I’ve never been to Jamaica.
When I say never, I don’t mean to exaggerate. I’ve never been to Jamaica by plane, but if memory tells this story, I’ve been to Jamaica, in spirit.
The spirit of this island country speaks in many ways. My first memory of Jamaica was through the sound of reggae, a once wailing ambassador of an island country whose cultural diaspora soaks the senses.
I’ve never been to Jamaica, but I’ve been, in spirit.
There is a place in Jamaica, where the land is two hundred and sixty five years old. This place maps to Appleton Estate, the rum bloodline of Jamaica’s Nassau Valley. In this valley, the story of Joy Spence, a real character in the island of Jamaica’s history can be found. As the worlds’ first female master blender she’s making a legacy among fields of sugar cane, soiled hands and spirits that speak the terroir of Jamaica. With three bottles of Appleton Estate Rum to explore, I began my journey.
I knew that Master Blender Joy Spence created a bouquet of spice and nutty notes, vanilla, hazelnut and dried orange peel. As I began turning the tops of each bottle the journey of the spirits became personal, my heart ballooning when hues of The Reserve Blend conjured memories of Jamaica Tea leaves and amber cane sugar. So inspired, feelings like poetry came from within me.
Produced among sugar cane,
soiled hands and spirits that speak,
like a printed page
you are before my eyes,
under my nose,
on my lips,
and down to my flesh-toned pink epiglottis.
Now, as the full aroma wiggled its way underneath my nose and my sensory hairs filtering its scent, I inhaled, deeply. I blushed, tickled by its direct charm and unapologetic power. I eased away, only to rush back in, coming closer still. I inhaled again, this time half as deep, as the memory of the first loitered. So as not to forget this first impression, I moved quickly sifting through memory and ah, there it was – brown sugar, oh hello there.
Then, wading through these tiny granules, I met contrast – an herb. Whatever was that? Deeper than mint, not as subdued as basil – more savory than sweet. I raced for it quickly, for I knew its presence was faint, but fresh enough to be noticed. Rosemary!
As soon as I caught it, I took a sip and the spirit of Jamaica came rushing in. At once, I felt like I was creating my own autobiographical experience with flavor, it coming into memory, quickly like hands on a clock, clockwise: sugar, coconut, orange, rosemary, and tea – my Jamaica!
I’ve never been to Jamaica. But, when its spirits speak – they tell me different. These flavors, residents of my own homeland in the United States are not just mine, they belong to the Valley where waters filtered by limestone and hand selected barrels rock in a glass before me.
to my eyes,
under my nose, on my lips,
sliding down my flesh-toned pink throat –
your spirit speaks.
I hear her, Jamaica, Jamaica.