JRA and Appleton Estate Serve Up a Mouthwatering Rum Attraction

January 23, 2018

A journey along the twisting roads of Jamaica's wild and beautiful South Coast brings you to a dramatic landscape in shifting tones of green. Waving stalks of cane spread like a blanket under the craggy hills of the famed Cockpit Country. It already feels as though you've been transported to another time.

This is the Nassau Valley, home of the renowned Appleton Estate - Jamaica's oldest sugar estate and rum producer in continuous production, with its origins stretching back to 1749. A voyage into the captivating history of this amazing place and its incredible rums awaits. 

Thirty years after the opening of Appleton Estate's original visitor center in 1988, the attraction has recently received a dramatic, $7.2 million facelift that was planned, designed and realized in partnership with JRA over a six-year period. Reborn as the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience, the attraction, which is four times the size of the original visitor center, features tasting rooms, an expansive outdoor tour, a restaurant,lounge, jerk pit, and theatre. The new moniker pays homage to J. Wray & Nephew's master blender, Joy Spence - the first woman in the spirits industry to hold that title.

Upon arrival at the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience, visitors receive a warm greeting and are lead into the Welcome Centre, a luxurious fusion of rustic wood and contemporary style. Guests are treated to a complimentary cocktail at the Welcome Bar: a soothing blend of Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum and ginger beer aptly named the Stormy Valley.

From here, a knowledgeable tour guide carries visitors along a path back in time.

The tour begins in the elegant in-house theatre, with a brief video, which offers an engaging window into the history of rum and the Appleton Estate, whetting the appetite to learn more.

Following a path through the beautifully landscaped grounds, tour-goers continue their journey through history, starting in the 1600s with a glimpse at how juice was once extracted from sugar cane.

Visitors then pass through a building made from marrying vat wood, well over 150 years old, housing various fascinating artifacts that showcase the Appleton Estate's history, before sampling the delicious rum punch found only at the Estate.

The guide deftly leads guests through more interesting stops, explaining about the cane grown on the Estate, and how the water used in the rum-making process is filtered through the limestone hills of the Cockpit Country.

Visitors learn about the sugar production process and how we move from cane to cup, producing some of the finest rum in the world. The tour is a sensory experience; guests taste succulent sugar cane and have a chance to extract its juice themselves using a 17th-century method. A refreshing glass of chilled sugar cane juice is followed by a sampling of wet sugar (molasses and sugar crystals).

After seeing a panoramic view of the stunning Nassau Valley from an observation tower, visitors move on to explore the processes of fermentation and distillation. In the distillery, they discover the traditional distillation method in use since 1749 using copper pot stills unique to the Estate, giving their rums its distinctive character. The journey of discovery moves into one of the Estate's ageing houses, where rums age to perfection in oak barrels. Here tour-goers learn about the Appleton Estate Jamaica Independence Reserve, a 50-year-aged rum of which only 800 bottles were made, and the Prime Ministers' Reserve, which will be available in 2062!

The tour concludes in the Tasting Rooms, where visitors sample three exquisite premium Appleton Estate blends - Signature Blend, Reserve Blend, and Rare Blend 12-Year-Old - and learn how to critically analyse rums.

Following the tour, lunch is available at the inviting Black River Lounge, an earthy yet sophisticated space. Delicious Jamaican dishes are prepared with finesse by the chef using locally sourced ingredients. Of course, there are a variety of delectable rum cocktails to be savored.

As they prepare to leave, phones and cameras brimming with enviable selfies and group shots in front of the many picture-perfect spots, visitors pass through the gift shop, where Appleton Estate Jamaica rums and merchandise are available for purchase.

Once back outside, a stop at the Estate's community vendor area is the perfect way to round out an amazing visit. Here guests will have the opportunity to purchase fruits, spices and some craft items from talented local farmers and artisans, ensuring that they leave the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience with not only a greater appreciation for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rums, but for the warmth and flavor of the heart of Jamaica.

Videos courtesy J. Wray & Nephew, Ltd.

Tags: Project Spotlight

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!

Photo Gallery: A Spirited Celebration of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience

January 23, 2018

J. Wray & Nephew Ltd. served up a party to celebrate the official opening of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience (JS-AERE) in picturesque Siloah, Jamaica. Named for Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, the first woman in the world to hold that title, the newly renovated attraction welcomed over 400 guests to its opening party, including government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, local celebrities and influencers, as well as international and local media.

Here's a look at the festivities:

What would a party be without music? From the opening remarks to the tour to the tasting, visitors were taken on a multi-sensory adventure - hearing, seeing, feeling, and tasting the essence of the Appleton Estate experience while being exposed to the complexity and sophistication that is embodied by the brand.

Serving as Master of Ceremonies for the celebration was Fae Ellington, Jamaican lecturer and media personality best known for her 10-year stint as host of the JBC television series, "Morning Time".

