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Apr 21, 2010 12:37 AM

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:

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?

      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!


            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.