Capturing the spirit

Appleton 50YO Estate

11 Aug, 2021

To mark the 40th Birthday of Glencairn Crystal we’re taking a trip down memory lane to showcase some of our most interesting and innovative decanters.

The third decanter story in this series is the Appleton Estate. Launched in 2012, this Rum at the time was the oldest Rum to be commercially released. We worked closely with Joy Spence.

Joy Spence has been called the woman who changed the face of Jamaican Rum and was the first woman to hold the title of Master Blender in the spirits industry. She also became the first woman to receive the National medal for science and technology and innovation. She joined Tia Maria who were based next door to Appleton Estate. One day she sent her resume next door to Appleton Estate who were so impressed, that they created a new position for her as Chief Chemist.

To mark the 40th birthday of Glencairn Crystal we’re taking a trip down memory lane to showcase some of our most interesting and innovative decanters with Scott Davidson (Glencairn Crystal’s New Product Development Director and son of Founder Raymond Davidson).

We kick off our series of decanter stories with the ground-breaking Mortlach 70 Year Old ‘Teardrop’ decanter from 2010, which was incredibly special; when it was released the whisky was the oldest in the world to have ever been bottled and sold. We worked closely with Michael Urquhart (MD of Gordon & MacPhail in 2010) and his team on the project and Michael also shares his views below on what made this whisky and decanter so unique.

     The Brief

JS: We wanted something that was outstanding and iconic. We knew that Glencairn did excellent work with special packaging, so we approached them through one of our managers in the UK who said; “this is a company to work with”.

We gave them an idea of what we wanted – which was a very iconic bottle, crystal decanter, but still maintaining the shape that we have in our range that has that curve.

  The Spirit/Rum

JS: It was the oldest rum commercially available at the time. The aroma of the rum was just phenomenal. You had that rich vanilla lid with maple, that beautiful orange peel and cinnamon, and then wrapping up with that rich, powerful oak on the finish. It was exceptional. People were amazed with how smooth it was and the fact that it was not overpowered with oak because sitting in an oak barrel for 50 years all you expect it to taste like is oak.

The beauty about Appleton Estate is the distillery is located in this unique geographical area in Jamaica where we have these limestone hills, tiny little hills with water flowing through them, surrounding this magnificent valley known as Nassau Valley. Interestingly because of this geography, every day at 2:30 we have daily showers of rain. So, everything is lush, green, beautiful and perfect for growing the sugar cane where the process all starts.

    The Decanter

JS: Glencairn produced the bottle, maintaining the curve we wanted. It had gold engraving on it, which had our Appleton estate insignia, which is really a combination of our national symbols. It had a cork finish, and like a brass collar on top that was embossed – so it was a beautiful bottle. It was quite heavy actually by the time we put it into the black lacquer presentation case. There were 800 bottles – the largest production of any exceptionally old and commercially available rum at the time.

SD: The decanter was the first full 3D designed decanter by Glencairn Crystal – this ensured the design of the decanter stayed as true to the concept as possible. We produced it with a heavy base that allowed us to create the effect that the rum was floating. The decanter was hand filled in gold on the front. We really upped the quality of decoration on this decanter – all the materials like the metalware were custom made and custom engraved.

    The Challenges

JS: I had to make sure that the stock was there, managing the evaporation loss, because we have an average loss of about 6% each year. So, we had to refill every single year and I had to make sure that that was done every year on that date – I felt like I had weight of the world on my shoulder – making sure that the rum was there.

SD: The decanter was supposed to look like the rum was floating. But the reflective nature of the glass always fought against the design. This meant that the sides never looked separated from the rum. In order to fix this, we had to source a really high quality of crystal and scale it in a way that meant the bottle had to be thicker than it was originally conceived. This is why the decanter ended up being heavier. The birds design on the decanter was also originally meant to be embossed but this wouldn’t work due to the mould. Therefore, we engraved the birds really deep and it ended up making the decanter appear sharper and more defined.

 The End Result

JS:Everybody globally was so excited. I did a lot of launches internationally with the 50 Year Old because we had 800 bottles for the entire world – it created such excitement behind the brand. This had never been done before – we had big official functions all over the world. We found that people who were avid collectors were clamouring for it. 

I remember a funny story. So, the last bottle that was available in Jamaica was actually at the visitor centre because people go there to buy. It was in this display case and it was locked and, of course, a visitor came in and wanted to purchase it. We realised we couldn’t find the key, so we had to find a way of opening this case to give the visitor the rum.

SD:I remember everyone thought it was amazing. There was an amazing pick up from the media because of what it was – the oldest rum in the world at the time.

Thank You Glencairn!

A personal thank you to Glencairn from Joy Spence.