Jamaica Rum Trip 2
January 2012

The Rumelier and a small group of fellow rum adventurers had been invited to visit three distilleries in one of the largest Caribbean islands, Jamaica. This was a fine opportunity to learn more about the great rums that Jamaica is famous for, heavy pot still and high ester rums. The group was not to be disappointed. Below are the brief details of the adventure and many photographs of the locations, usually well hidden in the beautiful mountains and valleys of Jamaica's interior, far from all the regular tourist attractions. The transport for the week was provided by local bus/taxi drivers that were affectionally know as the Rum Bus.

Much more coming soon.......

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Worthy Park Estate

The first distillery to be visited on this three day bus tour of Jamaica was the Worthy Park Estate in the parish of St. Catherine. The distillery is situated at 1,200 feet above sea level in the beautiful Vale of Lluidas, about forty miles north west of the capital city, Kingston.

After a gruelling five and a half hour bus ride from Montego Bay the small group of rum explorers finally reached their destination amongst the sugar cane fields of Worthy Park.

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An old copper pot still.

Travelling through vast sugar cane fields and getting stuck behind huge cane trucks delivering cane on the narrow winding roads signalled the approach to the Worthy Park Sugar Factory and Distillery. The estate can date itself as far back as 1670 when the estate was given to an English soldier, Lieutenant Francis Price, for his help in capturing Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. Sugar cane production began in 1720 and has continued ever since.

Only three families have ever owned the estate, with the present day owners, the Clarke family acquiring the property in 1918. The estate covers some 3,600 hectares and produces 90,000 tonnes of their own sugar cane a year. They also produce some 24,000 tonnes of sugar and 7,000 tonnes of molasses. Worthy Park is currently the most efficient sugar factory and rum distillery in Jamaica.

The founding father of the current estate Frederick Clarke came to Jamaica at the age of 18 in 1846 and grew up in Westmorland. He soon earned a solid reputation in the sugar industry on many plantations before he purchased his own for 44,000 Pounds Sterling in 1918. He continued to build the business until he passed away in 1932. The estate has remained owner-operated and managed ever since.

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The two retorts of the copper pot still.

After the rigors of the long bus journey the small group of rum explorers quickly sprang to life when they realized they were close to the journey's end. Cameras were found and windows were opened in anticipation of their arrival at the distillery.

On arrival the group gained entry through the distillery gates and quickly found Gordon Clarke, the Director and Distillery Manager at Worthy Park. It was Gordon who had invited The Rumelier and other members of the group for their first tour of the distillery.

After introductions were made the group headed into one of the old buildings that had been converted into the company offices where Mr. Clarke proceeded to give an indept history of the estate and of rum production at the estate. The group were fascinated by all the history and old photographs they were shown, this was the ideal way to start a tour. 

Once the group had a better understanding of the history and workings of the estate it was time to see it for themselves first hand. Mr Clarke acted as the official guide around the distillery. As he was one of the people responsible for designing the recently built distillery, who better to give the tour?

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American White Oak yeast nurturing tanks.

