Wed | Nov 13, 2019

Joyful Blend - The Making of a Joyful Blend

Published:Thursday | January 24, 2019 | 12:09 AM
Appleton Estate’s master blender, Joy Spence.
Asif Ahmad having spirited conversations during lunch.
Joy Spence presenting Ahmad with the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Pioneering Award at the recent RJRGLEANER Sportsman and Sportswoman gala.

Ahead of the 2019 staging of the annual RJRGLEANER Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman Awards, Appleton Estate’s master blender Joy Spence sat down to lunch with the British High Commissioner to Jamaica, Asif Ahmad, CMG. Ahmad was the first recipient of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Pioneering Award, conferred to the guest speaker in honour of the legendary Joy Spence, a pioneer in the spirits industry by being the world’s first female master blender. His Excellency Asif Ahmad was presented with a special blend, handcrafted by the master blender herself, with tasting notes to complement his personality.

“Creating a new blend is both science and art,” shares Joy Spence of the process. “Before you start creating a rum, you have to have an overall vision of what type of rum you want to create – do you want to make a rum that is going to be great for making cocktails or will it be a complex sipping rum?”

His Excellency shared that it was in Jamaica that he was introduced to the sipping quality of golden aged rums.

“Very few persons know that rum could be enjoyed neat. I visited with Chris Blackwell and he offered it neat,” he shared. Laughing, he recalls: “At first, I was a bit worried but I found it very pleasant to drink. I would equate it with a glass of whisky.”

A globally recognised purveyor of golden aged rums, the legend behind Appleton Estate’s variants confirmed this observation. Spence explains that over the years, there has been an increase in sales in the premium-aged category of rums owing to the smoothness, complexity, and depth of flavour characterising aged rums, on par with traditional sipping spirits.


Next in the blending process is determining the flavour profile. “Do you want a rum that has rich vanilla and oak notes or one that has more fruity and spicy notes –this determines the types of rums that are selected,” Spence further explains of the process.

If a special blend is being developed for an individual, then their personality traits play a role in flavour selection. For the British high commissioner’s one-of-a-kind blend, his bold, passionate, caring, and charismatic personality provided insights for flavour selection in the blend.

Once the flavour profile has been established, prototype development begins using different rums of varying styles, types and ages. The prototype that matches the overall vision is selected as the new blend. The final product presented to His Excellency is comparable to any fine Scotch or cognac, owing to the depth of flavour, combination of aged rums, and the elegance of its profile.

“The special Appleton Estate blend created for the British High Commissioner is an elegant sipping rum with rich vanilla, coffee, cocoa, and almond notes intertwined with hints of orange and ginger. Although the youngest rum in the blend is 12 years, the oldest rum in the blend is 30 years old,” describes Spence.

The task of blending rums is a craft that has been honed with great skill, passion, and artistry by Spence, who notes that it is a very sensory exercise. Blending is a delicate art that can be mastered by a select few bestowed with an excellent palate and an organoleptic talent; the ability to distinguish between the hundreds of aromas that make up a rum’s profile. The nose of a master blender is key to creating fantastic flavour combinations, while building consistency and quality into the blending process.

Throughout her decades-long career, Joy Spence has created numerous special blends, the most memorable of which were those created for President Reagan, Prince William, and Prince Harry.

His Excellency Asif Ahmad, who was the first foreign diplomat to speak at the awards ceremony, shared that he was “really and truly honoured” to be presented with his very own custom blend of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, created at the hands of the living legend and pioneer, master blender Joy Spence.