Who would have thunk it? Ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica fermented and poured as a wine? It's no idle boast! Returning resident Howard Coxe so believed in the possibilities of the fruit (more known as the side kick to saltfish) translating into a drink that he forged ahead with his vision.
The finished product, labelled Journey's End Ackee Wine, debuted to rave reviews at the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show in Clarendon this past Emancipation weekend. For the ackee wine creator, the warm reception at Denbigh was the public stamp of validation he needed after a year-long process of trial and error, thousands of dollars spent and exhaustive re-testing — think an estimated 100 gallons worth of tested wine being tossed out — until Coxe successfully perfected the formula. He is expectedly guarded when asked to reveal details of his novel winemaking process. The wine entrepreneur politely brushes the question off with laughs and a simple response: "I can't share that."
Returning to Jamaica last year with his wife after living in the United States for 27 years to care for his ailing mother-in-law, Coxe, who was in the construction industry, had amassed years of experience as a winemaking hobbyist. As one who loved to eat raw ackee, Coxe figured there was a possible business element to be derived from it. He also realised there are two variations of ackee — one tasting sweeter than the other. It was here that the experimentation began that eventually led him to create the finished product.
As for the future of the business, Devon Lindsay, marketing and sales director of Journey's End, which manufactures the ackee wine (along with sorrel blush and rum wine) said he's elated by the public response they received at Denbigh. "The response was phenomenal and we want to piggyback on that," he explained.
Currently in the pipeline: scouting larger locations to relocate the home-based manufacturing plant. "We are waiting to see how things develop," Coxe told Thursday Food, "and down the line, we would like to introduce a 750 ml wine bottle and also change our labelling."
If you're interested in sampling ackee wine this Independence holiday, 5 oz bottles retail for $250 at Empire Supermarket in Cross Roads, or you can call 410-6308 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.