SHE’S THE FIRST:
Joy Spence is the first Female and Black Woman Master Blender in the spirits industry. She works at Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum in Jamaica, which is owned by the Italian beverage company Grupo Campari .
WHAT IS A MASTER BLENDER:
A Master Blender is an individual who decides on the composition of blended spirits and guides the product’s maturation.
WHAT SHE DOES:
Responsible for overseeing the Appleteon’s estate’s aging process for its world class rum, blending compatible marquees of rum which ultimately create the fine flavors and taste associated with high end rum. Rums come in a variety of types-from the clear light rums that are similar to vodkas to the dark rums that are best used in punches, but it is the golden aged rums that Joy specializes in.
“As the Master Blender my responsibilities include developing/creating new exceptional blends of rum for the Company, maintaining the consistency and quality of our existing blends of rums, reviewing and monitoring our stocks of rums as they age to ensure the quality of the rums, determining the quantities of rum that need to be set down for aging, monitoring the quality of all of the rums that the Company bottles each day and promoting our Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum range around the world. To be a good blender you must be a sensory expert, have an artistic and creative flair, have a good understanding of the chemistry of the process have attention to detail and have a passion for the art, says Joy.
HER DAILY DUTIES:
- Performing quality checks and certifying all rums and other spirits that the Company will bottle on a given day.
- Performing quality checks on all the rums that have been distilled at the Estate on a given day.
- Monitoring and performing quality checks on the rums ageing in the warehouse.
- Reviewing new products that the Company is testing.
- Running audits of the Company’s distilleries.
- Liquid process review.
- Approving the blends of rum that are being pulled together on a given day.
- Communicating with International customers on Technical specifications
- Conducting educational seminars.
- Implementing and reviewing environmental initiatives at our Estates as well as our production facility.
HOW SHE GOT THERE:
Joy Spence was born in the parish of Manchester, Jamaica to a banana industry worker and homemaker.
She knew she wanted to be a teacher at the age of four. She remembers one day at school when the teacher was absent and when her mother came to pick her up she was standing on a stool teaching the class.
At age thirteen, Joy had a teacher who helped her discover her passion for chemistry. “It was all because of my wonderful chemistry teacher, Eldora Mills. I used to help her prepare the labs for the upper school and realized I had a passion. I was very advanced academically because of helping set up the labs. Sadly, a few later, Eldora passed away in childbirth. Spence was devastated by the loss of her teacher and role model and she vowed to continue her studies in her honor. “I taught myself chemistry from text books and the school had someone come in to facilitate the labs.”
1972- Spence graduated from the University of The West Indies with a B.S. degree with first class honors
1975- She fulfilled her dream and became a Chemistry lecturer at Jamaica’s College of Arts & Science (now the University of Technology). She left shortly thereafter to pursue her Masters of Science degree in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Loughborough, England. She not only graduated with honors but she had the highest scores to ever be recorded by any other student on their exams. Her record is undefeated and still stands to date.
1979– She returned to Jamaica and changed careers. She got a position as a Research and Development Chemist as the Estate Industries Limited that produces the world’s famous Tia Maria Liqueur. Two years into the job, she was bored, restless and felt unchallenged, so she sent her resume next door to J Wray & Nephew Limited, who produced the Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. The move was not without some drama. “I found out later that the HR manager had taken the time to write in the comment section of my employment record that I wouldn’t be here very long because I would get bored here too.” Needless to say, that HR manager was completely wrong.
1981: Joy joined Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum as Chief Chemist, where she had the opportunity to work closely with Appleton Estate’s then Master Blender, Owen Tulloch. Working with Owen sparked a passion within Joy for the art of creating rum and he saw something special in her sensory abilities and became her mentor.
“I worked on the sensory stuff as well as the scientific side and got very involved in the distilling. Owen let me in on distilling secrets as he could tell I had good sensory skills.”
This was very unusual role for a woman during this time-where women were not seen drinking let alone behind the scenes blending and distilling. Spence says, “I didn’t even drink before I joined the company. In those days a woman didn’t go into bars. It wasn’t seen as a proper thing for a lady to do. It’s all changed now.”
1996- She was appointed General Manager, Technical and Quality Services, where she
1997– Owen Tulluch retires and appoints his successor Joy the title Master Blender after apprenticing for him for almost 20 years. She says “At the time not many people were interested in the position, and even if they were they weren’t being groomed like I was. Being a woman in a senior position I knew some of the men felt uncomfortable – but that’s normal and I don’t let those things bother me.”
