200 Years OverProofing Jamaica

I could not find the year that Wray and Nephew company started to produce the White Overproof version, but during our trip to Jamaica it was very clear the omnipresence of the

Wray and Nephew Overproof bottle

Wray and Nephew Overproof bottle

spirit. It may have been since they first started in 1825, which I doubt, but the impact in the Jamaica society and most probably on their livers is very deep, I’m sure that most of the population will recognise the brand name. Wray and Nephew still remains as one of the biggest brands Jamaica exports, and the quality of their rum is World famous.

To explain it we need to go back almost 200 years to the beginnings of the 19th century when Mr. Wray opened the “Shakespeare Tavern” in Kingston, Jamaica. He called it Shakespeare theater because it was built on the side of the famous Royal Theater, which was a pit stop from all the British Kindgom performers on their way to American soil, making it one of the busiest theaters of the time. The opportunism of Mr. Wray paid off and very quickly he made up a brand a huge profit. It is not clear when did he started also to produce rum or if he just bought rum from the even older Appleton State, the destillery that still claims to be the oldest of the

View of the Royal Theater after the Earthquake- credit to blog.jamaica-allspice.com

View of the Royal Theater after the Earthquake- credit to blog.jamaica-allspice.com

world starting its production in 1749. Neverthless, Mount Gay destillery in Barbados claims with evidence they have started to produce in 1703 and even created a special edition of Rum named after that date.

Mr. Wray some years before he died called for the help of his nephew, changing the brand to Wray and Nephew, and giving total managing control to him. He was already regarded as a skillfull entrepeneur and expanded the horizons of the company by aquiring 3 sugar cane producing states and also several distributing licenses of rums that allowed them to be the biggest producer/distributor of rum in the Island. The company become so wealthy, that after the infamous Earthquake of 1907 that destroyed most of the buildings of Kingston and Port Royal, they offered to rebuild themselves the theater, which was later called Ward Theater. Today the Theater is looking for finance to be rebuilt and restart a golden age, but during most of the 20th century the Ward Theater was the star of culture life in Kingston Jamaica, providing the Shakespeare Theater its share of profits.

Charles James Ward, the Nephew shortly after investing most of the fortune in rebuilding the Ward Theater gave away the company to trustees who later sold the company to the Lindo Brothers Co. The Lindo Family was a 7 brothers Jamaican family that just after acquiring Wray and Nephew acquired also Appleton State giving them the monopoly of

Visiting Appleton State in Jamaica

Visiting Appleton State in Jamaica

rum production/distribution in Jamaica. They decided to keep the same name of the brand Wray and Nephew, that still remains until today even after being bought several times after.

In 2012 Gruppo Campari, an Italian giant producer of Spirits (famous for Campari obviously), wine and sodas bought Wray and Nephew and announced they would continue to produce high quality spirits in the same line that have been produced until today. It was the first time the company had fallen in foreigner hands and the Jamaicans still fear the possibility of Campari deciding to transfer it’s headquarters to another country, which would be a great loss of a brand considered national heritage.

Indifferent to all the ownership changes the Jamaicans love to consume their products, in particular the White Overproof accounting for almost 90% of all island rum consumption. Considering the high level of Alcohol content, roughly 63% (or 126 proof) one could say the Jamaicans are strong drinkers and what was once considered a medicine (the alchool not wray and nephew’s rum) has for sure an impact in the population liver condition, it’s even possible that Jamaican’s livers are more resistant than others, but I could not find any study of this nature relating the high alcohol beverage consumption with liver characteristics. If Lamarckism was still the evolution theory then anyone with liver problems would be prescribed a stay in Jamaica.

Wray and Nephew White Overproof rum datasheet:

Category: Rum
Style: Overproof
Origin: Jamaica (Appleton State)
Proof: 126 (62.8%)
Process: Pot and Column Still
Filtering: ???
Ageing: Yes, ex-Bourbon Barrels
Residual Sugar: Yes

Tasting a spirit with this strenght is not easy as all the esthers floating on your nose as soon as you approach the glass will complicate the rest of the sensations. It’s pungency is strong but it is possible to detect some ripe sweet fruit at the end.

Outside Jamaica is mainly used for floats or mixes in Cocktails, like the Mai Tai or rum punches, very rarely drank neat. I wonder how a overproof mojito tastes like?


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