Jamiacan Rum Trip,Port Royal, May 2008

The Rumelier recently returned from a short trip to historical Port Royal in Jamaica, which is across the bay from the capital of Jamaica, Kingston.
While visiting Jamaica, The Rumelier was fortunate to visit J.Wray and Nephew in Kingston and was treated to a tour of the Appleton Estate Distillery in the beautiful Nassau Valley.
While in Jamaica The Rumelier also visited historical sights in Port Royal including Fort Charles and it's "Giddy House" and the popular Lime Cay. He also took a tour into the heart of the Blue Mountains to see where the famous cofffee is grown and later visited historic Devon House.
However, the highlight of the trip was undoubtedly a day spent with Andrea Bowes and Appleton Master Blender Joy Spence at the Appleton Estate, where The Rumelier got to tour the distillery and blend some rum of his own.
Many fine Jamaican rums were consumed during the four day visit, including several shots of the national drink of Jamaica, J.Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum.

This is a great little dockside bar in Port Royal.
Have a drink while waiting for the ferry to Lime Cay.

Jamaica has a definite rum culture. There is evidence of it all around. There are bars not only on every street corner, but almost infront of every house on the main streets.
There are endless types of rum available, with many of them being the overproof or strong type. Rum is used for everything, for medicine, cooking, baking, baby christening, funeral wakes, house christening and of course drinking, just to name a few.

J. Wray & Nephew Headquarters, Kingston.
Most of Appleton's rum is aged at this location.

Appleton Estate Distillery Tour

The day of the tour to Appleton Estate Distillery began early with a short visit into Kingston to meet the hosts of the trip at the J.Wray and Nephew Headquarters. Upon arrival he was met by Andrea Bowes, the sales rep for J.Wray and Nephew for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
After a short stop in Kingston, it was time to head out to the Appleton Distillery, approximately two and a half to three hours away by car. The Rumelier was to join another group travelling out to the distillery, which included Joy Spence, the Master Blender for Appleton Estate Rums. The Rumelier was very fortunate to travel in the same vehicle as one of Jamaica's most famous ladies, Joy. This was a great experience as The Rumelier got to chat about rum and Jamaica for the whole journey to and from the distillery.
On the way up to the Nassau Valley the route took the group through beautiful valleys covered in all types of fruit trees, such as mangoes and breadfruit and passed fields of sugar cane. Before the group arrived at the distillery Joy wanted to show everybody "The Source" of the water used at the distillery, one of the unique elements that make Appleton rums very distinctive.
To get to "The Source" or Blue Hole, which is reportedly very deep, the group had to come off the main road and go through many sugar cane fields, some recently cut. Jamaica is one of the few Caribbean islands where sugar cane cultivation appears to be thriving. The majority of the english speaking islands have given up on growing sugar cane commercially and have either switched to other crops such as bananas or have just abandoned the fields all together.
The water for the spring that comes out of the ground travels through the limestone, down from the Cockpit Country, a strange looking undulating luna landscape of small mountains in the distance.

The Source of the Water Used at Appleton Estate.
The Blue Hole is Filled with Water from the Cockpit Country.
A View of the Nassau Valley in the rain.
This was just before Tropical Storm Alma came through.
Welcome to the Appleton Estate Rum Tour.

While visiting "The Source" the first effects of Tropical Storm Alma, the first Pacific storm of the season, that was effecting the Caribbean were felt, with strong rains and a hasty retreat was made to the Appleton Estate Distillery.
On arrival at the distillery umbrellas were isssued to all members of the tour group and a great day continued in the heavy rain. After entry into the distillery tour building a hot coffee mixed with Wray and Nephew Blue Mountain Mist was drank by some of the tour group in the coffee shop. This drink was quickly followed by a special rum punch that included four different rums and some pimento spice (a locally grown spice used in the local favourite jerk seasoning).
After enjoying the coffee the group joined another group of visiting tourists for a tour of the distillery. The tour began with a stop at an old donkey powered cane crusher. Unfortunately due to the heavy rain the donkey was not able to work the cane crusher. During the brief stop at the cane crusher the group was shown what bagasse (the waste product after the sugar cane has been crushed) looks like from a donkey crusher and what it looks like today after a modern crusher has crushed it much more economically. The tour then continued past various old pieces of eqipment and machinery from sugar and rum production of days passed.

Molasses Tanks at the Appleton Distillery.
Each Tank holds over 100,000 gallons of molasses.