After a very short ride through the sugar cane fields the group arrived at the heavy steel gate leading into the recently built distillery grounds. This was certainly a rare sight in the Caribbean, a purposely built, brand new distillery, confirming the recent trend of growth in rum sales worldwide.
After a brief explanation and overview of the workings of the distillery the group proceeded to take a full tour of the yeast production, fermentation, distillation, bottling and ageing areas of the distillery. 
The first area of the distillery to be visited was the yeast development area where three large American White Oak vats (shown left) nuture the different yeasts used in fermenting the molasses. Yeast is developed for both Light Pot Still and Heavy Pot Still Rum. The huge oak vats are strapped together with no lining, sealant or glue to hold them together, just like an ageing barrel. The wooden vats are a very important part of keeping a consistent type of yeast growth.
The next area to be visited was the fermentation area where several large stainless steel tanks (shown below) could be viewed. All of the vessels and piping in the distillery are made from stainless steel and are cleaned and sanitized by a state of the art C.I.P. (Cleaning in Place) system. The molasses is sent by an underground pipe from the nearby sugar factory. It is received in another large stainless tank that automatically weighs the molasses and the flow from the sugar factory is dictated by the weight of the tank. A signal is sent by radio control to the sugar factory from the storage tank when the flows needs to begin and end.
It was very clear that much thought and expertise had gone into the planning of this distillery from the beginning of the rum making process to the end. This was evident all around the distillery.
Once the molasses is received in the fermentation tanks it is diluted down with treated water from the estate and its vast underground cave system. The specially nutured yeasts are then added to the diluted molasses. Then the yeast is left to work its magic and turn the sugar in the molasses to alcohol. The fermentation is over when the yeast has consumed all the sugar and it becomes "Dead Wash", with an alcohol content of around 7 to 10%.
There is always a distinct aroma that permeates the air around a fully functioning distillery, one of sweet molasses notes drifting through the air. Worthy Park was no exception. The only other smell to compete with the aroma of fermenting molasses would be the nose pleasing aromas of a rum ageing warehouse where little fresh air has been introduced into the warehouse. A sign the angels are receiving their fare share of evaporating rum.

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Some of the stainless steel fermentation tanks.

Once the yeast has consumed all the sugar in the fermented molasses the "dead wash" is transferred to the huge Scottish copper pot still in another area of the distillery. Jamaica is famous for all the pot stills that are used in it's distilleries. Pot stills produce a distinctive heavy flavourful rum. The dead wash is boiled in the first part of the still. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water. Once the vapors from the first part of the still rise up through the gooseneck they they are then basically distilled again in a retort where the alcohol content rises. This process is repeated into a second retort before the vapors travel through a condenser where they turn into a clear liquid. There are various stages of the liquid coming from the still. The heads and tails are collected for re-distillation and only the hearts are kept for bottling for the overproof rum or slightly watered down for ageing.
The beautiful copper pot still used in the distillation process is the most economical on the island and can produce 4,000 litres of absolute alcohol per 24 hour day. It uses various methods to re-use the heat it produces during distillation. The whole of the distillery is computerized and controlled from a state of the art lab situated on the second floor next the the pot still. In the lab yeast development, fermentation and distillation can all be simulated to ensure the highest, consistent quality is maintained. The rums produced can all be analyzed by a gas chromatograph machine.
The next stop on the extensive tour of the distillery was the small bottling plant. Here in a big warehouse the bottles, boxes and labels were also stored along with pallets of finished product ready to leave for shipping.
Once inside the warehouse a large group of employees could be seen botlling Rum-Bar Rum by hand on a small production line. The rum is piped down from a large storage tank and filled into freshly cleaned bottles. The clean bottles are then filled, closed and labelled before being packed into cardboard cases for shipping.

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The rum ageing warehouse being extended.

For a any rum lover the delight of seeing a beautiful large copper pot still can only be matched by entering the hallowed ground of an ageing warehouse (shown left). The sight of oak barrels stacked high on top of each other never gets tired. Only time and oak can work their magic.

Worthy Park has several thousand 200 litre American White Oak barrels aging their pot still rum in it's ageing warehouse. This warehouse was actually being doubled in size when the group visited in January. Jamaica is considered to have one of the best climates for ageing rum in barrels. The barrels transfer both flavour and colour to the colourless spirit that comes from the still. Along with ageing rum Worthy park also ships rum in bulk 22,000 litre tankers mainly to the European market.

The ageing warehouse marked the official end of the tour of Worthy Park Distillery. The long journey across winding bumpy roads had been well worth the effort.

There was one more special treat left for the group, this was to be entertained for a late lunch at Mr. Clarke's beautiful plantation home overlooking the Vale of Lluidas. Not only was the authentic Jamaican food incredible, but the combination of an amazing view, fine pot still rums to sample and the pleasure of great company made the whole occasion totally memorable. This indeed had been a day to remember for The Rumelier.

