People often ask me what my favorite rum is. I always reply “Which is your favorite child?”
I can’t do it! But when pressed, I volunteer that funky, fruity, high-hogo Jamaican rums hold an extra special place in my rum-loving heart. Hampden Estate Smith & Cross, Appleton 21, Wray & Nephew Overproof, Rum Fire. I love them all!
I do my homework when opportunities like this arise. I’d read about many different Jamaican distilleries, but keeping them all straight is a challenge.
- Which are still operating
- Who owns them?
- What brands does each make?
To help me keep things straight, I wonked out, chasing down as many details as I could find, and compiled the results in the cheat sheet below. It’s not intended as a comprehensive history of Jamaican distilleries, nor does it cover every single associated brand. Instead, it’s about who’s currently producing rum in Jamaica, what are their most well-known brands, and a bit of relevant recent history where needed.
I’ve cited as many sources as I can via links, but it’s entirely possible some sources are out of date. If you see something egregiously wrong, don’t hesitate to drop me an email or comment. I’ll correct ASAP!
Here are links to each distillery I’ve written about in detail:
Jamaica General Notes
- At one time there were hundreds of distilleries on Jamaica, but due to hard times, technical advancements, and consolidation, it’s dwindled down to six.
- The biggest selling style of rum in Jamaica is unaged, white overproof, coming in at 63%-65% ABV. Nearly every distillery makes a version of this style.
- J. Wray and Nephew and National Rums of Jamaica are the biggest producers on the island. Hampden Estate and Worthy Park are significantly smaller.
- Jamaica has a national sugar pool, established in the early 1930s. The intent is to provide the consistent best price for producers. Sugar producers (including the distilleries below) sell sugar into the pool. Distilleries then purchase molasses from the pool.
- Notes on visiting Jamaican distilleries and related topics are covered in this story.
J. Wray & Nephew / Appleton
- Owned by Gruppo Campari
- Established in 1749. Around 70% market share in Jamaica.
- While Appleton is the most well-known name, J. Wray & Nephew is the parent company
- Wray & Nephew Overproof distilled at New Yarmouth.
- Very little is publicly known about the New Yarmouth distillery. Very few people outside of the company have been inside.
- It is rumored that New Yarmouth has a dunder pit.
Hampden Estate / Everglades Farms Limited
- Since 2009, owned by the Hussey family.
- Rum Fire is Hampden’s equivalent to Wray & Nephew Overproof.
- Hampden’s DOK rum marque is at the highest ester level Jamaican law allows.
- Hampden Estate has a dunder pit
- Sells bulk rum to E&A Scheer, among others.
- Although Everglade Farms operates the Long Pond sugar estate, they do not produce rum at Long Pond (See National Rums of Jamaica, below)
- Despite popular belief, Smith & Cross Jamaican rum is not entirely composed of rum from Hampden Estate.
National Rums of Jamaica
- Owned by a trio of partners (~1/3 each)
- National Sugar Company Ltd (Jamaica, state-owned)
- Demerara Distillers Ltd of (Guyana, best known for El Dorado)
- Maison Ferrand (owners of Cognac Ferrand and Plantation Rum)
- 60% of Jamaica’s bulk export market, 11 million absolute liters of alcohol annually.
- The vast majority of the production is bulk-exported.
- The Innswood distillery is now used only as an aging facility.
- Diageo is a major purchaser of NRJ rums for Captain Morgan, Myers
- Monymusk is 73% owned by NRJ, 27% owned by Diageo (via Trelawny Estates Ltd.)
- Diageo owns 27% of Clarendon Distillers Ltd.
- Long Pond has a dunder pit.
- Long Pond’s TECC rum marque is at the highest ester level Jamaican law allows.
- Long Pond’s VRW marque refers to the Vale Royal distillery (see Bristol Classic Rum) bought by Long Pond in 1955.
- Clarendon distillery got a major overhaul in 2010.
Worthy Park Estate
- Worthy Park
- Started in 1741.
- Stopped rum production in 1962.
- Restarted rum production in 2005 with a brand new distillery.
- First Rum-Bar products on shelves in 2007.
- Does not have a dunder pit.
- Exports bulk rum. Some good additional backstory.