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Old 09-21-2009, 10:49 PM   #1
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Default Appleton Rum Tour

We just arrived home, from Jamaica. Had a wonderful time and took a few long bus trips to Ocho Rios, Black River, Whitehouse and Negril. People in Jamaica are so wonderfully friendly and kind. On Thursday, we visited the YS Falls and Appleton Rum factory, and I'll share our experience here.

I am aware that rum companies in general are very secretive, and few (if any other than Appleton) offer tours of their buildings and fermentation rooms, so I was very appreciative that Appleton was so inviting and generous. We started in a tour group of 21 visitors with one tour guide, who unfortunately didn't seem to have enthusiasm of giving tours. At first, words were as sparce as cold weather in Jamaica, spoken very softly and he mumbled and moved quickly from one part of the tour to another.

We met Fez (Pez? I forget...) the donkey and watched him squeeze sugarcane into juice and begasse. The tourist group, without a leader kind of wandered by ourselves and up to the lookout tower, scanning the sugarcane Estate and the beautiful mountains. The tour guide then showed up again, and his voice strengthened, very clear and stern that photo-taking was NOT permitted in our next stop, the distillation house, where 5 large distillation tanks produce 2.5 million gallons of rum each year. Interestingly, they operate only 9 months a year, closing for repairs and maintenance for the remainder.

In the aging room, the tour guide became more animated and smiled for the first time, telling us how the rums mature in the barrels, and as the angels take their share, are topped-off each year with the same aged rum. I had guessed the Solera method might have been used, but no --- all 12 year old rum was aged exactly 12 years. The barrels are all imported from Kentucky, and in each rum, the older the product, the more it tasted like bourbon to my buds.

We received tasting samples of pure sugar-cane juice, and then the crystallized black muck that is the byproduct of sugar extraction. Yowza! What a difference! No wonder rums made from sugar cane juice taste different from those made from molasses!

When the tour was over, the tasting began. We were led to a small round table, perhaps 2 ft. diameter where 6 bottles of rum were placed with a pile of 1/2 ounce sample cups--- each bottle half empty or so. Appleton V/X was the highest level of rum offered. The tour guide simply said "goodbye and enjoy" and disappeared while the mob of 21 tourists were left to pour their own samples, crowding around the table. I've already tasted the V/X and the $15 Special, and didn't really want to fight the crowd, so my wife and I wandered the outdoors where truly beautiful scenery welcomed us as well as interesting artifacts from 3 centuries of rum-making.

When we re-entered the tasting room, the tour guide was wandering nearby and asked us how we were enjoying our tasting. "It was .... nice", I replied, but was quite honest with him that I usually enjoy a little better quality rum than what was offered, and spend over $1000 a year on rum. "It would be really special", I hinted, "if we could try the 12 or 15 year old Appleton. He replied to us that this simply was against his orders of doing business and wouldn't be possible.

The rum punch in the bar was delicious, a mix I believe of fruit punch, Appleton Special, and I tasted either cloves, maybe nutmeg. The bar also served rum and cokes for $2 each, but nothing else. Although many tourists left with bottles of white Eclipse or W&N Overproof, I left without a purchase. I did buy a T-shirt advertising the Appleton Estate, but instead of paying at the distillary, I bought it on the beach from a vendor, who was happy I made a purchase, but really wanted to sell me pot.

"Ya mon ......... You smoke?"

If a rum fanatic happened to find himself in the Black River region of Jamaica, the Appleton rum tour was a nice way to spend a hour or two, but it certainly wasn't a "destination" to travel to from my experience, although it might be an entirely different experience with a different tour guide.
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:18 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing your experience stockdoct. I enjoyed reading it.
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:27 PM   #3
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When I did the Appleton Tour back in 2006, the tour guide was very informative and seemed to enjoy his work. Most of the tour was exactly as you found (including the donkey) except for the tasting. They lined up about 12 bottles on the bar and started pouring samples into the small cups. After a while they just let you pour whatever you wanted. The selections included the products for local consumption, North America and worldwide. The guide and others gave explanations of the products and the intended markets. It seems like VX was mentioned as the highest quality available at the tasting, however we were welcome to purchase more expensive stuff in the adjacent shop. Of course, things got a little fuzzy towards the end....
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:31 PM   #4
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By the way ....

I just went to the Appleton webpage., I believe, and found their "Drink Generator". VERY FUN!!!
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Old 09-22-2009, 12:54 AM   #5
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I also went a couple of years ago and had a great guide. my big highlight was buying the Master Blenders Legacy. I only wish I had bought two!
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Old 09-22-2009, 11:37 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Ellis34 View Post
big highlight was buying the Master Blenders Legacy. I only wish I had bought two!
That stuff is tasty...
a drink with forrest . . .
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Old 09-22-2009, 04:08 PM   #7
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Stockdoct, I have some bad news, Appleton finally came out with the long awaited limited edition rum only available at the Estate. See this article from Count Silvio. Joy had mentioned it when I visited last year.
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British by birth, Welsh by the grace of God, Caribbean by soul.
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Old 09-22-2009, 05:33 PM   #8
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And at the bargain price of only $250/bottle, I could have packed my suitcase chock full ! My loss .....
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Old 09-23-2009, 08:00 AM   #9
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Sorry to hear about the guide, if it makes you feel any better the same thing happened to my family at Bacardi. We had a great guide, and then sent my family there who had a mumbling debbie downer. I don't get it, even more important than the guides knowledge is if he is a happy SOB. Find the most happy go lucky employee you have, give him a company polo, and have yourself a great guide. Now that I think of it, when I retire Im moving down there and thats gonna be my retirement job.
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Old 09-23-2009, 10:12 AM   #10
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Having a great guide does make the most difference. We did the Mount Gay Tour in Barbados last spring and we had lots of fun! The guide was fantastic, the tour good and the tasting was great.

If you go, make sure you take the cocktail tour. At the end there's a rum tasting and a cocktail competition. Fun!
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