The world’s first female Master Blender, Dr Joy Spence, has achieved yet another first in her illustrious and trailblazing career. On June 9 she became the first Caribbean Master Blender to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) of the United States, shedding even greater light on the calibre of rum produced by Jamaica and the region at large.
The DISCUS Lifetime Achievement Award honours an individual who supports the industry during their lifetime through significant innovation and promotion of the industry, commercial strategy, advocacy, and responsibility.
Spence, who has given distinguished service as the master blender at Appleton Estate for more than 23 years, received the honour at the council’s annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In accepting the award, Spence expressed gratitude for the love and support of her family, and her colleagues at J Wray and Nephew, particularly her predecessor and mentor Owen Tulloch.
“As a woman, I will say I had to work twice as hard because there were those in the industry who thought I would not succeed. But I had people who believed in me, and I am grateful for our shared vision to spread the gospel about Jamaican rum all over the globe,” she said.
She added that the award is as much a victory for Jamaican excellence as it is a major personal accolade.
“While I am proud for many reasons as I accept this award, I am equally proud to represent Jamaica. To represent Jamaican women, Jamaican rum, Jamaican excellence in all its forms. When I see my signature on the bottles, I still can’t believe it. It is magical every single time,” Spence said.
Spence received special commendation for her latest accomplishment from Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett who described her as “the standard by which excellence can be judged”. He noted that it was even more special as it coincided with Jamaica’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
Over the course of her career, Spence has combined the art and science of rum making to create some of the finest, most highly decorated rums in the world, including Appleton Estate 8-Year-Old Reserve and Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12-Year-Old.
Her crowning achievement was the Limited-Edition Appleton Estate 50-Year-Old Jamaican Rum – the oldest rum blend ever introduced to the consumer marketplace.
Spence has also travelled the world engaging with consumers and sharing about J Wray and Nephew’s premium aged rums, and what makes them unique and different from their competitors.
Acknowledging that the DISCUS award is well deserved, Managing Director at J Wray and Nephew, Jean Philippe Beyer says it reflects Spence’s raw talent in crafting unique and enjoyable alcoholic beverage blends.
“Although Joy’s name is synonymous with the Appleton Estate brand, she has created over 30 unique rum blends, wines and liquors and many of her creations have won gold medals at many different international competitions, so she is truly accomplished,” Beyer said.
Joy Spence has received numerous honours and awards during her career, including the highest Jamaican civilian commendation, the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander in 2017, in recognition of her contribution to the promotion of Jamaica’s rum industry and Jamaica globally.
In 2018 she became the first female to receive the National Medal for Science and Technology for her significant advances in the field of science and technology and contributions to the economic, cultural and social development of Jamaica.
Additionally, Spence was named Fortune magazine’s most influential woman in food and drink, and in 2011 received a Golden Rum Barrel Award for the most influential rum blender for the last 10 years.
She has also received two honorary doctorate degrees.