Appleton Estate Rum Tour Jamaica
A Taste of Jamaica with Appleton Estate Rum Tour
From sugar cane fields to bars around the world; Jamaica’s Appleton Estate Rum is one of the oldest and most beloved spirits worldwide. And the Appleton Estate Rum Tour is but a small gateway into the making of a premium delicacy that is crafted in the valleys of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.
This little island of mine, Jamaica, is well known for many things. Fastest man in the world? Check. The creators and originators of some of the most well-known and beloved music and musicians. Double Check. Home to some of the most succulent and well-seasoned delicacies in the world? Oh yes! That is a big check right there. A nation blessed with some of the most breath-taking views and instagram worthy scenery? Quadruple infinity check! Do you want to come to Jamaica yet? But one thing that we aren’t always noticed for is our rum. If you didn’t know this before; let me start off by saying in this country we are rum people!
Okay so truth be told, I’m not really a rum person. I’m more of a beer, moscato, wine, and flavoured vodka kind of girl. But a little rum never killed nobody. In fact, in some places, rum is the answer to everything. Baby can’t fall asleep, tip a little rum in their milk. Aches and pains, rub a little rum all over your body. Feeling cold and want something to warm you up? Rum again. Double shot stat! You see where I’m going with this right? Rum is a global answer to many of life’s daily troubles. So after hearing about the rum tour for ages, I decided to add the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience to my 2019 Adventure List and dubbed it one of my must do adventures for this year.
Home to one of the oldest distilleries in the world. As well as having the pleasure of boasting the presence of the first female Master Blender in the world, Joy Spence; the Appleton Estate is a signature in the Jamaican spirit market. From the hills of Nassau Valley, the Appleton Estate rum production has been in operation since 1749, even though some mark as early as 1655 as the origin point for this distillery operation.
How to get there:
Normally I begin my reviews giving you some sort of details and directions as to how to get there. Today is not one of those days. This road trip saw me mainly following google maps and to be honest I wasn't really paying as close attention to the journey as I normally would. Maybe because it was just so bush with not many standout locations to use as markers. Anyhow, if you follow google maps it should get you there quick enough. Though I'm convinced that there's a faster route than the one google showed me. Overall, it was around two and a half hours long journey Kingston to St. Elizabeth; where the Appleton Estate Rum Factory is located. One notable thing about the trip was there is an abundance of signs that guided you so you knew you were on the right track.
The Appleton Estate Rum Tour Experience:
I arrived at the estate at around 2 pm and ended up being on one of the last, if not the last tour of the day. On arrival to the Appleton Estate you are greeted by a welcoming staff. And after receiving your entry armband at the front desk; you will be guided to the bar in the lobby where you will be given a welcome drink. My drink was the Jamaican classic, rum punch. The drink was a bit strong but a very delectable way to start a tour if I do say so myself. Yummy!
The wait time between tours do vary. But, as you await the start of the tour, you tend to feel a sense of excitement mixed with calm in the lobby. The free drinks also have something to do with that. :D
The Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience is an approximately 2 hour long tour of the rum factory which begins with a 10 minute video presentation boasting the rich history of the estate and the qualities that makes the spirit such a delectable part of Jamaica's heritage. The presentation also introduces you to the master blender herself, Joy Spence and gives you a little background information as to how she became the first female in the world to be appointed Master Blender in 1997.
I think by now you would have figured out that I have a deep love for history and learning especially about Jamaican history; especially after reading my posts on Fort Charles and the Green Grotto Caves. I love my culture and I try to take every opportunity to know as much about it as possible. The Appleton Estate is the oldest sugar production factory in Jamaica and the second oldest in the Caribbean. So this time warp tour was most definitely already shaping up to be a blissful experience.
This curated experience takes you on a walk through time (literal walking involved!); and showcases the intricate and intimate process of rum making of the then and the now. Post presentation we are escorted to the outer environs to begin the walking aspect of the tour. The interactive, guided tour through the history of the Appleton Estate saw our first stop being a demonstration of the first portions of the rum making process; the juicing of sugar cane.
