In the endless summer of South Florida, rum is one of our most popular spirits. Bacardi and Captain Morgan are still king, but Cruzan is gaining on them.
Cruzan Rum (pronounced “kru-shun”) is made on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The distillery has been managed by eight generations of the Nelthropp family, who emigrated to St. Croix from Denmark during the 18th century and founded Cruzan in 1760; because of its historical significance, the property is recognized as a stop on the American Whiskey Trail. The brand today is owned by Beam Global. The rum is made in column stills rather than the pot stills of old, cut with virgin rainwater after distillation, and aged in handmade wooden barrels for various intervals before release.
Cruzan claims to have invented the flavored rum category. The eight flavors currently on the market (Banana, Citrus, Coconut, Guava, Mango, Pineapple, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cream and Vanilla) proved to be a boon for bartenders, who could make a variety of flavored drinks without the burden of cleaning the blender after each one. In the more conventional realm, their most popular expressions are the Aged Light and Dark Rums. Among spirits geeks, they are best known for their Single Barrel.
Cruzan Light Aged Rum ($14) is aged for a minimum of one year in American oak barrels. It has a spicy nose with scents of cinnamon, clove and pumpkin. Although slightly sweet on entry, the spice emerges in the mid palate along with all the flavors promised on the nose. It is graceful and balanced, with a long and savory finish. Aside from the obvious cocktails (Daiquiri, Mojito), this would make an unusual and striking Martini, as well as a variety of interesting long drinks.
The company came late to the spiced rum party, not releasing its Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum ($16) until 2010 (Captain Morgan was formally launched in the U.S. in 1984). Specifically, the nine spices are vanilla, cinnamon, pepper, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, clove, mace and juniper berry. They intertwine on the nose along with a racy floral character. The rum is sweet on entry, with a complex mid palate combining all the flavors with hints of spring flowers. The finish is particularly long and peppery.
The Single Barrel ($29) has a light brown color and a powerful nose scented with molasses, honey, baking spices and flowers. It has a firm, ripe entry and the hallmark balance of Cruzan, along with a sweet/spicy mid palate and a long finish with echoes of honey and molasses. Drink this flavorful and distinctive rum in a snifter, or enjoy it on the rocks with just a splash of water.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, which will be published in November by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to www.iconicspirits.net .