HER CLAIM TO FAME:
Creator of the Appleton Estate Reserve and Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year-Old blend of rums and most notably the 2012 launch of another world ﬁrst – a rare 50-year-old rum Limited Edition Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum – Jamaica Independence Reserve. This limited edition is comprised of rums that have been aged for a minimum of 50 years in hand-selected, oak barrels and it is believed to be the oldest rum available for sale in the world. Only 800 bottles of this very rare, limited edition bottling will be made available for sale around the world at a target retail price of $5,000 USD per 750ml bottle and it will be sold on allocation globally.
The rum was specially set down over 50 years ago to create a very special rum to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence
It is packaged in a bespoke hand crafted, crystal decanter whose design and shape was inspired by Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum’s iconic bottle. The etchings and gold screen printing on the bottle take their cue from Jamaica’s national symbols and it is finished with a gold finished brass and cork stopper. It is presented in a black lacquered gift box with gold finished brass hinges and includes a commemorative booklet that outlines Jamaica’s march to independence and the journey of the Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum.
- 2005– Awarded the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer, (OD), by the Jamaican government for her service to Industry
- 2011– Received the Rum Experience Pioneer’s Award for outstanding rum achievement at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards
- 2012– Honorary Doctorate of Science by Loughborough University
- 2012-Honorary Doctorate of Law by the University of the West Indies
- 2014– Received the “Outstanding Contribution” Award at the 2014 International Spirits Challenge (ISC) Awards
HER PERSONAL LIFE:
Husband- Emile- who provides great support in her career
Daughter- Tracy-Ann 32, a business school graduate whom Joy acknowledges is a math genius
Shitzu Poodle- Thunder
- Growing Orchids- “I like Sun Orchids, I have dozens of them
- Watching National Geographic
- Listening to 70’s soul music
HER PASSION PROJECTS:
Joy has been manufacturing products in her home lab where she’s:
- “Working on a little cosmetic line” call Nite Essence. It’s a natural night time moisturizer
- Developing a soon to be commercial a natural all-purpose cleaner
ON WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT:
She’s hopeful for the future of women in Jamaica.
“It’s opening up more now for women and I do think my appointment helped pave the way. I think it’s going to change very rapidly in Jamaica because boys are not doing well in school. In some areas girls are more focused.”
“I think mothers pamper boys in Jamaica and everything must be catered to them. Girls are strong now. In the past they would get married early, but not any more. They are determined to succeed and get a first degree and a second degree. They have this drive and ambition that they’re going to succeed.”
“Women must pursue their dreams and not let anything get in their way. I hope that my work will serve as an inspiration to young ladies who are now making decisions about their career and that they know that they can achieve anything that they set out to do.”
“There are only two answers to any question. Yes or No. I am not afraid to take risks.”
Here are some of Joy’s recipes for summers perfect rum based cocktails.
The Joy Spence Cocktail
2 oz Appleton Estate Reserve
1 orange slice
1 drop Angostura bitters
Muddle 1 slice of orange with 1 drop of Angostura Bitters in a rocks glass
Add 2 oz Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum
Top up with ginger ale and ice
Royal Aperitif Recipe
- 1 oz Appleton Estate Reserve
- .5 oz Honey syrup
- .5 oz Fresh squeezed Lemon juice
- Garnish: Lemon twist
- Glass: Flute
Build all ingredients in a pint glass except the champagne shake and fold champagne in then strain into a flute and garnish.
Jamaican Breeze Recipe
- 1.5 oz Appleton Estate Reserve
- 1 dial Fresh Ginger muddled
- 2 oz Pineapple juice
- .5 oz simple syrup (1-1)
- Dash of Angostura bitters
- Garnish: lime wheel
- Glass: Rocks
Muddle ginger in the pint glass add the rest of the ingredients, add ice shake and strain over fresh ice and garnish with a lime wheel.
Old Jamaican Recipe
- 1.5 oz Appleton Estate Reserve
- 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
- .75 oz pure cane simple syrup
- Dash of Angostura Bitters
- Garnish: Mint sprig
- Glass: Highball
Add lime juice and mint, slightly muddle, and add the rest of the ingredients accept the champagne shake and strain over fresh ice.
The Jamaican Cobbler Recipe
- 1.5 oz Appleton Estate Reserve
- 1 oz Dry Sack Medium Sherry
- .5 oz G.E. Massenez Crème de Peche
- 2 ruby red grapefruit pieces with skin
- 1 Sugar Cube
- 2 ruby red grapefruit pieces with skin
- White wine glass
Muddle fruit and build in the mixing glass shake and strain over crushed ice into a wine glass and garnish with fresh grapefruit pieces.