Cruzan Rum is St. Croix’s most famous export next to hook bracelets, and the Cruzan Rum Factory Tour is a must-do when visiting the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s an up-close look at a modern adaptation of centuries-old distillation processes, with cocktails at the end.
St. Croix's Best Bargain
Visitors arriving at the Cruzan facility step out of their car and into history: old and new mill buildings are laid out before you, most prominently a towering stone sugar mill surrounded by the flags of the seven nations that have occupied this hotly contested island over the centuries. Check in at the visitor center, a pleasant, open-air building with a covered seating area, gift shop with t-shirts and about 20 different varieties of rum for sale, and a bar for tastings (that comes later).
The tour, two cocktails, and all the samples you want cost $8 — probably the best deal on St. Croix.
Turning Imported Sugar Cane Into Cruzan Rum
Founded in 1760, Cruzan imports all of its rum-making molasses from the Dominican Republic and other growers; sugar cane hasn’t been grown locally on St. Croix since the 1960s, although you will see a few stands of wild cane still sprouting around the Cruzan factory. Fermentation, distillation, aging, and blending of the rums still takes place on-island, however.
A Peek Inside Cruzan's Massive Fermentation Vats
The tour starts with a brief orientation, including a sniff of the raw, 189-proof alcohol that will soon be aged into rum. The factory tour truly gets underway with a clamber up narrow steel staircases to the tops of the fermentation vats, where molasses bubbles, swirls and heats for 36 hours before distillation. (The tour is not for everyone: if you have trouble getting around, you might want to skip right to the tasting room.) The giant vats of yeasty molasses are the most visible reminder of the scale of the Cruzan operation, which produces 55,000 gallons of rum per day.
The Cruzan Distillation Tower is One of the Island's Tallest Buildings
Tour guests only see the actual distillation process from a distance, gazing up at Cruzan’s distillation tower — the second highest building on St. Croix. It’s here that impurities are removed and the alcohol content is reduced from 189 proof to 154 proof.
Rum Aged in Barrels and Stored on Rails
After distillation, the clear rum is transferred to charred Jim Beam bourbon barrels for aging: a seemingly endless line of barrels is lined up in the barrel room, stacked on steel rails formerly used by St. Croix’s sugar cane railroads.
Cruzan Rum is Sold Across the U.S. and Everywhere in the USVI
The end product is then loaded onto trucks and shipped to the mainland for bottling. About 10 percent of Cruzan rum stays in the Caribbean for distribution, mainly in St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, where it’s the staple of every island bar.
Indulge at Tour's End with Cocktails and Tastings
At Cruzan’s own bar, the tour ends with a choice of a rum punch or pina colada; you can also try any of the dozen flavored rums produced by the company: the black cherry is one of our favorites, others include key lime, mango, orange, and the newest addition — peach. For a treat, try the creamy Velvet Cinn with a bit of Cruzan Black Strap rum: you’ll swear you are drinking a liquid Snickerdoodle.
More Cruzan Than Ever to Choose From
Cruzan has greatly expanded its product line in recent years: in addition to its staple white and aged rums the company now offers the aforementioned flavored and Black Strap varieties (the latter with an intense molasses flavor), the Cruzan 9 spiced rum (which makes a great rum and coke, especially if you like the taste of vanilla), light and dark 5-year aged Estate Diamond rums, and 12-year-old Single Barrel Rum.