World's oldest rum sells 300 bottles, 500 to go
Spirits company J. Wray & Nephew Limited on Wednesday revealed that it sold the equivalent of US$1.5 million (J$135m) worth of its premium reserve rum, aged 50 years to mark Jamaica's golden jubilee.
Just 800 bottles were made available for sale internationally.
Concurrently, the company gathered all nine prime ministers or their representatives to launch another batch of 50-year-old rum set for 2062 release when Jamaica celebrates its centenary.
"Since we unveiled it in June, of the 800 bottles available worldwide we have already shipped out nearly 300," said Paul Henriques, managing director of Wray & Nephew, speaking at the ceremony to mark the barrelling of the 2062 batch held at the company's Kingston head offices.
The Jamaica 50 sells for US$5,000 (J$450,000) a bottle.
"I know eyebrows are raised when you hear the price, but it is a 50-year-old rum and it is in crystal," said Henriques.
The Financial Gleaner was advised later that night by two senior managers at the spirits company that the 300 bottles were sold to distributors around the world.
The limited-edition release of Jamaica Independence Reserve Rum aged 50 years, bottled under the Appleton Estate label, aims to gross US$4 million (J$360 million).
Jamaica 50 Reserve is described as the oldest aged rum in the world, according to Wray & Nephew.
On Wednesday, the barrelling ceremony for the Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum Prime Ministers' Reserve saw nine prime ministers or their representatives, led by current Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, each pouring a 750ml bottle of the Appleton Estate 50-Year-Old Jamaica Rum into a barrel containing rum from the 2012 crop year.
Other surviving PMs include Edward Seaga, P.J. Patterson, Bruce Golding and Andrew Holness.
The nine barrels will then be set down to age under the careful monitoring of Master Blender Joy Spence, and in later years by her successor, until 2062.
"We, the current generation of employees at Wray & Nephew, are truly honoured to continue this tradition with the barrelling of Appleton Estate Prime Ministers' Reserve. But we are not just creating a rum blend, we are also witnessing history in the making," said Henriques.
"We believe this will be a positive development for our company and Jamaica," he said, receiving staggered applause.
Referring to the pending sale of the parent company to Gruppo Campari of Italy, Henrques said: "I think they are very excited too. I was in Milan last week and I found them playing Bob Marley through the PA system and the general counsel wondering around in an Appleton T-shirt."
Campari, the sixth-largest spirits brand, will acquire J. Wray & Nephew and its parent, Lascelles deMercado.
"It is expected that with their expertise in building international brands we all stand to benefit from increased sales, particularly in the export market," Henriques said. "Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to assure you that J. Wray & Nephew will continue to be a proud Jamaican company that is committed to growth and development of our nation through the manufacture and sale of our iconic brand here in Jamaica and around the world."
Campari reached an agreement earlier this month to acquire 81.4 per cent of Lascelles from the majority shareholder, CL Financial, but will make a formal offer for 100 per cent of the listed company. The deal is valued at US$415 million.