Joy Spence dreamed of being a
scientist from the early age of 13.
Never did she imagine, however,
that her love of chemistry would lead her down an unusual career path – the
science of rum.
As the master blender at Appleton
Estate, the oldest rum company in Jamaica, Joy spends her days immersed in the
process of creating rum. She oversees every batch of rum that leaves the
estate, and is the brains behind many of Appleton Estate’s most popular blends.
It is a job that demands creativity, dedication and, of course, chemistry, and
Joy has all three in spades.
“I absolutely never saw myself as
a master blender, but I love the job,” says Joy, who joined Appleton Estate in
1981 as chief chemist after teaching chemistry at both university and high
school. “The chief chemist works very closely with the master blender, and I
became fascinated by the blending process. I learnt the skills of blending and
the creativity behind it.”
In 1997, following the retirement
of her mentor, Owen Tulloch, Joy was promoted to master blender. She was the
first female in the world to have ever held this position.
“I couldn’t believe it when I
found out I was the first female in spirit blending,” Joy says. “I felt proud
of my achievement, especially as a Jamaican woman, because we’re such a small
island. I’m really proud of this.”
Joy’s journey to master blender
began at the University of the West Indies, where she graduated with a Bachelor
of Science, First-Class Honours in 1972. Four years later, Joy decided to
pursue a Master of Science in Analytical Chemistry at the University of
Loughborough, in England. When it came to creating rum, however, Joy’s training
was on the job, a process that took 16 years. From the moment she started her
tutelage, Joy knew she had discovered her passion.
“You really don’t have to have
formal training to be a master blender,” explains Joy. “You need to know about
the myriad types of rum and how they interact, you have to know about the
blending process. Rums can be very complex. In our Appleton Estate Reserve,
there are 20 different blends of rum, so it takes a long time to discover how
they all interact.
“I think I hit the right note when
I started the job,” Joy continues. “I thought, this is how I want to use my
creativity and my [knowledge of] chemistry.”
In addition to blazing a path for
women around the world, Joy loves being a part of the tradition of Appleton
Estate. Situated in Jamaica’s breathtaking Nassau Valley, Appleton Estate has
been handcrafting rums since 1749, and is synonymous with the country’s
“The Appleton Estate V/X and
Appleton Estate 21-Year-Old blends were created by the former master blender
[Owen Tulloch],” says Joy, whose favourite cocktail is Appleton Estate V/X and
Ting. “But I created the rest of the products; the Appleton Estate Reserve,
Appleton Estate Master’s Blender Legacy Rum, Appleton Estate Exclusive
[available only at Appleton Estate in Jamaica] and the Appleton Estate
30-Year-Old. These are my babies.
“I’m proud to be part of the
history of Appleton Estate. Rum is part of our culture in the Caribbean. We
have a saying in Jamaica about rum, ‘from the cradle to the grave’.”
Since Joy became the first female
master blender, more women have begun to join the spirit industry. Yet, she
would like to see more females chose this career path. Joy believes women have
heightened sensory abilities that set them apart in the male-dominated world of
Joy’s creativity and love of
chemistry propelled her to the top of Jamaica’s rum industry. Yet, how does she
maintain her passion for her profession on a day to day basis?
“I love meeting all our customers
and passing on my knowledge,” Joy says of her dedication to her job. “I believe
in achieving whatever is required of me. Excellence is my hallmark.”
We’ll toast to that.
creativity and love of chemistry propelled her to the top of Jamaica’s rum
A Slice of Paradise
centuries, forgers have attempted to copy the works of the great masters.
Today, the same holds true for Tortuga’s Rum Cake. Founded in 1984, Tortuga Rum
Company began with a blend of rums from Jamaica and Barbados. The rum was a hit
with visitors to the islands, as well as with locals. Three years later,
Tortuga Rum Company added the now world-famous rum cake to their line of
The generations’ old cake recipe
uses a generous amount of the premium five year old Tortuga Gold rum. In 1990,
Tortuga Rum opened a 1700 square-foot bakery in Cayman and again expanded in
1997 to open operations in Miami to handle worldwide distribution of their
products. Since the very first appearance of Tortuga Rum Cake, thousands of
people have tried, unsuccessfully, to replicate it. Devotees have come close,
posting their attempts as ‘Almost Tortuga Rum Cake’. With many flavours to
choose from, the original Tortuga Rum Cake is still the most popular.
Rum received prestigious awards two consecutive years at the Caribbean Rum
Tasting Contest in Barbados. Tortuga Coconut Rum took an award in the same
contest in 1997. Tortuga Light Rum won a silver medal, placing second in 1998.
Blackbeard’s Rum was first
produced in 1986. Starting with special filtered water, the rum is aged using
oak before being bottled and capped by hand. Blackbeard’s Rum is also the
essential ingredient in Blackbeard’s RumCakes. There are seven different rum
varieties to choose from: Dark, Gold, Spiced, White, Coconut, Banana and 151.
Dreaming Caribbean Gold Rum
3/4 oz Blackbeard’s Gold Rum
1/12 oz Bols Blue Curacao
1 1/2 oz Bols Melon
3/4 oz Coconut Cream
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
Fill a shaker with ice, add
melon, gold rum, and pineapple juice. Shake until well chilled and strain into
old fashioned llass filled with ice. Rinse shaker, fill.
Sandy Glass Crack Banana Rum
1 oz Blackbeard’s Banana Rum
1 oz Bols Peach Schnapps
6 oz Pineapple Juice
2 oz Orange Juice
1 Tbsp Coconut Cream
Blend with ice in a blender
Serve in a hurricane glass
and garnish with orange slice.
Cooler Dark Rum
3/4 oz Blackbeard’s Dark Rum
1/2 oz Blackbeard’s Spiced
1 oz Coconut Cream
2 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
Shake all ingredients and
strain into a collins glass filled with crushed ice.
Garnish with a pineapple