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The Death of Cruzan Rum

By way of background I have been going to St. Croix (home of Cruzan rum for quite a while.)

And I just did some research that explains a lot. In August of 2008 Cruzan was acquired by Beam Brands for $100M:

http://www.chadbourne.com/newsevents/...

In all fairness I actually think the single barrel product is decent, I guess I am just sad that they phased out the 5 Year aged Diamond Estate, which I liked MUCH better; It was subtler, more complex, just plain better, didn't hit you over the head, and when you finished one, you wanted another. The single barrel to my palate is just a Barrilito 3 Star wanna be, and is oaked nearly to death. Try drinking two on the rocks back to back, I can't, it's just too much; by the time I'm done with one my reaction is whew, I need a glass of water.

They no longer make the 2 year white or amber which were nice, delicately aged products that could be quaffed on the rocks, and stood up nicely to mixing.

My feeling is that Cruzan's recent product moves, indicate they have completely given up nearly 250 years of family tradition. I actually wrote Gary Nelthropp, the President, and member of the family that until recently owned, and still runs the distillery, a letter today telling him how disappointed I am.

They stopped making all of their rum out of local cane a few years back, now they ship in molasses from S. America. I can forgive them that, sort of, as growing cane on the scale they need it, is getting prohibitive on St. Croix.

More recently it's not even bottled in St. Croix, they ship rum to Florida for bottling, I'm sure at some enormous Beam owned plant (and I might guess flavoring too).

The blackstrap product I think is one of the clunkiest dark rums I've ever tasted. Tastes like they just poured blackstrap molasses into cheap industrial rum, which is, in fact, what I think they did. I really think that product is pretty crappy. Some marketing guy woke up and said: "we need a product that competes with Gosling's, three guys in a lab figured out how to do it as cheap as possible, and that's what we got.

I would WAY prefer to drink Coruba, Meyers, Goslings, Lemon Hart, or one of the other countless dark rums that has some genuine, un-manufactured flavor.

So basically over a course of about 2 years they abandoned all of their old family proven recipes and came out with new "marketing-driven" product.

When it comes to rum in general, Cruzan across the board is basically at the bottom of my list going forward, except when I want a handle (1.75l) for small money to make a big bowl of punch on a hot summer day.

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  1. I completely disagree about the Black Strap. It's the only Cruzan product we buy and is great for mixing especially when blended with other rums, and besides, what else would you use for a Corn'n'Oil?

    http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: yarm

      I bet you couldn't tell the difference if you just added a dash of blackstrap molasses in lieu of the Cruzan Black Strap.

      Corn and oil just don't sound like my bag. Whew.

      I have made my own Falernum and it is quite tasty, but the last thing I would want to add it to is a glass of molasses.

      You and Davis Square Pro do seem to like cocktails that just blow your socks off.

      I prefer a MUCH lighter and subtler touch

      1. re: yarm

        Alrighty, per your recco I tried a corn and oil with my own homemade Falernum, and it is indeed good. I stand corrected. Thanks for the suggestion.

      2. I absolutely love Blackstrap. I am very new to the game, though, having got into mixing only within the last year, so I don't have much of a history to fall back on.

        I am guessing that they want to differentiate themselves from other dark rums with the over the top molasses flavor, but that is purely speculation on my part.

        1. I'd like to chime in here if I may. I live on STX and take my many visitors on the Cruzan tour. Just last week, on the tour, I was chatting with the tour guide about some of the product moves Cruzan has made. First, the decision to phase out the 5-year Estate Diamond (which, I agree, is far better than the Single Barrel), was made under the previous owner--Absolut Pernod--and not Beam. And the reason they made that change was that Absolut was putting serious marketing money behind the Single Barrel and they feared that if it worked and demand for the Single Barrel increased, they wouldn't have enough aged rum to satisfy demand (rum that was going toward the 5-year production). So, they phased out the 5-year to free up rum for the Single Barrel. Possible good news is on the horizon, though: The tour guide said that due to all the feedback they've gotten from customers, and the fact that in a year Cruzan will have a huge boost in production capacity due to a major expansion they just broke ground for, Beam is likely to bring the 5-year back.

          Regarding your other point about no longer having the two-year light and dark, that's not true. Although it doesn't say "2-year" on the label, these products still are blended from rums that are aged a minimum of two years. I have the dark neat and it goes down fine--just as the previous "2-year."

          You're right about the bottling (as well as the flavoring) being done in Florida. But it's not because of any decrease in dedication to the product. Three simple reasons why it's done: 1) Cruzan has become much more popular and, thus, the company simply couldn't keep up with the bottling requirements at its small STX facility; 2) the vast majority of Cruzan's distribution is on the mainland US, so it makes more sense to bottle closer to demand; and 3) there are tax advantages to shipping the rum to the US in bulk versus as a finished, bottled product.

