Being the first female Master Blender in the spirits industry is not an accolade to take lightly, but it isn’t the only one Joy Spence holds. She’s held that role for Jamaican premium aged rum producers, Appleton Estate, over the past 20 years, having climbed from being Chief Chemist under the tutelage of the estate’s previous Master Blender, Owen Tulloch. She was also awarded the Honour of Distinction by the Jamaican government for her tireless efforts creating premium aged rums.

Before one appreciates an Appleton Estate rum, one needs to understand how Joy Spence has formed the backbone of their production across the past two decades. She is involved in every step of the way, from the distillation, the ageing, to the bottling, and her expertise finds itself in every expression the producers release. For the chemistry-doctorate holder, crafting rums is the perfect union between science and art.

appleton estate joy anniversary blend
Spence with her pride and joy.

To honour her efforts, Appleton Estate invited her to craft a signature rum, known as the Joy Anniversary Blend. This is a blended rum, with the youngest aged at 25 years old, and the oldest at 35. “The 35 year old was especially symbolic, since that was the age I joined the company,” said Spence, during a conversation we had on her first visit to Singapore.

The blend itself is incredibly syrupy, almost vivacious, if one could say that of a rum. Aged in Number One Select American oak barrels, you get distinct hints of chocolate and vanilla that meld perfectly with the orange peel top notes brought forth by having been distilled in 100 percent copper pot stills. It’s so viscous, you could almost chew the golden liquid to get down to the butterscotch, toffee, and toasted almond notes that envelop the palette. Each sip leaves behind the smooth aftertaste of brown sugar that just lingers.

appleton estate joy anniversary blend
Spence wanted the bottle to be rounded, inspired by the curves on a Jamaican woman’s body. There’s also a unique Appleton Estate logo with emblems that celebrate Jamaica on the case and bottle.

Those used to having rum in a cocktail might not be accustomed to having the spirit neat, but if you know how to approach whisky or fine wine, Spence reckons you’re right on track.

“The first thing to look at is the body of the rum, because we can classify rums into light, medium and full-bodied. Full-bodied rums are those that have been aged for a very long time. Identify how the legs move in the glass, as this tells you how old it is. Then, move on to the aromas, and try to nose the complexity. Sometimes, you’ll be able to detect any off-odours. The taste should be smooth, with a finish that has a hint of molasses,” she explains.

Spence also recommends that you sip the Joy Anniversary Blend with a bite of dark chocolate to bring out the cocoa in the rum.

appleton estate joy anniversary blend
Everything that goes into an Appleton Estate rum is grown and harvested from the estate itself, from the natural spring water, to the sugarcane.

The thing about Appleton Estate rums is that they stand a cut above a number of mass market rums that fly the Jamaican flag. Unlike some brands that choose to spike their rum with added sugar syrup or flavourings and still tout them as pure rums, all the flavours one finds in an Appleton Estate are the result of their ageing and distillation processes, as it should be. With most Jamaican rums aged for about 4 to 5 years before bottling, having something as exquisitely mature as the Joy Anniversary Blend is something else.

Premium aged rums might not face the same fervour and staunch dedication as Scotch, but it is one of the hottest spirit categories of the moment. Something like the Joy Anniversary Blend doesn’t just stand at the pinnacle of a solid investment, but also a fantastic rum to enjoy should you want to broaden your spirit horizons.

The Joy Anniversary Blend can be purchased from Metadesign Group at S$380++. Those interested can contact Alicia Cheang at aliciaC@metadesign-group.com or +65 9455 5580.

Beatrice Bowers
Features Editor
Beatrice Bowers writes about beauty, drinks, and other nice things. When not bound to her keyboard, she moonlights as a Niffler for novels and can be found en route to bankruptcy at your nearest bookstore. Don't tell her boss.