Jamaica’s Appleton Estate is among the world’s largest rum brands, with roots going back to 1825 or 1749, depending on your perspective. The history of Appleton; its parent company, J. Wray & Nephew (JWN); and JWN’s parent company, Lascelles deMercado, is an extraordinarily complex tapestry.
While working on a project related to Jamaican rum, I uncovered many historic sources documenting numerous important moments in the company’s history; Some so interesting I’m compelled to share below.
What follows is a timeline I’ve crafted veering across several dimensions. It’s in no way exhaustive or a definitive history. Rather, it highlights key finds from my research. My primary goal was connecting a few dots, especially in regard to names like Lindo, Henriques, C.J. Ward, Finzi, and Edwin Charley. Perhaps bringing them out of the realm of historians and into the rum enthusiast spotlight.
Before jumping into the timeline, it’s helpful to briefly summarize the key eras of J. Wray & Nephew, as defined by its ownership:
- 1825-1870: John Wray
- 1870-1916: C.J. Ward & Family
- 1916-1957: Lindo Family
- 1957-2008: It’s complicated. But basically, Lascelles deMercado and the Henriques Brothers
- 2008-2012: CL Financial
- 2012-Present: Grupo Campari
J. Wray & Nephew Timeline
1825 – Pub owner John Wray begins blending rums from local estates
The rum industry’s development can be traced back to 1825 when a wheelwright living in St. Ann opened a tavern in a residential area of the bustling seaport and commercial centre of Kingston. His name was John Wray. Aware that Kingston was home to one of the most renowned theatres in the New World, the Theatre Royal, which smee the 1770s had played host to countless English touring companies who made their first calls in Kingston en route to Boston and New York, Wray built his tavern right next door. It was appropriately called “The Shakespeare Tavern”. The area, known then and now, as Parade, was a popular meeting place for locals. The Parish Church and a large market were also nearby.“A kill-devil of a drink”, kingston-gleaner-jul-15-2002
1860 – Wray brings his nephew, C.J. Ward into his business
By 1860 Wray had become a successful rum merchant and he brought his 22-year-old nephew, Charles James Ward, into the business. By 1862 he had made Ward his partner and the business was known from then on as J. Wray and Nephew. Soon after, Wray retired and in 1870, when he died, Ward assumed full control of the business, headquartered at the Shakespeare Tavern.“A kill-devil of a drink”, kingston-gleaner-jul-15-2002
1862 – J. Wray and Nephew’s 10, 15- & 25-year aged rums win gold medals
London’s 1862 International Exhibition is widely considered the first major world’s fair.
This event is also notable because it shows long-term tropical aging, whereas most Jamaican rum was sent to the U.K. shortly after distillation.
1885 – Wray & Nephew making much more than rum
At the 1885 World’s Exhibition, the company also exhibited Pimento dram, Ginger wine, Rum shrub, Stomachic bitters, orange wine, and prune dram.
1901 – C.J. Ward acquires Monymusk Estate
1913 C.J. Ward dies
Ward being the “Nephew” in J. Wray & Nephew.
1916 – Lindo Brothers & Co. purchase J. Wray & Nephew
The same year, they purchase Appleton Estate, and expand its capacity. The Lindo family also had extensive business operations in Costa Rica.
1916 – Applemony
The company wasted little time to create the Applemony brand, a blend of Appleton and Monymusk rums.
1927 – Lindo Brothers buys the Amity Hall and Moreland Estates
In short, the Lindo Brothers operations was far bigger than just Appleton Estate.
1930s Jamaican Spirit Pool Birthing Pains
In general, all distilleries were supposed to be subject to production caps based on orders. J. Wray & Nephew fought for and won an alternate arrangement for Appleton production.
1938 – Lindo Brothers have enormous aging stocks
1940s – Pirate imagery used in advertisements
1944 – The first Appleton Estate branded rum appears
Prior J. Wray & Nephew rums referred to Appleton, but it was not the marquee name.
1947 – Appleton promotes their “cane juice” rum
1957 – Percy Lindo’s sons sell J. Wray & Nephew
Another source indicates it was a combination of Lascelles deMarcado and Henriques Bros. investors.
1959 –Appleton and New Yarmouth owned by the Henriques Brothers
This represents an early connection between Appleton and New Yarmouth, via the Henriques.
1960 – J. Wray and Nephew and Captain Morgan merge
The resulting company was known as Consolidated International Corporation Ltd. At that time Captain Morgan was owned by Seagrams. Seagrams retained its Captain Morgan interests outside of Jamaica.
This deal continues to cause confusion today. Within Jamaica, Captain Morgan is still made and sold by J. Wray & Nephew. Outside of Jamaica, Captain Morgan is a Diageo brand, having purchased it from Seagrams years ago.
1965 Consolidated International acquires Coruba
In 1965 the Group acquired The Rum Company Oamaica) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Swiss Compania Rum Basel (‘Coruba’), now concerned mainly with export.Rum, Yesterday and Today; Barty-King and Massel
Thus, Coruba joined the J. Wray & Nephew portfolio and became a sibling brand to Appleton Estate.
1970 Consolidated International renames itself to Wray & Nephew Group Ltd.
This entire era is full of holding companies buying and selling each other, often retaining very similar names.
1970 (approximately) Appleton’s first column still is installed
It was the year the Wray & Nephew Group embarked on their J$5.75Rum, Yesterday and Today; Barty-King and Massel
million development plan which began with the installation of the
J$300,000 continuous still at Appleton made by Canadian Vickers of
1986 – J. Wray & Nephew acquires New Yarmouth Ltd
Both the New Yarmouth sugar factory and distillery, along with Henriques Brothers Ltd.
1989 – Lascelles deMercado Group acquires J. Wray and Nephew as a wholly owned subsidiary
2002 – Consolidation of other Jamaican blender brands under Lascelles deMercado
2008 –CL Financial purchases Lascelles deMercado
Trinidad’s CL Financial, the parent company of Angostura, purchases Lascelles deMercado, putting J. Wray & Nephew under Trinidadian ownership.
2012 – Gruppo Campari buy Lascelles deMercado
After devastating losses resulting from the 2007 financial crisis, CL Financial sells Lascelles deMercado for US $415 million, just four years after acquiring it.
So, there you have it – A whirlwind tour through 200 year of J. Wray & Nephew history! Do shoot me an email if you see anything that might need further investigation and correction!