Getting into the Spirits on the Appleton Estate Rum Tour

Appleton Estate is the oldest sugar factory and rum distillery in Jamaica, the second oldest in the Caribbean. The sprawling 11,000-acre estate dates back to 1655, however, it did not start producing rum until 1749.

Appleton Estate
Appleton Estate Rum Tour

Appleton Estate’s location in St. Elizabeth‘s Nassau Valley provides the perfect combination of characteristics — a special soil composed of a limestone formation, known as Cockpit Karst,  and favorable climate, sunny mornings and tropical afternoon shower (a slight shower started while we were on the tour) — that produce some of the finest sugar cane on the island.

The Appleton Estate Rum Tour begins, appropriately, with a complimentary glass of rum punch, a proprietary blend of 5 rums that give it an uncharacteristically dark brown color. I’m so used to the strawberry syrup-colored rum punch that this made me think of lemonade made with brown sugar, well, except for the taste. This definitely was not lemonade! Surprisingly smooth, it went down so easily, I asked for another cup. This time, the bartender gave me a larger one and this time, I savored it.  I was so busy enjoying the rum punch, I missed the video on tasting and rum types that preceded the guided tour.

Appleton Estate donkey drawn mill
Appleton Estate Rum Tour – getting the donkey ready
Appleton Estate Rum Tour - sugar mill
Appleton Estate Rum Tour – sugar mill

Starting with a look back at the time when sugar cane juice was extracted by inserting the stalks into a donkey-driven mill, the tour wends its way pass an impressive display of tools and equipment that have been used over the more than 260-year history of the estate.

Appleton Estate Rum Tour
Appleton Estate Rum Tour
Appleton Estate Rum Tour
Appleton Estate Rum Tour

It then moves to the distillery, where Appleton Estate’s pot and column still production processes are explained. The factory can produce up to 160 tons of sugar of sugar daily with the distillery producing 10 million litres of rum annually. Approximately 80% of this rum is exported to about 70 countries. At the ageing house, we saw the thousands of oak barrels in which the rum is stored for fermentation.

As a part of the tour, we sampled cane juice, wet sugar and molasses, by products of sugar cane. It ended with a tasting of thirteen rums, including the award winning Appleton V/X, Appleton, Appleton Special, and Wray & Nephew Overproof (63% alcohol by volume). We were given a small souvenir bottle when we finished the tasting. Other Appleton rums that have won awards are Appleton Estate Reserve 8 year old, Appleton Estate Extra 12 year old, Appleton Estate Master Blenders Legacy, Appleton Estate 21 year old, Appleton Estate Exclusive, and Appleton Estate 30 year old. Rums are available for sale in the gift shop.

Jamaicans purchase nearly 90% of the overproof rum produced by Appleton. This clear rum, called locally white rum or whites, is an “all-purpose rum” that is used in cooking and baking, and is believed to be good for headaches and fever, and if you feel a cold coming on, just pour some liberally on the top of your head or wipe some over the soles of your feet. It’s the one rum you’ll find in almost every Jamaican household.

Appleton Estate Rum Tour
Appleton Estate Rum Tour
Appleton Estate Rum Tour
Appleton Estate Rum Tour

Appleton Estate marks Jamaica’s 50 anniversary of independence with the recent release of Jamaica Independence Reserve, a very rare Limited Edition Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum that retails for US$5,000. Only 800 bottles were produced.

One more thing to know about Appleton Estate, in 1997, they appointed Joy Spence master blender, making her the first woman in the spirits industry to hold that position.

Before You Go:

Cost/Duration: The tour costs US$25.
You’ll spend about 2 hours total time between watching the video, the actual tour, and tasting. No reservation is necessary.
NOTE: Because there is alcohol consumption involved, this is an adults only tour. I was told however, that if parents showed up with children tow, they would be included in the tour but not in the tasting. The tour is free for children under 12, half price for those over.
If you’re interested in doing the Appleton Estate Rum Tour, ask your hotel to make the necessary arrangements.
For more information, contact Appleton directly or call 876-963-9215
Hours: First tour – 9:30 a.m., last tour: 3:30 p.m.

