Debbie Allen, popular American actress, dancer, choreographer, director, producer, and former member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, was left in awe after recently participating in a tour of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience in Siloah, St Elizabeth. Allen was on the island to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime masterclass spearheaded by founder and artistic director of Plié for the Arts Marisa Benain. As Allen would be jetting away just days before the annual Jamaica Rum Festival, presenting sponsor Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum swept her away on a sensorial immersion and tasting experience at the brand’s home.
Allen was greeted at the Experience’s Welcome Centre, where she was introduced to an Appleton Estate Rum Punch. After this, she was whisked away to a private tasting session with Appleton Estate’s revered Master Blender Dr Joy Spence. Allen was immersed in an abridged masterclass with the living spirits legend, where she journeyed through Appleton Estate’s ultra-premium range. Then, it was off for an intimate dining experience at the Experience’s Black River Lounge.
Casual conversation, laughter and delightful cocktails punctuated lunch, with Allen and Spence each singing each other’s praises. It was then that Spence revealed that she was also a dancer in her youth to which Allen replied “once a dancer, always a dancer”. With a pleasant lunch out of the way and Spence’s and Allen’s kinship firmly rooted, it was time for Allen to put her newly-gained knowledge to the test.
Under the able tutelage of Spence, Allen recreated Joy’s cocktail. A wedge of orange and five dashes of Angostura bitters were muddled together before adding 1.5 ounces of Appleton Estate 8-Year-Old Reserve. Ginger Ale to top it off and ice for chilling and Allen’s cocktail lesson was complete.
The group then meandered through the lush environs of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate on a tour of the historical estate. After the requisite photo session beneath the iconic Appleton Estate sign, Spence and Allen worked together to press cane juice, fresh and sweet from the source. After cooling down with their satisfying self-produced refreshment, the private tour culminated in the magical ageing house, home to Appleton Estate’s world-renowned golden-hued rums.
At the climax of the experience with Dr Spence, Allen said one expression, in particular, made her think of one of the greatest dancers on the planet, her mentor and friend, Katherine Dunham.