          The other bit in your post I'd like to address is your comment about no longer using locally produced cane to make their rums. I don't know for certain, but I'm pretty sure that they've been using molasses for a long time, and it's not just a recent move. Sugar cane hasn't been grown on STX in any volume for at least two decades, as the last sugar estate closed in the 1980s.

          Hope this helps!

          Bernie

          7 Replies
          1. re: bathiel

            Thanks for the info. Really hope they bring back the Diamond Estate, that stuff was just amazing!

            I do feel that the both the light and amber products are not what they once were. And the change to the label CAN'T be coincidental. They just taste different.

            Ahhhh St. Croix, if you are a true chowhound do me a favor and stop in to Harvey's in Christiansted for me and have one of those amazing meals his mother whips up. Heck while you're at it grab a roti at Singh's and a coconut tart at the bakery across the street ;-).

            Whatever you do stay away from that Blackstrap product, uggh.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              The label definitely is a "marketing-driven" change. I personally find the label ridiculous. It says nothing about STX or the Caribbean. What the heck is up with the knights on it? Stupid label drummed up by a NYC branding agency who probably can't find STX on a map.

              I do have to agree with you about Blackstrap, although I'm not a big fan of any of the blackstrap-type rums. I've had a three-quarters bottle open at home for about three years and just can't bring myself to drink it. However, on the last tour, I did get a sample that made it tolerable: one shot (with an ice cube) of blackstrap, immediately followed by a shot of rum cream. Not bad.

              Haven't been to Harvey's, but meaning to go. And never stopped at Singh's, but the rotis at the Domino Club are pretty darn hard to beat!

              1. re: bathiel

                Wait, you live in STX and have never been to Harvey's? Some of the best caribbean food I have ever had (and I've travelled the carib) anywhere, ever.

                Singh's is pretty awesome too.

                Where is the Domino Club?

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  we just don't get downtown early enough for harvey's. it's been on my list, but haven't made it yet. domino is in the rainforest on mahogany road--the place with the beer-drinking pigs.

                  1. re: bathiel

                    Beer drinking pigs, rainforest, I have no idea where that is. Wow. Next time I'm on the Island will definitely check it out.

                    By the way, Harvey's is sometimes open for dinner.

            2. re: bathiel

              I'm not sure if there was a change in labeling very recently, or if the product is different in a way I don't understand, but I purchased what looked like dark, or perhaps amber rum, just last week on STX, and it clearly said "2 year" on it.

              BTW, how on earth can they sell the Cruzan 2 year for $5.99 on STX if it is actually bottled in Florida!? Wow. I would think the bottle and transport costs alone would take that much!

              1. re: Alcachofa

                Just 6 or 7 years ago the Cruzan used to be $3 a bottle or so on the island. That $5.99 is getting pricey now.

            3. I had the opportunity to try the Cruzan Single Barrel at a friends house last night and found it unspectacular.

              Also, I wanted to note that while I have not had the opportunity to try the Cruzan Blackstrap, I DO enjoy the flavor of molasses in rum drinks, and I sometimes add molasses directly to a drink.

              Three wide swaths of grapefruit peel muddled with an eighth-ounce of molasses and a bit of water, and two ounces of gold rum over ice is a fine drink.

              1. Since rum, like other delights, is a matter of personal taste, I'm going to assume that your "taster" is broken! Cruzan is, and always has been, one of the finest rums in the world. I traveled from the U.S. mainland to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands just to experience a tour of a rum industry that has been vital to the island for 300 years. They make it the way they did 300 years ago and, if anything, the quality has improved over those years. If Cruzan single barrel isn't your favorite, try any of their other rums and nurse that taster back to health.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Rogerwmorgan

                  Uhhhhh I've been going to St. Croix and drinking Cruzan for a long time...

                  They are now owned by Fortune Brands (think Jim Beam and ownership back to Warren Buffett's Berskshire Hathaway.)

                  As I state above, the single barrel product is pretty good. Try Barrilito 3 Star from Puerto Rico for something much better.

                  That said, over the past 10 years they have extensively CUT Corners with their basic products. Though obviously you did not READ my post above:

                  - The white and amber used to both be aged 2 years, no longer, now the bottle just says "aged," and by the taste, I'd say they spend about 10 minutes on oak. These rums used to have real character, but no longer.

                  At the distillery they make a real show of pressing sugar cane, but that is just Disneyfied nonsense for the tourist. NONE of the rum is from local cane. They merely import molasses from elsewhere, distill it in St. Croix, and then ship it elsewhere (FL and KY) for bottling:

                  http://stcroixlibationsociety.com/rev...

