A rum maker’s guide to the best of Jamaica

“While I have had the pleasure of travelling to several memorable places around the world, there is no place quite like Jamaica,” says Joy Spence, the master blender for Appleton Estate Rum, of her home country. Born in the island nation’s parish of Manchester but raised in Kingston, she is a chemist by training and pours her prodigious energies into promoting the attractions of her native land – and making a mean rum punch. Jamaica, she says, is “a place of stunning beauty, with wonderful people, great food and drink, and a unique vibrancy that is unparalleled. The island is full of hidden treasures.” If you’re flying down this winter, visit a few of her favourite places.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

(Kimberly John/The Associated Press)

Rafting the Rio Grande

“My absolute favourite Jamaican experience is rafting on the Rio Grande in Portland. For me, there is no other experience in the world that compares to floating down the river and taking in the beautiful sights of the Rio Grande Valley. After rafting, I like to make a stop at Frenchman’s Cove, which has a spectacular beach.” Portland

My Jamaica

“This is one of my favourite stores. They stock wonderful Jamaican art and crafts that are made by local artisans and they also carry a wonderful assortment.” Liguanea Plaza, Kingston

(Tamarind Indian Cuisine)

Tamarind Indian Cuisine

“Hands down my favourite restaurant in Kingston is Tamarind, which serves up delicious Indian and Asian fusion dishes. I always order the vegetable Samosas as an appetizer and the Mutton Rogan Josh as a main course. I like to go with a large group so that we can order several different items from the menu.” 18-22 Barbican Rd., Kingston; tamarindindiancuisine.com

(Regency Bar, Terra Nova Hotel)

Regency Bar & Lounge

“They make amazing cocktails with fresh seasonal fruits and herbs. There, you can also enjoy a glass of our Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum, which is very very special. I took care of it myself.” Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston; terranovajamaica.com

(Half Moon, a Rock Resort)

Half Moon, a Rock Resort

“The Royal Villas at Half Moon are my idea of paradise – a villa with your own private pool and cook. My favourite villa is number 83, which is right on the water. Nothing compares to sitting on the pool deck, enjoying breakfast that has been cooked to order while you look out to sea.” Rose Hall, Montego Bay;halfmoon.com

Follow on Twitter: @Deirdre_Kelly

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