The year of Joy
It was all about 'Joy', but another three-letter word reigned supreme - fun. It was a fun-filled afternoon when guests gathered at the Terra Nova All-Suite hotel in St Andrew to celebrate the 20-year journey of the world's first female master blender - J. Wray & Nephew's Joy Spence.
The ceremony began with welcome remarks by chairman of J. Wray & Nephew, Clement 'Jimmy' Lawrence, who broke out in song - a fitting one for the season - 'Joy to the world'. It was only the beginning of the play on Spence's name.
Lawrence noted that Spence was a phenomenal woman, dear to the hearts of everyone at the company with which she has worked for 35 years. He said she has created some of the finest rum the world has ever known.
The celebration of the world's first female master blender will go well beyond a one-off luncheon. According to Catherine McDonald, global brand PR manger, 2017 will be the 'Year of Joy'.
The global plan will comprise three components. For 'Appleton Estate Taste', Spence will partner with a Jamaican chef to create Jamaican-inspired recipes paired with Applteon Estate premium rums to be used around the world. 'Celebrate' which will be launched on National Women's Day, will have Spence mentoring female bartenders from markets around the world. And finally, Spence will be travelling to more than 12 countries to spread 'The Joy of Rum'.
Wife of the prime minister and member of Parliament, Juliet Holness said it best when she noted that athletics has Usain Bolt, tennis has Serena Williams, and Appleton Estate has Joy Spence - a woman who has made her passion for arts and science into a beautiful career.
As 'Joyful' as the afternoon was, there were also tears aplenty. They began when Spence's daughter, Tracy-Ann, took to the podium to speak about 'Joy the mother'. She spoke of her mother, the perfectionist, who puts others before herself. She noted that her mother brings so much 'Joy' to the people she interacts with, and though her mother is very humble, she is very proud of her and shows off enough for both of them. Tears flowed as she left the stage and embraced her.
Though she admitted that following a daughter was a hard thing to do, Dr Novelette McKnight brought her fair share of tears as she spoke of the teacher who changed her life forever.
A toast with the first rum created by the master blender in 1999 to celebrate Appleton Estate's 50th anniversary followed.
This just improved the spirit in the room. It was indeed a remarkable occasion for a remarkable woman.
In her response, Spence noted, "Where I am is due to the foundation laid by my parents who taught me to put my heart, mind and soul into even the smallest actions and success will be my reward. I am sorry they are not alive to share this special moment with me." She summed up her 20 years as Master Blender to Outlook in one word - passionate.