After passing through the entrance to the distillery compound and passing the large molasses tanks that hold hundreds of thousands of tons of molasses produced on the Appleton Estate, the group climbed some stairs into the area that houses five copper pot stills. The distillery operates these stills for nine months a year and leaves three months out of each year for maintenance and repair.
After a brief explanation of the distilling methods, the group exited the distilling room and moved onto the only ageing warehouse at the Appleton Estate. All the other rum produced at the Estate is shipped down to Kingston to be aged at their headquarters in big tanker trucks, several of which were passed on the way up and down to Kingston. The rum is aged in previously used white oak, bourbon barrels aquired from various distillers in the U.S.A. After entering the dark, quiet, ageing warehouse, an explanation of what happens to the rum in this warehouse was given. Here there were thousands of oak barrels ageing, some rum for as long as thirty years.
Next stop after the ageing warehouse was to leave the distillery and go to another cane crusher. This time two voluteers were used to turn the crusher and crush some stalks of fresh sugar cane. All the group then got to sample some of the freshly crushed cane juice. Steps away the group then got to taste some sweet molasses in an old boiling pot.
The tour group then returned back inside for the most important part of the tour, the tasting of the rums. There was a small bar full of various J.Wray & Nephew products for everybody to sample. After an expalnation of each type of rum, the group was free to sample all the rums they wanted.

The Appleton Estate Copper Pot Stills.
There are five working pot stills.
One of the Many Ageing Warehouses in Kingston.
This is across the road from J.Wray & Nephew Headquarters.

The Rumelier had a little free time to purchase some souvenirs from the gift shop and have a good look at all the rums available in the rum shop. After a couple more rum punches it was then time to meet up with the original tour group for a rum blending session with Master Blender Joy Spence. This was a great experience. The idea was to blend four different rums into something as close as possible to Appleton V/X Estate Rum.
The Rumelier remembered that blending was done mainly with the nose and not the taste. So he started off by nosing the four samples, with little success. Then he tried sampling them all, which was much more enjoyable. Trying to figure out what went into a final rum blend is no easy task and he came to realise why it took years and years to become a master blender.
After several more tastes of all the rums The Rumelier put his blend together. It tasted more like a sipping rum as he had used more of the mature rums available for the final blend.
It was then time for Joy to judge who had blended the best sample. After nosing and tasting the samples The Rumelier did not even place in the top four. He realised that he needs to practice with the aroma of his favourite rums much more if his nosing capabilities are to improve.
All the group got to take their samples home as souvenirs of their visit to Appleton Estate.
Next is was into the dining room for an authentic Jamaican lunch with some more rum punch.
Here The Rumelier was presented with a signed bottle of Appleton Estate Master Blender Legacy by Joy Spence. A great end to a fantastic day at the Appleton Estate Rum Distillery, Nassau Valley, Jamaica.

Appleton Rum Ageing Slowly in Oak Barrels.
Jamaica Fairwell, Final Photo at Appleton.
Andrea, The Rumelier and Joy by Appleton Estate VX bottle.

A Brief History of the Appleton Estate

The Appleton Estate is located in the fertile Nassau Valley on either side of the Black River in southwestern Jamaica. Appleton Estate is the oldest and most famous of all the six distilleries in Jamaica. Its origins go all the way back to 1655, the year when the British captured Jamaica from the Spanish. Appleton Estate was an established rum-producing sugar plantation by the year 1749, and has been in continuous operation for two and a half centuries.
Today Appleton Estate comprises of 11,402 acres with 3,707 acres in sugar cane cultivation. There are plans to add to this acreage in the coming years, as the demand for Appleton Estate rums increase worldwide. In addition, the Estate has its own sugar factory and rum distillery, both of which rank amongst the island's most modern and well equipped. The factory can produce up to 160 tons of sugar per day and the distillery has a production capacity of ten million litres of rum on an annual basis, both from pot and column stills. On average 80% of this rum is exported.

An Old Copper Pot Still at Appleton Estate.

During World War Two whisky was hard to come by and after much experimentation in attempts to produce a rum that would serve as a substitute, "Appleton Estate Special", a smooth, light and fragrant rum that proved extremely popular with Jamaicans was born. Renamed "Appleton Special" in the mid-1990's, the rum remains popular with Jamaicans and has now become a favourite around the world.

Oak Barrels Come in Different Sizes.
This is a Hoggs Head Size Barrel.

In 1957 the current owners of the Estate Percy Lindo's two sons sold the company to a syndicate including some of the principal shareholders of the Lascelles deMercado Group. In 1989 the Lascelles deMercado Group acquired J. Wray and Nephew as a wholly-owned subsidiary. Today, recognising the international potential for Appleton Jamaican Rum, the company is focusing its efforts on growing this brand on the world market through the development of international marketing and distribution channels and the introduction of new Appleton brands.
The company recently launched their line of rums in New Zealand with much success.

This sign speaks for itself at Appleton Estate.
"Pure Jamiaca". Maybe rums barrels being moved?
Any help identifying this old photograph would be appreciated.
Myers's "Palnters' Punch" Inn and Liquor Store.
The House of Myers was founded in 1879.