Here we are introduced to the pre-industrialization method of using a donkey to extract the cane juice. The process showcased is a donkey-driven mill, where the sugar cane stalk is inserted into an extractor to which the donkey is attached via a rope. The donkey is then guided to walk in a circle, providing the energy needed to grind the sugar cane enough to squeeze and extract the juice. By the way, the donkey’s name is Paz.
After the donkey juice extraction demonstration, we are carted off to the history house which stored and displayed an impressive amount of tools and numerous artifacts used in the rum making process throughout the 260-year history of the estate. At this point, our well-versed and knowledgeable tour guide gave us more facts and tidbits about the Appleton Estate and the rum making process on a whole.
I don’t want to give too much more about what is involved in the tour because I honestly believe it’s an experience worth having at least once in a lifetime. But the tour involves taking you through each stage of the rum production process; including a visit to the distillery where the pot and column still production processes are explained.
The tour also involved participating in the human-operated mill and walking up to the viewing tower for a panoramic view of the property and the neighbouring mountains, hills, valleys and the Appleton Estate factory and distillery. The view from above was stunning and really captivating.
We were also carried to the aging house where the most premium rum in Jamaica is stored and allowed to mature to the palatable perfection that eventually reaches our tongues. The oldest aged rum being stored there is a 50 year old rum which is one of the oldest in the world. During the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, 800 bottles of the Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum (dubbed the Jamaica Independence Reserve) were produced and sold for a whopping US $5000 per bottle.
As we travel through each portion of the guided tour, we are giving the opportunity to taste test. From sugar cane juice to molasses and the natural sugar cane stalk. This felt like a little added brawta to the experience which really helped to enhance the experience.
The final part of the Appleton Estate rum tour involves tasting samples of the coveted Appleton Estate signature blends. To be honest, this is probably the portion of the tour that most people came for and look forward to the most. After touring the environs, you are carried to the tasting room to sample the goods. Served to us was a sample of their “Signature Blend”, “Reserve Blend” and a “Rare Reserve Blend 12 Years Old”.
Who knew drinking rum was such a process and meant to be an intimate experience?! Before sampling each type of rum available, we were given a quick masterclass in the art of drinking rum. Swirling, inhaling and looking up at the rum into the light to note the character of the rum were all a part of the enhanced experience. There was also a bottle of water available to cleanse the palate between tastings. The difference in the preparations and the complexity of the rums became more and more evident as I began to sample the different rum blends.
Once the tasting is finished, the tour is over. But before you leave, you are given a small souvenir bottle of the Appleton Signature Blend to take home as a memory keepsake.
On the way out, you can also check out the gift shop and purchase a branded souvenir item or two to cherish your moments on the estate.
What To Bring:
Sunscreen- the sun can be brutal
Camera - to capture the fantastic moments along the way
Insect Repellent - mosquitoes be gone!
Money to purchase souvenirs and keepsakes, and also to tip the guides if you want to
Comfortable shoes- there will be a whole lot of walking
Loose and comfortable clothing - again the sun can be brutal and you want to keep cool throughout the tour
Tours are held Mondays to Saturdays between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm. As mentioned before, each tour takes around 2 hours to be completed. A new tour leaves every half an hour to an hour. You’re able to make reservations through email or calling them; but walk-ins are also welcomed. The rum tour costs $30 USD or $2500 JMD to Jamaican residents with valid ID. There is also an onsite restaurant available if you want to grab a quick lunch. I never purchased anything there but I am told the menu is traditional Jamaican cuisine like jerk chicken, escoveitch fish, rice and peas; plus they also have vegetarian options.
Overall, the Appleton Estate Rum tour is a spectacular experience. It is not only informative, but just so happens to have a delicious end to a wonderful tour.
How about you? Have you ever been on the Appleton Estate rum tour? How did you find it? I would love to hear from you.