Chairman of J. Wray & Nephew Limited, Clement "Jimmy" Lawrence, credited JRA with bringing the warmth of the brand to life: "Campari Group’s vision to expand and indeed upgrade the home of Appleton resulted in an investment of US$ 7.2 Million Dollars being poured into the project. The new JS-AERE will allow visitors to feel and taste the essence of Appleton whilst learning about the complexity and sophistication of rum. The project is truly a testament of what happens when Jamaican talent partners with international know-how, We are pleased with JRA's interpretation of our concept."

Master Blender at J. Wray & Nephew Limited, Dr. Joy Spence (right), poses for a snapshot with the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism. Bartlett has called JS-AERE a "game changer for tourism" along the south coast of Jamaica. The attraction expects to quadruple its visitors to an astounding 200,000 annually.

Open for business! Participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony is the woman of the moment, Dr. Joy Spence, as well as, from left: Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, His Excellency, Amanda Varricchio, Ambassador of Italy to Jamaica, Luca Garavoglia, Chairman of the Campari Group, Bob Kunze-Concewitz, CEO of Campari Group, and Chairman of J. Wray & Nephew Limited, Clement “Jimmy” Lawrence.

Guests enjoy a complimentary "Stormy Valley" (rum and ginger beer cocktail) in the new welcome theatre at the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience.

Raising their glasses at the official opening of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience are from left: Chairman of J. Wray & Nephew Limited, Clement “Jimmy” Lawrence, the Hon. Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance, the Hon. Fayval Williams, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance & Public Service, Bob Kunze-Concewitz, CEO of Campari Group, Debbian Spence-Minott, Senior Manager for the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience & JWN Academy, His Excellency, Amanda Varricchio, Ambassador of Italy to Jamaica, Luca Garavoglia, Chairman of the Campari Group, and the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism. 

So there you have it - an opening celebration that really shook things up. J. Wray & Nephew, Ltd., The Campari Group, and JRA welcome you to The Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience, a truly captivating historical journey from cane to cup. Cheers!

Tags: Project Spotlight

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!

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

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!

Mars, Cars, Photography and Illusion: JRA's 2017 So Far

July 05, 2017

Greetings, readers! Hard to believe that 2017 is already halfway done. It's been a great six months for JRA - opening new projects, celebrating milestones for "old" ones, and dropping a little knowledge on some of our favorite topics. But, as always, our favorite part has been visiting friends, clients and colleagues all over the world. Here's a look at the year so far:


Photo Courtesy Space Center Houston

After celebrating our award-winning collaboration on Independence Plaza last year, we opened our latest project with Space Center Houston: Mission Mars. The multi-million-dollar exhibit offers visitors the opportunity to peer inside an Orion spacecraft research model, stand close to a giant model rocket and walk on a virtual Mars environment. According to Ars Technica, "now anyone can get as close to Mars as any human will, any time soon, by visiting [Space Center Houston]."

The JRA Studio gets a facelift! After 10 years of "tough love", visitors to the studio now see new paint, carpeting and artwork, all providing what JRA Art Director David Ferguson calls a "more jubilant look in our workplace, making our work environment as cutting edge as our attitude."


LaunchPAD Executive Director, Bob Fitch, and board member, Regina Roth, celebrate the museum's first birthday with a superhero-themed party. 

LaunchPAD Children's Museum celebrates its 1st anniversary. The Sioux City, Iowa museum, which anticipated 50,000 visitors in its inaugural, enjoyed attendance of over 93,000! It also positioned itself as a cultural anchor for the community, providing a much needed source of family fun for the Siouxland area. "LaunchPAD is improving the quality fo life for families in Sioux City and the entire region," said Bob Fitch, Executive Director. "LaunchPAD is proud to be Siouxland's champion for educational play and discovery!"

JRA Director of Communications, Clara Rice, enjoys a mini-speaking tour for the Themed Entertainment Association, moderating a panel on "Working in China" at the inaugural TEATalks LIVE in Orlando and presenting "Breaking Barriers: How to Attract and Retain Creative Talent" at the Creative Economy Conference in Schenectady, New York. 


The 23,000-square foot Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) crosses the finish line at the Daytona International Motor Speedway. MSHFA is the only hall fame that encompasses the full spectrum of American motorsports, from cars to motorcycles, powerboats to airplanes.  The sports attraction celebrates the "Heroes of Horsepower" and the core values embodied in racing. Designer Rachel Daheim offers a unique perspective on seeing her designs for MSHFA come to life. 

Photo Courtesy King Abdullah Foundation

The "King Abdullah: Values and Wisdom" traveling exhibit begins its tour of Saudi Arabia. The exhibit, a collaboration between JRA the King Abdullah Foundation, the History Factory, and Brand Experience, features artifacts, photographs and videos honoring the late ruler and his virtues of justice, peace and humanity. Welcoming 5,000 visitors daily, the 50-square-meter traveling exhibit provides a glimpse of the preparations underway for a major exhibition in 2018. 


