Wed | Apr 14, 2021

Virtual mix and mingling at the Jamaica Rum Festival

Participants toast to the newest expression

Published:Friday | March 26, 2021 | 12:22 AMStephanie Lyew - Gleaner Writer

Appleton Estate Master Blender Joy Spence took participants through the different expressions, including the new 15-Year-Old Black River Casks, in the educational and entertaining session.
Appleton Estate Master Blender Joy Spence took participants through the different expressions, including the new 15-Year-Old Black River Casks, in the educational and entertaining session.

Seminar kit laid out according to the instructions, this reporter was ready for the ‘Appleton Estate Ultra-Premium Rum Experience’ seminar.
Seminar kit laid out according to the instructions, this reporter was ready for the ‘Appleton Estate Ultra-Premium Rum Experience’ seminar.
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The 2021 Jamaica Rum Festival presented by Appleton Estate is nearing the end, and already its supporters and rum lovers are pining for more opportunities not only to mix, but mingle with fellow enthusiasts.

On Wednesday, the festival hosted its ‘Appleton Estate Ultra-Premium Rum Experience’ seminar, where Master Blender Joy Spence engaged participants in an educational and entertaining session.

In the comfort of living rooms, kitchens, and mini home bars, items provided in the exclusive seminar kits could be seen following the layout outlined in the simple, yet detailed instructions as participants prepared to take their senses on an adventure. First, Spence enlightened her audience on the history and types of rum, taking time at intervals to note that she recognised their eagerness to get to the tasting and, of course, the reveal of the brand’s newest expression, the 15-Year-Old Black River Casks, which was, as Spence said, “the special moment”.

It was almost as if the world stopped, as the new premium rum was being imbibed – more than once for many – it became a silent celebration of the sweet and complex product for a few minutes.

“We wanted to celebrate history; the Black River and water source we have, and to get a very rounded rum to bring out, elevating the vanilla hazelnut and coffee notes, and of course the distinctive orange peel and having that nice sweet finish. If you notice it is quite sweet and complex,” she explained.

NEW PRODUCT

With the 200ml bottles of each premium rum, participants had the privilege of being the first to taste the 15-Year-Old Black River Casks blend and were gifted with a 750ml bottle of the new product.

Overall, the tasting and pairing session moved quickly from the 8-Year-Old Reserve to the 12-Year-Old Rare Casks, but luckily for seminar participants, some of whom were inexperienced with the process, the kits also included a sufficient amount of the individual spices needed to practise the technique, said Spence.

“It’s a whole entire process; try to memorise the orange peel, the nutmeg, the coffee and the vanilla and then do the pairing with basic ingredients,” she said. “The first time your nose is saying I don’t smell the vanilla, but after a while, you’re going to say it is very rich.”

She also said that participants with their families and friends can create interactive experiences as we adhere to protocols and stay inside. “I keep telling people we have a rum for any occasion, say I am in my garden with hummingbirds floating by, I will have 8-Year-Old. If I have my whisky crowd coming over to boast about whisky, then it’s strictly the 12-Year-Old, and for special occasions, now I have the 15-Year-Old,” she said about her preferences.

More tasting, the background of the rums, a little chatting and laughter observed in each individual space, and then it was down to the question- and-answer segment. It was requested that the master blender share a little bit of her story about shattering glass ceilings in becoming the first woman to hold the position in the spirits industry, which earned the raising of glasses and “cheers”, thus finishing off the night perfectly. The experience was almost like Spence was in the same room, and she achieved what she set out to do by providing the participants with all the information they can use to “boast that they know how to identify a premium rum”.

Other seminars: ‘Monymusk Plantation Rums: Taste of Monymusk Rums’ and ‘Hampden Estate: Past, Present and Future of Authentic Trelawny Rum’ held on Tuesday, and ‘Rum-Bar: What The Funk Is Pot-Still Rum’ and ‘Kingston 62: Dance A Yaad’ with its ‘party like it’s 2019’ virtual experience also received great feedback.

Today the festival will present ‘Wray and Nephew: Wray Rum Culture In A Cup’, which features a flair tending mixology session with Captain Kidd to wrap up the interactive seminars. The week-long activities culminate with a live concert.

The Jamaica Rum Festival Virtual Concert by Appleton Estate in association with the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Enhancement Fund features an explosive line-up with dancehall fireball Sizzla, international reggae-fusion sensation Shaggy, and the energetic and striking Shenseea expected to have lighters raised high in the air, at home, with their signature performances.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com