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The current range of Worthy Park Rums.

Along with their bulk rum shipments the Worthy Park Distillery produces three bottled rum products.

Rum Bar Rum is bottled at 65% alc/vol and is a Jamaican premium White Overproof Rum that is used in all the traditional methods that Jamaicans and others are accustomed to. Rum-Bar Rum is a blend of unaged Pot Still rums that comes with a label designed from the colours of the Jamaican flag.

Worthy Gold  In Early 2010, Worthy Park Estate added to its repertoire "Worthy Gold", a premium combination of aged rums that have been hand-blended. Starting from the sweetest sugarcane in the Caribbean come the dark, thick, rich molasses used to make the potent brew. Aged in American white oak barrels 1200 feet above sea level, the warm days and cool nights have only added to the intense character and heavy flavours of Worthy Gold Pot Still Rum.   

Rum Bar Rum Rum Cream Rum-Bar Rum Rum Cream is the latest addition to the Worthy Park portfolio, it is made with the Rum-Bar white overproof rum and real cream as the main ingredients. Rum-Bar rum cream is exceptionally smooth and pleasurable to consume whether on ice or simply chilled. Its rich creamy base is outstanding and is balanced by the opulent flavors of the Rum-Bar rum, each mouthful is appreciated more than the previous one.

Bulk Rum

Worthy Park currently produce and offer for sale three types of bulk rums:-

  1. Light Pot Still Rum (ester range 60 - 119)
  2. Medium Pot Still Rum (ester range 120 - 239)
  3. Heavy Pot Still Rum (ester range 240 - 360)

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Fresh sugar cane arrives at the sugar factory.

Hampden Estate

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The Hampden Estate Distillery.

The second stop on the tour of Jamaica for the group of rum adventurers was the Hampden Estate in the parish of Trelawny. The estate is approximately an hour and a half east of Montego Bay, which was used as the home base for the week in Jamaica. The bus arrived on time to pick up the now expanded group. After the previous day the group was looking forward to a much shorter trip. Soon the reggae was pumping loudly in the bus as the group took the winding, mountainous roads through the beautiful unspoilt interior of Jamaica.

Hampden Estate is located on a 3,500-acre property in Trelawny and normally produces bulk rum for the European market, but has now ventured into bottling a white overproof rum brand, Rum Fire, which is currently sold locally in Jamaica from high ester pot still rum.

The group were in high spirits after a good breakfast, a later start and the thought of a much shorter bus ride. As the bus descended from the mountains and neared the distillery the landscape became flatter and vast sugar cane fields were evident everywhere. Like a predator seeking its prey the group sensed they were near the days destination. They were not wrong, the distillery came into view and soon the bus was arriving at the very impressive entrance road which is lined either side with majestic Royal Palm trees.

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Royal Palms lead the way to Hampden Estate Great House.

Hampden Estate is one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica, famous for its full, intensely flavourful pot still rums. This reputation continues today. The property first surveyed in 1743 is located in the"Queen of Spain Valley. The estate was run by a family called Farquharson until 2003 when it came under the ownership of the Jamaica Sugar Company. The estate is well known for producing a high yield of sugar cane per acre.
In 2009 the estate was purchased by Everglades Farms Limited, owned by the Hussey family. The Long Pond Estate was also purchased. Since the purchase of the Hampden Estate the sugar factory has been close down and mostly demolished. A limited amount of sugar cane is now crushed and the fresh juice added as one of the ingredients in the fermentation of the rum.

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Fermentation tanks and mosh pit.

After another short ride through the welcoming Royal Palm trees the group finally arrived at the Hampden Estate Great House, which was built in1779 and had only recently been purchased by the Hussey family. The family were in the process of renovating the house to its former glory.

Introductions were made to the owners and the distillery manager before the group began their in-depth and very informative tour of the whole distillery. The first stop on the tour was outside the distillery gates at the "graveyard". The group at first were a little quizzical as to why they were being shown a graveyard, but it turned out that this is where spend dunder was deposited after each close-down of the distillery. 

