When it comes to being the master of her craft, Joy Spence is just that!
As the first female master blender and the first Black woman to hold the title, Spence has been a pioneer for the taste of Appleton Estate’s Jamaica Rum for decades. Now, she’s playing a huge part in helping the brand play a pivotal role in reshaping the rum industry.
Spence, a true legend of the Appleton Estate, continues to make magic with the relaunch of its 15 Year Old Black River Casks which feature aromas of toasted almond and delicate hazelnut followed by notes of intense orange peel, rich vanilla, and subtle hints of medium roasted coffee and molasses. The new rum pays homage to the Black River located in Jamaica’s Nassau Valley.
Along with the relaunch of the 15-year-old rum, the minimum age requirement of all Appleton Estate bottles (creating a smoother and more robust tasting experience), the brand has also reintroduced its 21 Year Old Nassau Casks. The new-look is equipped with a reimagined bottle and label which celebrates the brand’s heritage.
In celebration of her 40th anniversary with the company, she sat down with BAUCE to give us insight into her background in the industry, the art behind her craft, and what inspired the brand’s facelift.
For those of us who aren’t aware of the term ‘master mixer,’ can you tell us what it is?
Joy Spence: My role as a master blender is to actually create new and exciting blends for the consumers. We have a very long pipeline of what we call new products that we want to introduce over the years and so each year, we add several of these new additions to our portfolio.
My role is to actually create those special blends and to introduce everyone to the premium age rum category which is the hottest category in the spirits industry right now.
This is where Appleton Estate wants to become the leader and so we’re using our limited editions as teasers before we take up the dynasty range itself to a different level.
Wow, talk about a major title! Can you tell us the exact moment that you realized that this was something you were put on this earth to do?
Joy Spence: When I was asked to create the first blend which was to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Appleton Estate and to me, that was really the turning point.
That’s awesome! I understand that there’s a lot of science involved in creating those blends, can you tell us something that most people do not understand when it comes to creating a rum blend like you’ve been doing over the past decades?
Joy Spence: When I first started I had no idea about the complexity of the aging process and the high science that is involved and so now I understand how the various compounds are created during the aging process and how these are created naturally by the rum interacting with all of the different processes that you have.
You have the extraction, the oxidation, and each of them creates its own flavors during the aging process and so this is where the final transformation takes place.
Most people don’t recognize or understand how critical the aging process is and just how much science goes into it.
That’s quite interesting! What would you say is your favorite part about the whole process? Also, what’s your least favorite part?
Joy Spence: I think my most favorite part is actually traveling the world and introducing the opportunity to new customers and actually witnessing them appreciate our rums and be amazed by the fact that our rums are both sophisticated and complex at the same time.
My least favorite part would have to be the times that I have to take three flights in a day (haha).
That sounds like a good least favorite part to have to me! Lastly, can you tell us what prompted Appleton Estate to reshape the brand to the current new selections?
Joy Spence: I think the most important part that went into the revamp was education, ya know. Actually traveling the world and educating consumers on the joy from the new changes, letting them understand the raw manufacturing process, what makes opportunities so unique and distinct from the other ones, and letting them taste and appreciate what our rums are all about!