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.