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Country in the spotlight: Jamaica

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

These days we know Jamaica as the birthplace of Reggae and Rastafari. Yet this beautiful island has much more to offer: a rich history and a specific style of Rum.


Xaymaca was the first name of the island. Local South American tribes called the island home and lived a peaceful existence until around 1400 when the Caribs, a cannibalistic people, disturbed the peace. The Caribs did not enjoy their domination for long, because not much later the Spaniards came along with their powerful weapons: Western diseases and aggressiveness. You can read more about this in this post:

The island was called Santiago under Spanish rule and was used as a sort of supply station for the neighboring Spanish colony: Cuba.

The first one!

Until 1655 Santiago remains in Spanish hands. In that year, the British take over the island and Jamaica becomes the very first British colony that was also effectively in the hands of the British government. The Spaniards fled to Cuba, leaving their slaves behind with the intention of quickly retaking the island. These slaves fled to the mountains and became known as the Maroons. The British tried to make the island profitable, but ran into a major problem: the Spaniards may have been expelled, but the British fleet was not powerful enough to protect the island permanently. The British quickly found a solution by turning the port city of Port Royal into a free port for Pirates. These so called Privateers were allowed by the British crown to loot Spanish ships, which weakened the Spaniards and the British kept clean hands. A well-known, but also very cruel privateer was Henry Morgan, who became deputy governor of Jamaica after the ban on piracy. Talk about a career switch. In that capacity, he fought brutal and massively bloody wars with the Maroons. Today he graces the labels of Captain Morgan Rum: a brand with Jamaican roots.

Captain Morgan, first Pirate, then Deputy-Governor.


Sugar plantations were, and still are, an important source of income for Jamaica. Anyone who could afford it invested in the island by establishing a plantation and buying slaves to work on the plantations. Sugar was a coveted commodity at the time, the price of sugar was almost as high as the price of gold! You will also find the oldest plantations in Jamaica. Appleton Estate, for example, dates back to 1655, the year the English conquered the island from the Spaniards. It is therefore not surprising that the Rum production also started quickly on Jamaica. Some of the most famous English style Rum brands originate here. Yet there is something that makes Jamaican Rum unique.

Dunder and lightning!

In Jamaica they use a technique called 'Dundering'. Dunder is the name of what's left after the distillation of molasses. This substance can become hazardous to the environment, as it can give off strong ammonia odors after prolonged exposure to the open air. The safe handling of dunder is a major problem for rum production today. In Jamaica, part of the dunder, which has not yet been exposed to the open air, is added to the next fermentation round. By doing this in a controlled way you can speed up the fermentation and create 'esters'. Esters give a richer, more floral touch to Rum. Esters are also an important component of perfume. The Jamaican Rum producers are therefore an important supplier of esters for the perfume industry. Rum from Jamaica is rich in esters and can be recognized immediately by its typical taste. Pay attention: never blindly buy a Rum from Jamaica. The special flavor is often described as 'Funky'. The reason: people can never really pinpoint what Jamaican Rum actually tastes like. Flowers for one person, herbs for another, burnt rubber for others... It all depends on your taste pattern, so be careful and choose to taste this style of Rum first. At The Siren's Cove you can taste all our Rums before purchase to avoid a bad buy.

Some well-known brands:

  • J Wray and Nephew: probably the largest producer of Rum in Jamaica. This producer is owned by the Campari Group and, in addition to its own brand, also owns Appleton Estate.

  • Appleton Estate: a well-known producer of Rum and especially praised for the fact that Appleton Estate has its own 'terroir' and can thus better control the taste. However, they receive the highest praise for employing the world's first female master blender: Dr. Joy Spence.

  • Blackwell: Blackwell is a brand of Rum by Chris Blackwell and is best known for its association with James Bond. The Rum itself is blended by J Wray and Nephew.

  • Hampden Estate: this independent producer is known for its smaller and artisanal production of traditional Jamaican Rum.

  • Smith and Cross: Smith and Cross is an English bottler from London, but uses only Jamaican Rum for its blend. They only offer one variety at 57% ABV. This Rum is a must-have for lovers of (especially) Tiki cocktails.

Click here to discover our range of Jamaican Rums.


Jamaican Rum is in a league of its own in the English style. Thanks to the unique and yet authentic production processes, this Rum gets a specific flavor profile that you will not find anywhere else. Although it is not to everyone's taste, it is a must-have for the collector, the enthusiast and the cocktail enthusiast. Be sure to come and taste it!

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