Keith James, Chloe Hausfeld and dozens of other attraction industry delegates travel to Washington, D.C. as part of IAAPA's US Advocacy Days. The event enables US-based members to meet with members of the US Congress and advocate for or against pressing issues affecting the US attractions industry. Check out Chloe's recap. 

The Eastman Kodak Company selects JRA to provide complete planning, design and project management for its new Kodak Experience Center, located at Kodak's corporate headquarters in Rochester, New York. The Center, scheduled to open mid-2018, will feature a refreshed lobby, an exhibit area highlighting many of Kodak's innovations, a cafe featuring new Kodak products alongside vintage artifacts, and a retail space offering the latest Kodak products. 

Photo Courtesy SPAM Museum

The SPAM Museum celebrates its first anniversary, and a wedding! SPAM fanatic and Liverpuddlian Mark I Love SPAM Benson and his fiancee Anne Mosley said 'I do' at the Austin, Minnesota museum, surrounded by iconic canned meat memorabilia. The reception featured SPAM colored roses, a SPAM-themed wedding cake, and of course, SPAMatizers. 


JRA Designer Rachel Daheim (2nd from right) poses with recipients of the ACM Small Museums Scholarship.

"Fun is serious business" at the 2017 InterActivity Conference in Pasadena, California. For the ninth year in a row, JRA sponsors the Association of Children's Museums' Small Museums Financial Aid Program. The program, founded by JRA in 2008, provides small museum professionals with complimentary registrations to ACM's InterActivity Conference. Meet this year's recipients here


"The Mind's Eye: An Exhibition on Illusions and Human Perception" opens at Science Centre Singapore during the week of IAAPA's Asian Attractions Expo. This entry gallery to the Centre features dozens of enigmatic exhibits that reveal just how the human mind and senses can deceive, with illusions of sound and sight carefully selected to delight, engage and confound visitors. JRA and Science Centre Singapore celebrated the opening with a lavish launch party at the Centre and a packed press conference in JRA's booth at the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo. 

Phew, what a year! This is only the beginning of an exciting 2017 for JRA as we celebrate 30 years of planning, designing, and implementing entertainment, cultural and branded experiences all over the world. So be sure to visit this blog for the latest updates, and we look forward to seeing you on the road!

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!

The Mind's Eye Generates Buzz, Press Coverage at Asian Attractions Expo

June 19, 2017

"The Mind's Eye", an exhibition on illusions and human perception, opened at Science Centre Singapore this week just in time for the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo. The gallery launched with great fanfare via two press conferences and a public launch party and is already generating plenty of media buzz. 

"The Mind's Eye" features 30 exhibits that capture the imagination of the visitor and explore the science behind optical illusions. The curated pieces, featuring artists from around the globe, manipulate how humans observe and make sense of objects and environments and challenge them to reconsider what is real and unreal. JRA provided planning, concept and schematic design for the gallery. Also featured in the exhibiton is "Mr. Crackitt's Light Fantastic", a mirror maze attraction produced by Adrian Fisher Design Limited that is touted as the largest mirror maze in Asia. 

L-to-R: Augustus Goh (SPACElogic), Adrian Fisher (Adrian Fisher Design Ltd.), A/Prof Lim Tit Meng (Science Centre Singapore) and Keith James (JRA)

Keith James welcomes the crowd at "The Mind's Eye" Launch Party.

Dozens of friends, fans and colleagues attended "The Mind's Eye" Launch Party at Science Centre Singapore. 

Over a dozen media outlets attended Tuesday's press conference, with many dozens more attending the evening launch party. Wednesday morning, the JRA booth and surrounding aisles of the Asian Attractions Expo show floor were packed with press representatives, IAAPA board members, curious onlookers and even Singapore's Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ms. Low Yen Ling. Members of the creative team, including JRA's Shawn McCoy and Keith James, as well as Science Centre Singapore Chief Executive, Lim Tit Meng, welcomed the crowd and spoke to the educational message behind the entertaining exhibition. "Understanding that you can learn if you play is a critical function," said James.

IAAPA Board Executives, "The Mind's Eye" team members, and even Singapore's Senior Parliamentary Secretary pose for a group photo before the press conference at the Asian Attractions Expo.

Media and curious onlookers packed the booth and filled the aisles for "The Mind's Eye" press conference at the Asian Attractions Expo. 

The various events have led to over two dozen articles published in local, national, and international news outlets, and according to the Science Centre, The Mind's Eye and Mr. Crackitt's Light Fantastic "are drawing immense interest from the media, and we are getting flooded with requests and inquiries." Here's a small sampling of the press had to say, but don't take our word for it. Come see for yourself! 

Want more pics? Check out our Facebook page for photos from all three of this week's "The Mind's Eye" events. 


Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!