21 May 2009
While I’ve peripherally enjoyed Cruzan products since my college days, I didn’t really know much about this St. Croix-based distiller until last summer’s trip to St. Thomas, another U.S. Virgin Island. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed many Cruzan drinks during that heavenly week.
In case you’re not familiar with their operation, Cruzan originally began producing rum from pot stills eight generations ago and today uses a continuous column distillation process. The name of company (pronounced kru-shun) comes from the island—inhabitants are called “Crucians.” This seems fitting because, if you poke around enough on Cruzan’s website, you’ll notice they take great pride in St. Croix and its history.
That history is rich and varied. The island has been controlled by seven different nations since Christopher Columbus first landed on St. Croix’s shores in 1493 (Spain, England, Holland, France, Malta, Denmark, and now America). It thrived due to sugar output, which made it a naturally fitting locale for rum production. And even though cane is no longer grown on St. Croix, Cruzan’s business is supported by molasses imports.
You might remember Cruzan as the first major rum company to come up with flavored rums—from banana and black cherry to coconut and pineapple. As you might imagine, however, I’m more interested in their darker creations. So today I’ll be looking at their flagship product: Cruzan Single Barrel Estate, which sells for around $25-30 per 750 ml. bottle (40% alcohol by volume).
Cruzan employs a two-step process to create this spirit, which is regarded by many as a complex yet approachable sipping rum. First, they blend 5-12 year old rum, produced in small batches and aged in oak. Then they give the blend secondary aging for 6-12 months in single white American oak barrels. So the term “single barrel” means that the blend is aged in “new” oak casks for approximately one more year and then bottled one cask at a time.
But enough background. My individually numbered bottle of Cruzan Single Barrel Estate boasts a dark golden pour with vanilla and butterscotch on the nose. While honey and oak are the dominant flavors, as you’d expect, I also found a cognac-like taste with traces of fruit and caramel. Straightforward with a light yet lingering finish.
A dash of water or and ice cube or two smoothes out the spice. Don’t overdo it, though. This rum is rounder than most and it evens out quickly, so take the minimalist approach—enjoy it neat and savor every sip.
Don’t take that recommendation as a sign that this is one of those overly subtle, delicate rums. To the contrary, the Single Barrel Estate is versatile and medium-bodied, making it easy to pair with cigars.
I didn’t find a bad combination in my “research,” but some particularly good complements include the La Aurora Barrel Aged, Montecristo Edmundo, Bravo Colombian Gold, and the Cupido Tuxedo. I hope you enjoy exploring some pairings of your own.
photo credit: Stogie Guys