How To Plan A Rum-Filled Trip To Jamaica – Forbes

Attendees drinking a cocktail at the Jamaican Rum Festival.
Spirits sippers and cocktail drinkers have shown an increased interest in luxury rum in recent years as brands have focused on premium sipping options that combat the stereotype of sugary spring break drinks. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the super premium category of rum grew almost 13% year over year.
Rum varies in styles that often differ depending on where it’s made. As opposed to lighter rums that are made in Puerto Rico and Cuba, Jamaican rums tend to be funkier. It’s a great place to learn how the spirit is made, with a variety of distilleries to visit as well as activities where you can experience the rum culture. Rum has become such a draw to the island that it held the fourth Jamaican Rum Festival in June which was a day full of tastings, interactive educational seminars and musical performances.
And while there will likely be a fifth Rum Festival in the coming year (it’s been held both in Kingston and Montego Bay), there’s plenty to check out during a visit to the island in the meantime.
Pot stills at Hampden Estate in Trelawny, Jamaica.
Hampden Rum Experience, Trelawny
Peacocks will greet you at this distillery that makes some of the heaviest pot still rums in Jamaica and is a great place to understand techniques that differentiate this style of rum from others. Visitors can see dunder pits, which is the liquid that is left in a boiler after making a batch of rum, that’s saved and rescued to add more flavor, similar to a sour mash used in bourbon.
The boiling house, where the rum is fermented, is almost unchanged since the 1800s, using cedar fermentation tanks that are 150 to 200 years old, and wild yeast in the air that is key to the final product; changing anything about the environment there could affect how the spirit ultimately tastes.
Hampden manufactures both Rum Fire, the popular overproof rum, as well as a range of aged rums. Tours are offered on weekdays at 10 and 11 a.m. and include a lunch from the onsite jerk kitchen.
Joy Spence, the master blender for Appleton Rum.
Appleton Estate, St. Elizabeth
Joy Spence, the master blender at Appleton, Jamaica’s most renowned rum, is a legend in the industry. She joined Appleton in 1981 as chief chemist and became the first female master blender in the industry in 1997. The tour at Appleton is named in her honor. Visitor’s will learn about how the terroir of the Nassau Valley, with its daily rain showers, limestone hills and caves and underground water sources, affects the flavor of the range of aged rums.
A chocolate making class at Pure Chocolate.
Pure Chocolate, Ocho Rios
You can find Pure Chocolate sold at different spots around the island, but if you want to learn about how it’s made, and why it is a great pairing with rum, head to their Chocolate Studio at Island Village in Ocho Rios. Their 90-minute Discover Chocolate workshop is a deep dive into how the company makes bars and treats from Jamaican cocoa, and you get to make fudge and a chocolate bar. They also have a new rum and chocolate pairings class as well, often highlighting Worthy Park, a centuries-old family-owned distillery making traditional pot still rum. To book, email
Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Montego Bay
This two-story museum has rotating art installations as well as exhibits on the history of Jamaica, including rum and how its production transformed the island. Manufacturing first started under British colonization and profited with slave labor. The industry declined after emancipation, but the estates that remained had a resurgence after the 1959 Cuban revolution and increasing worldwide demand for rum. The museum explains how rum is made, as well as slave rebellions throughout Jamaica’s history and the evolution of the island as a tourist destination and the evolution of the island’s most popular spirit.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Falmouth
Enjoying Jamaica’s natural beauty is a must, but at Chukka Caribbean Adventures you can do that by pairing a tour with a quick rum class. There are locations throughout the island, but the Falmouth one is focused on nature, where visitors can zipline, go tubing down the Martha Brae river, or go on a traditional bamboo rafting trip. The 30-foot rafts were historically used for transporting sugar and other crops from sugar estates to port towns.
A daiquiri at Pier 1 in Montego Bay.
Pier 1, Montego Bay
Pier 1 has an epic location on a peninsula overlooking Montego Bay, and because of this location it ranges from “pretty busy” to “insanely popular” on certain nights when it morphs from a dinner restaurant to a packed club during a street party. If it’s during mealtime, try a cocktail made with local rum, but if you’re ready to party, buy a small bottle and a chaser and get ready to dance.


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