Blending with Joy: Meet the Name Behind Appleton Estate's New Rum Experience

January 22, 2018

Joy Spence, Appleton Estate Rum Master Blender

Joy Spence, Appleton Estate Rum Master Blender

So why is the attraction named the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience?

Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, Dr. Joy Spence, has the distinction of being the first woman to hold the position of Master Blender in the spirits industry. In this role, Joy is responsible for ensuring the quality and consistency of existing blends — from distillation through maturation, blending and bottling, as well as developing new blends. Her skill and passion for her craft, and her wonderfully warm and spirited personality, shine through in every bottle of Appleton Estate rum.

The Journey to the Top

Joy fell in love with chemistry at age 13, and at that time, she set her mind on a career as a scientist. After high school, she attended the University of the West Indies and graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science Degree, First Class Honors. After graduation, Joy spent some years teaching chemistry, before moving to England to pursue a Master of Science degree in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Loughborough. Joy graduated with Honours and, in fact, her final exams score were the highest ever achieved by a student at Loughborough, a record that still stands today.

After graduating from Loughborough, Joy returned to Jamaica and to teaching. In 1979, she left academia for the private sector and two years later joined J. Wray & Nephew Limited as the Chief Chemist. As the Chief Chemist, Joy had the opportunity to work closely with the then Master Blender, Owen Tulloch, and this apprenticeship sparked a passion for the art of creating rum. Owen soon discovered that, in addition to being a brilliant chemist, Joy also had a considerable organoleptic talent (the ability to detect, identify and differentiate between aromas), and under his expert guidance, Joy extended her knowledge of the science of the rum- making process to include the artistic side as well.

Creating rum provides Joy with the perfect balance of art and science. She says that in rum-making, these two disciplines are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to pinpoint where the science stops and the art begins.

The Creator of Fine Rums and Spirits

Joy has created many rums for the company, including Appleton Estate Reserve Blend and Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12-Year-Old. She also created three Limited Edition rums: Appleton Estate 30-Year-Old Jamaica Rum; the Appleton Estate 250th Anniversary Blend, which was created to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Appleton Estate; and Jamaica Independence Reserve, a 50-year-old minimum age rum that was created to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence.


What It Takes

According to Joy, to be a good blender, you must

  1. Be a sensory expert
  2. Have an artistic and creative air
  3. Have a good understanding of the chemistry of the process
  4. Have a passion for the art and pay attention to the details.

“To create a new rum, you first identify the style of rum you want," Says Spence. "You then look at the stocks of rum that are available to you, bearing in mind the compatibility of the different marques [styles], how they’ll react when they’re blended together, and the chemistry profile of the marques. Once you have done this, you decide on the best artistic combination of the marques.”

A Celebrated Career

  • In 2005, Joy was honoured by the Government of Jamaica, when she was awarded the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer for her service to industry. The Order was conferred on her at the Annual National Honours and Awards Ceremony held in Jamaica.
  • In 2011 Joy received the Rum Experience Pioneer’s Award for outstanding rum achievement at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards.
  • In September 2012 Joy received an honorary Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Loughborough in recognition of her contribution to the distilled spirits industry and the advancement of women in the eld. In November 2012, Joy also received a honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from the University of the West Indies.
  • In 2014, she was honored by the International Spirits Challenge who presented her with the “Outstanding Contribution” Award.
  • In 2016, she was named the Most Influential Rum Blender of the last 10 Years at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards.
  • In 2017, Joy was awarded the honor of the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander (CD) by the Government of Jamaica in recognition of her contribution to the promotion of Jamaica’s rum industry and Brand Jamaica globally. 

Congratulations to Joy Spence, J. Wray & Nephew, Campari Group, and all those who helped make the Joy Spence Appleton Rum Experience possible. Cheers!

Tags: Project Spotlight

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