- Anyone who has been to the US Virgin Islands has tasted Cruzan rum. By far the largest selling rum in the Virgins, the character of Cruzan has earned this distillery a faithful following. The duty-free status of the US Virgin Islands and the low transportation costs involved make this one of the best rum values in the islands.
There have been a lot of changes at Cruzan since I firsted visited this distillery in 1993 but Cruzan rums are still the Virgin Island standard by which all other rums are measured. West of the middle of the island, the Cruzan distillery is only a few minutes walk south from Centerline Road on Highway 64. As you approach the distillery the aroma of fermenting molasses mixed with the scent of flowers and greets you.
The Cruzan distillery has gone through several owners in the last century and has operated continuously except for the years of US prohibition (1920 -1933). In the spring of 1994, the Cruzan Rum Distillery Company was acquired by Todhunter International. President Donald Nelthropp Sr. and the original staff continue to manage the distillery. Even though this is one of the largest production distilleries in the Eastern Caribbean, the feeling of a family operation permeates the atmosphere here.
Since there is no longer a sugar mill on St. Croix, there is no local supply of molasses. The raw material arrives by ship from South and Central America. From the 1.5-million gallon storage facility at the port on the south side of the island, the thick, black liquid is trucked to the distillery. When it arrives, it contains 85% dissolved solids, more than half of which is sugar that can be fermented.
Before the molasses is fermented, it is diluted with well water to 16 brix, then boiled under pressure at 240 degrees F for 15 minutes for sterilization. Then, this solution is further diluted and the proprietary yeast culture is introduced. When the yeast begins to multiply, compressed air is injected at the bottom of the stainless steel vats. Aeration helps keep the carbon dioxide bubbles formed during fermentation from actually foaming over the top of the fermentation vats and reduces the amount of carbonic gas formed during distillation.
The terminology used at this distillery is unique, but easily followed once you understand the basics of the process. From the fermentation vat, the beer (fermented wash) is pumped to the first column called the beer still. In this column, the fusels, heads, and ethyl alcohols are separated from the other fermentation products.
The vapor collected from the top of the beer still is condensed and piped to the next four columns. Aldehydes, esters, and other trace compounds are removed from the final product stream through various taps in the distillation columns and the final product stream is 94.5% alcohol by volume. Fusel oils, collected from the still, are sold to blenders in the states who use them for flavoring other liquors. With the addition of a new still the distillery is capable of producing 25,000 proof gallons, gallons at 50% alcohol, per day.
The purity of the rum produced at Cruzan is important, but that is only the beginning of the story. All of the rum sold under the Cruzan label is aged at the distillery. Twenty-three thousand charred oak barrels of rum are maturing in the largest aging warehouses I have seen. Most of the rum aged here is light body rum, but a small amount of heavier rum is also aged for blending. To further the effects of aging in the heavier products, about two pounds of oak chips are added to the barrels that contain the aging rum.
The most popular Cruzan rums are the Light-Dry and Dark-Dry, both are blends of two rums aged at least two years. To remove the color attained during aging, Light-Dry is carbon-filtered. Both are bottled at 80 US proof.
For those who prefer a stronger drink, there is Cruzan 151 White and Gold. These 151 US proof rums are used mostly in punches and cooking. They are flammable so beware - they have the potential to do more than light up your dessert! The premium rum bottled here is not widely known because it is produced in small quantities and is not widely available. A blend of five to ten-year-old rums, Estate Diamond is bottled at 80 proof. If you have never tasted an expertly blended, aged rum, visit the distillery and taste this one. The age statement on this rum states four years old. By US law this is the age of the youngest rum in the blend. New flavored rums are being introduced that combine natural flavors and rum. Coconut, banana and pineapple rums can be tasted at the visitors center at the distillery.
In addition to the 450,000 cases of rum bottled annually for the local market and export markets, another 3,500,000 proof gallons (gallons at 50% alcohol by volume) of unaged rum are sold to be bottled under a variety of labels.
To maintain the quality of the rum produced, laboratory personnel perform quality control tests at several stages of production. But, ultimately, a panel of human testers sign their names attesting to their personal inspection of everything that leaves the distillery.
In 1998, Cruzan's Single Barrel Rum was introduced. This rum is the result of blending aged rums and then finishing them in another barrel until they have reached the peak of maturity.
After being sold to Pernod in 2008 as part of the largest sprits auction in history, Cruzan was sold to Fortune Brands and is now again owned by an American company.
- On November 5, 2009 USVI Governor deJongh signed a bill providing a 30 year deal for cooperation between the USVI government and the Cruzan Rum distillery.
Here's a comment about that and Gary Nelthropph's new neighbor recorded Nov 11, 2009 in NY.
- Gary Nelthropp talks about what it takes to make Cruzan rum.
Recorded Nov 11, 2009 in NY.
- There are 19 products in our database distilled by Cruzan Rum Distillery.
- Cruzan 151 Gold
- Cruzan 151 White
- Cruzan 9
- Cruzan Aged Dark Rum
- Cruzan Aged Light Rum
- Cruzan Banana Rum
- Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
- Cruzan Citrus
- Cruzan Clipper
- Cruzan Coconut Rum
- Cruzan Estate Diamond
- Cruzan Guava Rum
- Cruzan Junkanu
- Cruzan Orange Rum
- Cruzan Pineapple Rum
- Cruzan Raspberry Rum
- Cruzan Rum Cream
- Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum
- Salt River Spiced Rum