Jamaican Rum Distillery Cheat Sheet

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 White Overproof, and Rum Fire — I love them all! There’s nothing quite like Jamaican pot still rum.

Thanks to Authentic Caribbean Rum program (part of WIRSPA),  I visited Jamaica to tour all but one of the operating rum distilleries on the island. A true dream trip for a rum wonk like me.

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I’ve cited as many sources as I can via links, but it’s entirely possible some sources are out of date.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, there are now just 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.
  • Yet more: Ten Things to Know About Jamaican Rum
  • All my Jamaican Rum Articles – Cocktail Wonk

J. Wray & Nephew / Appleton

Distilleries

Associated Brands

Notes

  • 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

Distilleries

Associated Brands

Notes

  • 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

Distilleries

Associated Brands

Notes

  • 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, as part of their purchase of the West Indies Rum Distillery)
  • 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

Distilleries

Associated Brands

Notes

  • 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.

36 thoughts on “Jamaican Rum Distillery Cheat Sheet

  1. Great article. The ownership structures in Jamaica are very confusing. A friend brought me back a bottle of JB Charley’s overproof. I tried to find information on it and could only track it down to Trelawny rum co. They appear to only be bottlers and my latest search shows they are now owned by W&N.

    On another.note with all the rum produced in Jamaica it is surprising that only a small variety of aged rum is available on the island. I understand many producers concentrate on the bulk market but other than Appleton the pickings are slim.

  2. How would you characterise each distillery’s style of rum, after you’ve been there? Do they all make that funky juice we all crave? Or do they all make different styles at the same distillery?
    I’m asking because I just bought a 12 year old from Monymusk Distillery, and I found it to be a bit light and definitely not as ester-y like Smith&Cross or other rums from Hampden?

    1. They can all make the funky juice. And they can all make Common Clean. But making everything an ester-bomb isn’t their goal. They all do a wide range of marques, and blend to a target flavor profile.

      I just enjoyed more than a few drams of Monymusk Special Reserve. I found it extremely enjoyable, but very different than the Smith & Cross, which I also love. They’re like different sub-genres of music. You can like more than one.

  3. I’m doing a little research on the first rum distillery in Georgia. The owner spent the years 1801-1810 as an overseer on an estate in Jamaica where he learned the craft. When he came to GA and started advertising his product, it was described as a good quality “4th proof” rum. I can find no reference to that term. Is it a kind of overproof?

    1. 4th proof is a new one for me. I have no recollection of having seen anything like it.

      Maybe it was a US-centric term. My research has been overwhelmingly on the British side of things.

      Let me know if you find anything!

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