An Illustrated and Informal J. Wray & Nephew Timeline

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
Planter’s Punch, 1940

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.

Jamaica at the World’s Exhibition – 1885

1901 – C.J. Ward acquires Monymusk Estate

1913 C.J. Ward dies

Ward being the “Nephew” in J. Wray & Nephew.

kingston-daily-gleaner-dec-08-1913

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.

“A Big Deal is Carried Out” Kingston-Gleaner-Feb-02-1916

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.

Kingston-Gleaner-Feb-08-1937

1938 – Lindo Brothers have enormous aging stocks

Planter’s Punch, 1938
Planter’s Punch, 1938

1940s – Pirate imagery used in advertisements

Planter’s Punch, 1942

1944 – The first Appleton Estate branded rum appears

Prior J. Wray & Nephew rums referred to Appleton, but it was not the marquee name.

“A kill-devil of a drink”, kingston-gleaner-jul-15-2002

1947 – Appleton promotes their “cane juice” rum

kingston-gleaner-jan-27-1947

1957 – Percy Lindo’s sons sell J. Wray & Nephew

Another source indicates it was a combination of Lascelles deMarcado and Henriques Bros. investors.

kingston-gleaner-jul-15-2002

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

kingston-gleaner-mar-17-1960

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$5.75
million development plan which began with the installation of the
J$300,000 continuous still at Appleton made by Canadian Vickers of
Montreal.

Rum, Yesterday and Today; Barty-King and Massel

1986 – J. Wray & Nephew acquires New Yarmouth Ltd

Both the New Yarmouth sugar factory and distillery, along with Henriques Brothers Ltd.

kingston-gleaner-jul-11-1986

1989 – Lascelles deMercado Group acquires J. Wray and Nephew as a wholly owned subsidiary

kingston-gleaner-jul-08-1989

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.

Jamaica Gleaner, Jan-30-2008

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.

The Gleaner – Sep-4-2012

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!

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