Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a Cruzan Rum dinner at Mercer Kitchen hosted by brand educator Andrea Bearbower, and the evening turned out to be a group therapy exercise in seasonal transition. Therapeutic in that we drank premium rum, and seasonal in that we started with a summery Cruzan Pineapple and champagne cocktail, and by the end of the evening, we sipped hot rum toddies with lemon and cinnamon, invoking the cozy flavors of fall.
Cruzan Rum, first distilled in St. Croix in 1760, is still a family operation through eight generations of the Nelthropp family. Beam Global Spirits & Wine acquired Cruzan from Pernod Ricard last year, giving the brand more heft as it takes its campaign worldwide. While Cruzan began with pot stills, today the rum is created using a five-column distillation process to remove impurities such as fusel oils, leaving the smooth, full-bodied flavor that distinguishes Cruzan from hangover-resulting rums.
As I gulped my sweet pea soup, Andrea explained how Cruzan is distilled from fermented molasses (unlike rhum agricole, which only uses cane juice). The molasses that goes into Cruzan Rum has a slight licorice taste with heavy sweetness. Andrea drizzeled samples of both Cruzan's high-test molasses, which has a light and sweet taste, and blackstrap molasses, which is made from multiple boilings of sugarcane syrup, leaving most of the sugar removed. Andrea then encouraged us to pour a float of blackstrap molasses on top of our Cruzan daiquiris (Cruzan light rum, lime juice, simple syrup) for added richness which balanced the tartness of the lime.
Before we delved into our main courses (mmm, steamed skate), we compared Bacardi 8 to Cruzan Single Barrel, looking to distinguish how each brands' different distillation process affects the overall taste. First, Andrea had us take a whiff of fusel oil, a harsh byproduct of fermentation that is removed through continuous distillations. Bacardi 8, with its lush vanilla and caramel notes, had a definite scorch to its finish, while the Cruzan, aged in virgin American oak barrels, had round, full flavors and finished softly in the back of the throat.
Andrea concluded our dinner with the aforementioned hot rum toddy paired with molten chocolate cake, which got me thinking about cooler weather and fireplaces. She told us stories about St. Croix, which is largely unspoiled, although a new Captain Morgan's distillery is underway and expected to open in 2011. Andrea's recollections on pristine beaches got me thinking about summer again--so much for the group therapy!