In 2006 Lascelles de Mercado, known mainly for its J Wray and Nephew (JWN) and Appleton rums, launched a new brand of beer called Kingston 62, linking into Jamaica's year of independence. But the new larger had a hard time competing against the established Red Stripe, and by 2010 the beer and its brand with its crocodile logo were no longer.
Fast forward 10 years and the brand is now being resurrected, making its presence known at the Jamaica Rum Festival that took place at Hope Gardens last weekend —although that was not the official launch.
This time, however, the brand had taken on a new spirit, and replaced the established Appleton Special brand to become Kingston 62 Jamaica Gold Rum.
“Kingston 62 is the new Appleton Special worldwide,” Alison Moss-Solomon J Wray and Nephew's brand communications manger for Jamaica and the Caribbean confirmed with the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
The rationale behind the name change is to separate Appleton Special — sometimes described as Appleton's 'entry level rum' — from the more prestigious Appleton Estate rum blends.
“The decision to discontinue Appleton Special & White was to allow the name 'Appleton' to live solely on our Premium rum collection: Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. Kingston 62 replaces Appleton Special & White globally as Campari Group's primary standard rum proposition,” an official release from JWN stated.
“The Kingston 62 name, proposition and packaging design celebrate the storied history of Jamaica's independence and the great pride of the Jamaican people,” JWN said.
LION SUBSUMES CROC
The former beer's crocodile mascot has been replaced with an image of a black lion, much like those used in Rastafarian motifs, set on a gold background. Only the red screw top is reminiscent of the Appleton Estate bottle.
“The Kingston 62 lion symbolises the strength, courage, and pride of the Jamaican people. It is these attributes that have made Jamaicans resilient since 1962 when independence from the United Kingdom was secured. Our lion embodies the confident swagger of our brand, as well as the country and the people that it celebrates,” JWN said.
In 2010 at the suspension of the beer brand, it was reported that Lascelles de Mercado (owned by Gruppo Campari since 2012) said Kingston 62 was not dead and that the move should not be viewed as a permanent exit.
Few could have imagined at that time that it would be brought back as a rum brand, and one that would replace the iconic Appleton Special brand.
The separation between the Appleton Special and Appleton Estate brands has been in the making for some time. Back in 2016 the Appleton Special brand had already been discontinued in some overseas markets such as the United States and Canada, where it was rebranded as J Wray Jamaica Rum Gold.
But that brand, too, is on its way out. “J Wray Gold and White will discontinue as brands”, Moss-Solomon told the Business Observer.
The separation between Appleton Special and Appleton Estate rums also existed online, where the Special brand is not promoted on the home page of the Appleton Estate web site. In fact, Appleton Estate Signature Blend is promoted on the site as the original Appleton Estate rum. Appleton Special is not mentioned at all, and does not have its own site. And Kingston 62 is also currently without a site.
SAME GREAT RUM
While the rum inside the bottle may be the same as Appleton Special, the outside of the bottle has been getting mixed reviews online. Lifelong Appleton Special aficionado John McKinney, now based in Northern Ireland, asked: “Whatever happened to 'If it ain't broke...?'” adding that the label “looks cheap and nasty”. Another fan Richard Robinson, based in the US, had a similar opinion, stating “the label looks like crap”.
But Vivene Lue-Tenn who was actually at the Rum Festival was more concerned about the contents than the new look, noting that it was the “same great rum!”.
That was supported by the official word from JWN, who in answering the question: “Is the liquid of Kingston 62 the same as Appleton Special?”, said, “Yes, both liquids are identical; only differences are with the brand name and packaging.”
Appleton Special is the most affordable and accessible golden rum in the range of Appleton rums. It is the latest of the Appleton brands to be rebranded, the popular Appleton Estate V/X being rebranded to Appleton Estate Signature Blend back in 2015. But Signature or not, the V/X brand was so well established that five years later many drinkers still refer to the rum as V/X.
It remains to be seen if the new Kingston 62 will take hold, or if it will follow its predeceesor into the history books.
Whatever the case, thousands of patrons attending the second annual Rum Festival seemed to take the change of name in stride, with many people slipping the conveniently shaped flask into their back pockets — red top peeking out — in preference to the other more bulky Appleton bottles, or even the flasks from the other brands.
At the festival a 200ml cue of Kingston 62 headed the list of rums available at the bars, and sold for $700, as did some other competing rums such as Monymusk Special.
Appleton and J Wray and Newphew had by far the largest presence at the festival, with at leat four large exibition and entertainment areas, two with two floors. But other Jamaican producers also made their presence felt, with Worthy Park, Monymusk and Hampden in attendance.
Change or no change, Appleton Special is still on the shelves in supermarkets across Jamaica and is currently selling for just a few dollars less than a similar bottle of Appleton Estate Signature. While the label and branding will change, the price will not, as the price for Kingston 62 is the same as Appleton Special (selling price & recommended retail price) according to JWN.