Cane to Cocktail: Master Blender Joy Spence

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The highlight of my Cane to Cocktail tour of Jamaica was the opportunity to experience a slice of island living with Appleton Estate Master Blender, Joy Spence, and to savour the rums she created with her there to discuss the science and the craft that goes into making them.

So, my visit to distillery (as mentioned in the preceding post of this series) wasn’t all that special. I don’t get me wrong; I loved it. I’m just saying it’s something that’s open to the public and one of the top attractions in Jamaica. What made my time distillery so extraordinary was having Master Blender Joy Spence as guide.

With Bachelor of Science degree, First Class Honours, from the University of the West Indies and a Master of Science degree in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Loughborough (her exam scores remain the ever of a Loughborough student to this day), Joy joined the Appleton Estate as Chief Chemist in 1981 and was appointed to the position of Master Blender in 1997. The achievement was a first for a woman in the spirits industry.

Over the nearly 20 years she’s been Master Blender, Joy has created a number of rums for Appleton Estate, including its Reserve Blend and Rare Blend 12 Year Old as well as limited editions like the 30 Year Old Jamaica Rum, the 250th Anniversary Blend, and the 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum-Jamaica Independence Reserve. I had the pleasure of sipping a few of these blends during the trip (and a few others over the past several years). This lady knows her stuff! Coupled with her background and expertise in chemistry is Joy’s phenomenal sense of taste and smell.

She (not to mention the whole team at Appleton) also knows how to be an exceptionally gracious host.

I actually had met Joy once in 2006 (or maybe 2007) at a tiki-inspired (and rum drenched) weekend festival in London. She had this no nonsense yet easing going air about her. A sort of cool confidence was still very much evident this second time when I was reintroduced to her on her home turf. I was impressed she even remembered me (vaguely) from back then. I never would have imagined a decade later I’d be cruising around Jamaica with Joy and a small crew of drinks writers. Travelling across Jamaica with Joy’s commentary, drinking rums she blended with her facilitating the discussion about their flavour profiles – wow!

Keep an eye out for one more post as I wind down my Cane to Cocktail series about my tour of Jamaica with Appleton Estate.

About tikichris

London-Based Writer/Photographer

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