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One of the copper pot stills at Hampden Estate.
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Freshly filled rum barrels waiting to go to the ageing warehouse.
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The old water cooling tower for the sugar factory.
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The Hampden Great House being restored to its former glory.

Appleton Estate

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Welcome to the Appleton Rum Tour.

The third and final stop of the distillery tours of Jamaica was the Appleton Estate in the Nassau Valley. The group of rum experts had originally been invited to tour the Appleton Estate while they were attending the Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival in Barbados in 2010. This was the icing on the cake for many of the group as they had not visited the Nassau Valley before. To make things even better the host for the tour was to be Appleton's Master Blender, Joy Spence. Joy is probably the most famous lady in the rum world and certainly a most knowledgeable and gracious host.
This was The Rumelier's second visit to the Appleton Estate, he was lucky enough to spend a whole day travelling up with Joy from Kingston to the Estate and take part in a tour and a tasting with Joy before returning to Kingston and Port Royal. The story on this adventure can be seen on the previous page.

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The boiler chimney at the Appleton Estate Sugar Factory.

After a fairly long but comfortable bus ride once again through the mountains and valleys of Jamaica's interior, the group arrival safely at the beautiful Nassau Valley, the long established home of the Appleton Estate Sugar Factory and Rum Distillery.
They made their way inside the visitor center where they were to wait for Joy who was travelling up from Kingston, where the Wray and Nephew headquarters are located. They were treated to several glasses of the Estate's very tasty rum punch while waiting for Joy to arrive.
Once Joy arrived and introductions were made the now larger group was whisked off by bus to the source of all the water used at the distillery, the Blue Hole. This natural wonder is located amongst the dense, vast, sugar cane fields of the Estate. Gently waving stalks of bright green cane were everywhere, as far as the eye could see. The bus made its way along the narrow dirt roads to the natural spring, where it was obvious why the spring was named the Blue Hole. The water permeates its way down from the Cockpit Mountains and reappears in the Blue Hole, which is also the source of the Black River, which gently starts its journey to the Caribbean from the Estate.
From here the limestone filtered water is pumped to the the distillery and sugar factory.

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Some of the copper pot stills at Appleton Estate.
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Joy Spence preparing for her "Joy of Rum" seminar.
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Aqua Negril Resort, Jamaica

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Aqua Negril Resort is the best of Negril's boutique hotels. It actually used to be Aqua Moon but has been completely revamped to become a fabulous boutique hotel and bar straight out of a fine living magazine. You do not have to be staying at the resort to enjoy some of Aqua's famous hospitality because the bar is open to the public. Here you can enjoy some 80 different rums from at least 15 countries, including some of Jamaica's finest. Linton the bartender can fix you up with any cocktail your heart desires. Aqua bar also offers such novelties as "jerk" nuts and "jerk sausage" for when you wish to taste some authentic Jamaican treats.

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The beautiful beach at Aqua Negril Resort, Negril.

The bar (pictured left) is definitely one of a kind and is owned by the perfect hosts Liz and Ken Sealey who are certainly a pleasure to hang out with. Aqua is top of the list for places to check out in Negril, the perfect location to chill out and people watch on the beautiful Seven Mile Beach. Just grab a glass of your favourite rum, stop a passing patty guy and enjoy a real taste of Jamaica.
The group were delighted to see so many rums to choose from. The main rum attraction is the amazingly large bottles of Edwin Charley Proprietor's Collection displayed right on the bar for everyone to see. How could anyone not sample some of these world class rums.
The small group of rum explorers had the pleasure of spending an amazing afternoon at Aqua's famous rum bar, a perfect way to end a fantastic week in Jamaica. Liz and Ken Sealey are the perfect hosts.

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The Edwin Charley Proprietor's Collection at Aqua.
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Gracious hosts Liz & Ken Sealey with the rum group.
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