If you like rum punch, here are a few recipes to try using Appleton’s products, or download Appleton’s Global Cocktail Collection:

Rum Punch

In a punch bowl, combine
1-750ml Appleton Estate V/X
1-750ml Coruba dark Jamaican rum
1-750ml Wray & Nephew white overproof rum
2L orange juice
2L pineapple juice
1 cup lime juice
1/2 cup grenadine and several dashes of Angostura bitters
Stir to mix and add a block of ice to chill. Serve in punch cups and garnish with fresh fruit.

Rum Punch (Traditional) 

Serves: 10-12

4 cups water
1 cup lime or lemon juice
3 cups strawberry-flavored syrup
2 cups Jamaican white rum
Mix all ingredients together in a punch bowl.
Serve over ice cubes with a piece of lime or lemon.
Water and rum maybe added to weaken or strengthen as needed.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

38 comments on “Getting into the Spirits on the Appleton Estate Rum Tour

  1. I’ve had a pesky summer cold for the last week…going to take your advice with the “all purpose rum” and see if it helps! Afraid I may smell a bit like a liquor distillery, lol, but it’s often the home remedies that work best!

    Sounds like an excellent tour, will definitely check it out when I make it to Jamaica someday!:-)

  2. What a fun sounding tour! And what great information you provided about it. Loved the photos — as always!

  3. This sounds like such a fun tour – can’t believe you were so busy drinking that you missed the video. I never knew rum gad more uses that drinking and cooking. Maybe I should have some for my frequent headaches these days.
    Great post Marcia!!

  4. What an interesting tour – I had no idea that rum was used for medicinal purposes as well! Congrats to Ms. Spence for achieving a first in her industry!

  5. This sounds so interesting and definitely one my husband would enjoy a whole lot more than me especially savoring that free rum punch. The grounds look great. Thanks for the rum punch recipe. We have a bottle or two of rum from a cruise =)

  6. This reminded me of a tour I had at Qarshi laboratories Pakistan which is a herbal medicine Laboratory and Farm! Amazing post love it.

  7. How fun! I’ve visited a winery before, but never a rum distillery. Totally different. Also… I’ve never had rum punch. Maybe I’ll try it with one of your recipes 🙂

  8. You seem to have explored a spirited side of Jamaican history. Appleton’s rum punch recipe seems s-t-r-o-n-g! And, as you indicated, the traditional recipe might, indeed, demand more rum. Remember the longtime rhyme: One of sour (lime juice), two of sweet (syrup), three of strong (white rum), four of weak (water).

  9. They’ve been producing rum for a very long time, haven’t they? Looks like a fun tour & generous tasting.

  10. We don’t drink alcohol and usually travel with our children, so this tour is probably not for us, but I’ve observed that rum and rum tours are quite popular for many Caribbean tourists. Food and drink are always best when you get them from the source. There is such a variety of attractions to be found in Jamaica!

  11. One thing for sure, people who love traveling will always find something interesting to do wherever they are. It looks a peculiar way to make rum but I find it interesting how people of different cultures go about doing things.

  12. I still can’t believe that in 9 years of traveling to the island I’ve never gone here…especially since rum is a dietary staple for me LOL. I tried to get there once but got so distracted by other sightseeing that I didn’t make it before the place closed at 3:30.

    Awesome write up about it though. I feel educated now and more inspired to get my procrastinating butt over there to do the tour! Thanks for the post!

  13. Actually, you can have as much as you want.
    Hopefully, it is one of the best, Aleah.
    Not sure about the peacock. It was interesting to see and it wasn’t just one. As we were leaving, I saw a second one.

  14. They are, Allison. Rum is a major export for most of the Caribbean islands. We’ve had a long history with sugar cane and therefore rum, one of its by products. You’re so right, though about food, especially, being best from the source.

  15. Somehow the idea of an herbal medicine laboratory and farm sounds surprising, like they shouldn’t go together. It must have been an interesting tour.

  16. It’s probably all in the head, Lisa. As we say, belief kills, belief cures. But it’s not a bad medicine to try!
    Yes, it’s quite an achievement.

  17. Hahaha, sometimes I think it’s all in the head, Leigh. People find reasons to make things work for them.
    But give it a try, would love to know what you think.

  18. LOL okay I commented on this waaaay back in June and STILL haven’t been to Appleton. However!!! In my defense I have now toured Worthy Park Estate (RumBar). So I’m not totally in the dark anymore LOL!

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