From St. Croix Island: Cruzan Rum Tasting
All photo credits to Claire Barrett
I was honored to join Natalie (The Liquid Muse) and Caroline on Crack for a little Cruzan Rum tasting and demonstration at Ma’kai in Santa Monica - located right on the beach. That’s right - we paired rum with sushi.
Okay, I wouldn’t call it “pairing.” We were essentially enjoying the Japanese-influenced dishes because we were hungry. But that didn’t prevent us from enjoying, tasting and learning about rum or more specifically, Cruzan Rum. Here’s a clue: It’s not Bacardi. Andrea Bearbower, the resident “rumologist,” was on hand to teach us the goods.
Cruzan originates from a U.S. Virgin island called St. Croix and is named after the natives of that island - who are effectively called Cruzans. The island is on average 75 degrees Fahrenheit all year round which makes it conducive to growing sugar cane all year round. Rum produced elsewhere less temperate drops off some times ofthe year.
Single Barrel Cruzan
From sugar cane is produced molasses - the fermentation of which is used to make Cruzan rum. They make a light rum, several dark rums, a single barrel and ten flavored rums. The other fermentation process used to make rum is derived from sugar cane juice; however, molasses takes a longer time to ferment than sugar cane juice. The youngest rum Cruzan offers, the light rum, is aged on average 4 years in American oak barrels.
After our delicious starter cocktail which contained guava juice and light rum (use lights for mixing and darks for sipping) to acclimate our palate, we went to sipping it straight.
High test molasses, black strap molasses and fusel oil
And then is when we learned what exactly differentiates a harsh from a smooth rum: fusel oils, which form during fermentation and accumulate during distillation. They’re removed through multiple column stills or successive distillations. When I took a whiff of the stuff - as told they would - it invoked bad memories of Jose Cuervo tequila from college.
We did a comparison with Bacardi. When sipping both, the Bacardi was decidedly more “hot.” Apparently, this aftertaste and sensation is a result of the additional amounts of fusels in the Bacardi versus Cruzan. And all at once, I knew the buzzword to use in the event I need to fake a rum expert enthusiast. But it’s a step. I’m on my way.
Afterwards, we were treated to a glass of award-winning, single-barrel rum. Brand new American oak barrels are used and I could see why it’s called the “whiskey drinker’s rum.” It was rich and full - so delicious. The verdict on rum? I think I need to try more cocktails that blend it. ;)