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Cruzan Rum, a St. Croix Tradition


Cruzan Rum, has been voted one of the best in the world, and is a large source of local island pride as a rum whose roots date as far back as the 17th century. Only on St. Croix is it possible to tour the rum distillery to learn the history and see production of Cruzan Rum through the distillery process. It is a sensory experience to see, smell, touch, and taste various aspects of Cruzan Rum, and we highly recommend this tour to everyone on St. Croix.

MARCH 2024 : After four years closed to the public, Cruzan Rum has completed major maintenance upgrades to the distillery operation, and has completed a beautiful new visitor center “experience”. As excited as the team at Cruzan Rum is to finally welcome you, the pleasure is truly for the guest to experience the walking tour, tasting bar, cocktail menu and store, as it has been redesigned these past years.

Reservations are now required for the tour, which is offered several times daily. For tour quality and safety on the grounds, group sizes are limited, so book online as soon as you know your desired date.

NEW! Cruzan Rum Distillery Visitor Center Experience
Welcome to the NEW Cruzan Rum Visitor Center!
Cruzan Rum Sampling Bar
Nelthropp Private Cruzan Rum Collection on Display
Lots of Cruzan Rum merchandise!
Distillers’ edition rums
The NEW Cruzan Rum Sampling Bar in action!
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Since the early 17th century, St. Croix has been making use of its natural resources locally as well as exporting them worldwide, most notably, rum. At one time, over 150 plantations were producing molasses and rum at their factories. Today, the tradition of making rum on St. Croix is carried on and unfolds from the moment you step foot onto the property.

When you enter the distillery you’ll find remnants of the original plantation, Estate Diamond, amid the state-of-the-art distillery. The old sugar mill now serves as a cistern for the distillery, and the estate’s former great house now serves as the distillery’s main office. A 19th century chimney is now enclosed and houses the boilers. Like the times, things must change. Additional office space had to be added to the grounds to accommodate their employees, but other than that, the past of this plantation has been well preserved by the use of the existing buildings.

Our tour started under a shaded pavilion where our tour guide, Biggie, gave us a safety briefing and told shared the history of the estate, the Cruzan Rum Nelthropp family, and an overview of how rum is made.

The process of making rum starts with sugar cane, the juice of which is turned into molasses.  Due to the high volume of rum produced by Cruzan Rum, they have molasses delivered by tanker trucks and transferred to distillery tanks where it’s diluted with rainwater and then boiled at 400 degrees. The mixture is then cooled to room temperature and transferred to the ‘seed tanks’. Yeast and more rainwater are then added to total 500 gallons of the mixture.

Sixteen hours later, billions of yeast cultures are alive and working in each gallon. This is then transferred to fermenters, where more water and molasses are added. The yeast eats the sugar, converting it into alcohol. The remaining mix is three parts water, and one part molasses. The mixture is now called ‘beer’ (not like the kind found in your friendly tavern, even though it is brown and foamy). Only 10% of this mixture is used in the rum. Sound interesting?  Wait until you see (and smell) it up close! One of my favorite things about this tour is getting to walk beside the tanks and actually look into them and see the process as it is happening!

Next, the actual distilling begins. Cruzan Rum uses a multi-column distillation process that removes nearly all impurities from the rum, including fusel oils. Fusel oil is what causes hangovers (so there you go, another reason to drink Cruzan Rum, no hangovers). When the distillation process is complete, the rum is clear. The golden brown color is given to the rum by the barrels in which it is stored.

The American made, once-used, charred white oak barrels are bought from Jim Beam and are steamed upon arrival to remove any residue flavors or fusel oils from the bourbon previously stored in them. The rum is then stored in the barrels for anywhere from 1 to 12 years. The time in the barrels mellows the flavor of the rum and gives it the rich golden color. Cruzan Estate Light and Dark Rums are made using the rum from barrels that have been stored between 1 to 4 years. An extra filtering process eliminates the color to produce the light rum.

When the rum has been aged, it’s moved to the newest part of Cruzan Rum distillery, where the bungs (or corks) are removed and the rum is drained into a holding tank and charcoal filtered to refine the color and flavor. While the Nelthropp family still operates the distillery and handles the rum production, bottling of the rum is now done off-island at a sister facility owned by Beam Suntory, the current owner of Cruzan Rum.  Once the rums are aged at the Cruzan distillery, they are then loaded into tankers and shipped stateside to begin the packaging and distribution process. According to Karen Nelthropp, this arrangement leaves the Nelthropp family to do what they have been doing best for generations, making rum. This system makes a lot of sense when you consider that only 15% of the rum is sold here in the local market while the other 85% is sent to the United States and beyond.

At the visitor center main pavilion, our guide became our bartender and we finally got to taste the smooth and delicious rum. Estate Diamond Rum, named after the estate in which the distillery resides, is aged 5 to 12 years. Cruzan Single Barrel aged rums are also available and is great for those who appreciate sipping a good rum.  As many of you know, there are many flavored rums available including mango, key lime, pineapple, coconut, banana, orange, spiced, and blackstrap molasses. At the conclusion of the tour you step up to the Sampling Bar and each guest gets their choice of 2 mixed drinks from the drink menu and up to 4 samples of any the Cruzan Rums.  Children are welcome, and will get their choice of 2 juices or soft drinks in lieu of rum. 

Don’t forget the merch! Cruzan Rum has a wide range of merchandise including everything from the bottles of rum, to glasses, clothing, hats, bags, sun shirts and more. For anyone visiting St. Croix be sure to note that the duty-free allowance is 6 bottles of rum per adult for US citizens! The employees at Cruzan will even bubble wrap and box their rum for airline travel for only a few extra dollars. Make sure to visit this fun and historic attraction while you are on St. Croix.

The Cruzan Rum Distillery is open* Monday through Friday and currently offers tours at 12:00pm, 1:30pm, 3:00pm, which now requires advanced booking (it’s super easy). If you’ve already been, you’ll want to go back for the upgraded visitor experience, a Cruzan Rum drink made at Cruzan Rum. Plus, fresh merchandise. After four years of upgrades, Cruzan Rum is glad to welcome everyone back to the ‘Don’t Hurry Rum’ distillery!

– Jennie Ogden, Editor
*Be sure to verify current hours of operation as they may change from time to time.

Cruzan Rum Distillery

Come visit the Cruzan Rum Distillery and enjoy an immersive experience into the world of our award-winning rum. Cruzan Rum believes St. Croix is a good place to make great…

Mid Island
(340) 692-2280
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