St Croix changes as you drive along its green curves, beaches giving way to lush hills and farmland and ocean cliffs.
It’s an island that rewards those who dig deeper, whether you’re walking the old alleys of Christiansted or bowing your head through a branched tunnel to the golden sands of Shoys.
It’s an island that begs rediscovery; each time you return you find new delights and formerly hidden wonders.
It’s also an island of rum, home to Cruzan, one of the Caribbean’s truly venerable distilleries, a sugarcane symbol for the things that make this place wonderful.
But we are in a time where the world of fine rum is in flux; one where many enthusiasts spend their time seeking out unnervingly high-proof expressions and other rums that can be too far divorced from the very islands where they are made.
But that’s also in part because we can take the broad offering of aged rums now available for granted.
Before the current rum boom, though, choices of rums to sip were few and far between. There were the old regulars, Bacardi 8, early-days Zacapa, Barbancourt.
A decade or two ago, rum lovers, particularly those in the United States, could seldom find quality expressions for a regular sip.
But there was also another rum that was always on the store shelf: Cruzan, both its Estate Diamond and single barrel bottlings, rum that was always fine and always true.
In recent years, though, Cruzan’s aged expressions have sometimes gotten lost in the shadow of rum’s age of plenty.
And that is quite a shame.
But when you spend time on a rum-producing island you cannot help but spend some serious time with its expressions, and that’s exactly what happened this week on a trip to St Croix.
Whether at outposts like Rum and Wine or the new, lovely Breaker’s Roar tiki bar, it was Cruzan, neat, on the regular agenda, and it was consistently, wonderfully, satisfying, a thrilling reminder of what truly is one of the Caribbean’s essential rums (not to mention one of the great rum values, too).
So what is it like?
Cruzan Single Barrel, the company’s flagship expression, is a blend of multi-column rums of between five and 12 years aged in American white oak.
There’s a tangy aroma of caramel and oak, with a playful flavor profile with notes of cane stalk, white pepper, spice, caramel, malt, a hint of vanilla and a rim of butterscotch.
It’s the finish where things really deliver; all of the notes coalesce into perfect balance, smooth and honest with the slightest whisper of confectioner’s sugar.
The body is on the lighter side, but there’s depth and elegance; the more you sip the more you understand, the more you discover.
It’s rather like the island where it’s made.
And isn’t that what a Caribbean rum should be?
Cruzan Single Barrel Rum
Rum Journal Review