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Joy Spence, master blender at Appleton

Interviews

Joy Spence, the grande dame of rum

As Black History Month unfolds, meet Dr. Joy Spence, a master blender for nearly 30 years at Appleton in Jamaica, an exceptional woman whose reputation extends far beyond the Caribbean region.

Published on January 29, 2024

An accomplished career

At Appleton, a venerable distillery founded in Jamaica in 1749, it’s a master blender, Dr. Joy Spence, who watches over the quality of the rums. It’s definitely worth mentioning that she’s the first woman to hold such a role in the spirits industry.

After graduating with a degree in chemistry, Dr. Spence joined the distillery in 1981 and became a master blender in 1997. During those forty years, she distinguished herself in remarkable ways, creating several Appleton gems, such as the Old Reserve 8 Year Old and the Rare Blend 12 Year Old, as well as many of the blends that made the distillery famous.

Her involvement and extraordinary sensory abilities have earned her honorary doctorates, prizes and awards, both in Jamaica and internationally. To the point where, if you pass by the distillery, you will have the opportunity to witness her career by visiting the "Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience".

A unique signature

At the top of her class after finishing her bachelor's degree in chemistry, Dr. Spence taught chemistry for several years before applying her knowledge brilliantly at Appleton. In addition to her scientific achievements, she’s also distinguished by a more intangible, artistic side, one could say.

As she herself says: "Distillation is a true blend of art and science in which expertise and craft play equally important roles." Her track record is full of bold blends that have made Appleton internationally famous, including the Appleton Estate Hearts Collection, a collection of very rare editions that are highly prized by enthusiasts, and the 50-year-old limited edition, arguably the oldest tropical rum on sale today.

Just like wine in France or scotch in Scotland, in the Caribbean and Jamaica, rum is more than just an alcoholic beverage, it’s deeply rooted in tradition. As Joy Spence puts it: "We are bold people, we’re passionate. Rum is an expression of that culture."

Three versions of Appleton 

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