Independence Reserve.
Appleton Rum and Jamaica go together like Bob Marley and Reggae music, so let’s get together and feel all right!
For more information on the Appleton Estate, you can see their web site at www.appletonestate.com and for Jacques Scott, www.jacquesscott.com. To purchase or enquire about limited edition Appleton Estate Rums, contact Findlay Wilson at 525-7370.