‘Rum Experience’ ready to roll - Wray & Nephew pushing on with improved estate tour despite delay in rail plans
Visitors can expect a world-class, one-of-a-kind encounter when the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience kicks off on January 18 at the multimillion-dollar renovated and rebranded St Elizabeth-based facility.
For more than 265 years, J. Wray & Nephew has produced authentic premium rums using time-honoured traditions passed from generation to generation, and now the company is moving things to another level, blending digital technology and Jamaican expertise with age-old craftsmanship.
"We're talking about a premium experience here, which is what the Appleton Estate brand is," Clement 'Jimmy' Lawrence, chairman of Wray & Nephew Limited, told The Sunday Gleaner.
Resumption of passenger rail service from Montego Bay, St James, planned as an integral part of the new tour, has been delayed, but Lawrence said plans for the tour are proceeding apace and the facility is about 98 per cent complete.
After disembarking from the train or tour bus in the massive parking lot, visitors will be guided to a beautifully adorned, exquisitely furnished 'Welcome Centre' with free Wi-Fi on tap, as well as the obligatory welcome drink. After snapping and posting 'selfies' the group will then head to the theatre, which Chairman Lawrence was happy to talk about.
WORK OF ART
"It's a work of art that can seat up to 50 persons, and remember, these are groups coming in so as one group exits another can enter. Then you have the various stations history, field stations and fermentation, a whole slew of stations that explain the (brewing) process."
The experience is further heightened with a visit to the lookout tower from which the beautiful, historically and environmentally significant important Cockpit Country and cane fields can be viewed.
"Then you continue on and get into the distillery, and we've done a lot of investment in terms of the distillery and don't ask me how much. I'm not going give you any investment numbers but we've definitely upgraded. Then they'll get back into the ageing house, which is where the magic happens in terms of the transformation of the rums into finely aged spirits," Lawrence volunteered.
"Then they'll continue and get back into the main building, where they'll get into the tasting rooms. Now this where they'll put their lips to the rums and understand the rums, and this is the magic of Joy Spence who you know is the first female spirits master blender globally, and that will be explained to them."
From the four classic tasting rooms (one VIP) the journey continues to the dining room, which in the eyes of the Wray & Nephew chairman is "absolutely exquisite".
"We have, I think, the best jerk pit in Jamaica. I kid you not. Don't take my word for it, and the dining room is absolutely exquisite," gushed Lawrence. Not surprisingly, there will be a very well-stocked bar with a range of Appleton liquor to complement the fine cuisine.
Having sated themselves, visitors then have the option of satisfying their thirst for the Appleton range of fine premium spirits, which they can purchase from the large retail store. Still for those with an interest in local art, the company has set up a craft market in a separate building just across from the parking lot, where they can access items created by local artisans.
For Lawrence, the still-incomplete facility already counts as mission accomplished.
"I feel very, very proud about what we're doing, and going full circle that is why we need to have the railway because that railway experience is going to be a huge part of the total package," added Lawrence.