From just north of the equator, nestled in the heart of Jamaica, amid a crystal blue spring, rich red dirt and endless fields of sugar cane, is the Appleton Estate. This historic parcel of land in the island's famed Cockpit Country is Jamaica's "breadbasket," a uniquely fertile region that produces a stunning array of exotic fruits and vegetables, lush flora and fauna, and the sugar cane used to craft legendary Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum.

By Food & Wine
Updated March 31, 2015
Photo Courtesy of Appleton


Rum is the pride of Jamaica, and an integral part of the Jamaican economy —Jamaica was the first country to produce the spirit commercially. The Appleton Estate is Jamaica's oldest continuously operating sugar estate and distillery, dating back at least to 1749. But the Estate's history may date back as far as 1655, when England took power of Jamaica from Spain. It's believed that Frances Dickinson — whose descendants are the earliest known owners of the Appleton Estate — took part in the conquest and the estate was part of the land grant made to Dickinson as a reward for his services.


Like wine, terroir has a significant impact on the quality and taste of rum. The Appleton Estate can claim terroir unlike anywhere else on earth. Spring water from the limestone hills on the property gives the rum a slight sweetness.The morning sunshine and afternoon rains offer a unique microclimate to grow a variety of sugarcane that imparts the fruity and buttery notes found in Appleton Estate rum.


Once the sugar cane is harvested, it is washed, cut, and milled to extract the juice, which is then boiled down to a syrupy molasses. Next, Appleton Estate adds a cultured yeast (a strain that has been passed down through generations) to convert the sugar into alcohol.

Distillation – the process of separating the alcohol in the "wash" from the water – is the next step. Appleton Estate uses two different processes to create distinct styles of rum. The "small batch" copper pot method has been used since the inception of rum-making in Jamaica. Using pure copper, and a specially shaped still, imparts an orange peel top note that has become the hallmark of the rum, and yields a more flavorful and aromatic liquid. Column distillation is a method that utilizes stainless steel stills to produce lighter distillate.

Rum improves with age, so next, Appleton Estate lets theirs rest in white "Number One Select" American oak barrels. The wood's permeability allows air to pass through and mellow the spirit. The rum picks up sweetness from cellulose in the oak, notes of vanilla, coffee, and cocoa from its flavonoids, and woody flavor from tannins. In addition, rums aged in tropical climates age more quickly than spirits in cool climates — one year in the tropics is equivalent to three years of aging in a temperate climate; therefore the flavor develops at a quicker pace.

One of the last steps is blending: Master Blender Joy Spence, the first female master blender in the world, decides which barrels have earned the right to be called Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. The rums hand-selected by Joy are combined, each one adding its own distinct layers until a perfect balance is achieved. Lastly, the rum is left to "marry" so that all the flavors and aromatics can develop and harmonize.


The Appleton Estate range of award-winning, core rums include: Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum (honey-colored, with notes of citrus and apricot), Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum (full-bodied and smooth, with hints of vanilla and nutmeg), and Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Jamaica Rum (deep bronze, with a bouquet of fruit and cocoa). You can also savor the Appleton Estate 21 Year Old Jamaica Rum (a mature spirit with a long brown sugar finish), and the limited Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum (an exceptionally smooth blend with a honeyed oak finish). Each of these fine aged rums captures the warmth, passion, and unique spirit of Jamaica in every sip.