                  The only reason they even bother to distill on St. Croix at all any more is that there are specific longstanding tax advantages to producing rum in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

                  See here for some recent discussion:

                  http://www.caribbeanbusinesspr.com/ne...

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    I have to say I agree about the blackstrap having gone downhill, I had it a couple years back and actually enjoyed drinking it neat, now the molasses flavor is just overwhelming and one-dimensional. Does work well in drinks calling for that kind of taste though, I just don't enjoy sipping it - and I do like to drink some dark rums neat, even Myer's.

                    1. re: ncyankee101

                      Could it possible be your evolving tastes? I used to love Ron Zacapa Centenario neat. No longer.

                      1. re: EvergreenDan

                        It's possible, back when I had this I didn't have much experience with really good rums, but I still like Gosling and Myers neat on occasion, as I did back then.

                2. The Nelthropp family has never owned Cruzan Rum. In the beginning after the repel of prohibition it was owned in part by my uncles Malcolm Skeoch and Miles Merwin.. Hardy Nelthropp--Gary's father--and Ceddie Nelthropp Hardy's brother both worked at the distillery for many years. The last time cane was crushed at Diamond was prior to WW II. After the war, mollasses was imported from Barbados and other off island sources. In 1939 my mother and I visited St. Croix and stayed in F'Sted with my grandmother at Liberty Hall. One day we witnessed the crushing of cane at Diamond. Later in 1947 as a teenager I spent the summer on St. Croix-- lived at Diamond-- and placed labels on the rum bottles. In those days a bottle of rum was 85 cents. At that time cattle grazed where the cane once grew. I have many fond memories of St, Croix and enjoy sipping Cruzan' Single Barrel.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CruzanMorning

                    Wow, cool. Thanks for chiming in.

                    I LOVE St. Croix and usually stay just outside of Christiansted myself.

                  2. Registered only because I have 2 cents to contribute. I'm not a rum drinker, (Glenlivet or Knobb Creek, please!) but cut my roommates and they bleed Bacardi Silver. They hate this stuff.

                    For me? A nectar from the gods. Bold flavor that reaches out and proclaims quite loudly "I am rum, hear me roar!" I tend to enjoy it on the rocks, but cold and neat works too. It's dangerous. I can drink this gleefully.

                    It's molasses, buttery, and many other flavors that my palate is incapable of determining. Uncommonly smooth, very rich, and I imagine making fresh maple syrup when it's on the nose.

                    I'm not a hardcore drinker. Most alcohols taste like medicine to me. With this, that medicine flavor is only hinted at.

                    I say, Cruzan Blackstrap is to rum, what Boston Lager is to beer. Bold, audacious, and impossible to overlook. Some love it, some detest it. I personally, am a fan, and that is my 2 cents. (Would be worth more, but I'm doing this for fun, not profit. :D )

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: KaptainPotatoe

                      Bold and audacious are about as far from a description of Boston Lager as I could imagine. Decent and better-than-average seem far more accurate.

                      Bacardi Silver smells just like Rain-X to me. Anyone else notice the similarities?

                      1. re: The Big Crunch

                        The last time I drank Bacardi Silver [at a football tailgate in late-Summer], I smelled like antifreeze the rest of the afternoon ...

                        1. re: The Big Crunch

                          Boston Lager is bold and audacious compared to the bland stuff most Americans still call beer, such as Bud, Miller, or Coors. It's a much better beer than Cruzan Blackstrap is rum, at least these days.

                      2. This headline is very misleading. While Estate Diamond may have been discontinued - years ago - Cruzan's success is growing rapidly.

                        Fortune (Cruzan), Diageo (Capt Morgan) have together received nearly $4 Billion USD in free money. Diageo's benefits are such that they receive twice the cost of producing the rum. Cruzan got a free disilltery and the right to buy molasses at 16 cents/gallon rather than the market price of $2.00. Amazing.

                        So who's gonna die? All the other Caribbean rums not in the USVI or Puerto Rico. Many of the real rums we all love from Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti, etc. can't compete and may go out of business and soon. The DR has petitioned the WTO for relief against what CARICOM feels are serious violations by the US.

                        This is a real crisis and we must all work to save Caribbean rum. There's a petition rum lovers should read and sign, here...

                        http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/s...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Capn Jimbo

                          The Petition to Save Caribbean rum is growing rapidly. Signatories include authors Dave Broom, Davin de Kergommeaux and Beachbum Berry, not to mention the the support of Inu a Kena, the Bilgemunky, Tiare, author Ian Williams, and hundreds of Caribbean rum lovers from around the world.

                          These wonderful producers need our help and support. Please! At least read the petition and if you agree - please sign it. And be sure to spread the word by Facebook or Twitter...

                          http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/s...