We recently were in St. Croix and found ourselves with a free afternoon. We decided to head out to the Cruzan Rum distillery and take a tour.

They are located off of Centerline Road on the Frederiksted end of the island. The 20-30 minute tours cost $5 and includes two rum cocktails and four samples afterwards in their tasting room.

Cruzan Rum is part of the Beam family of brands but it’s still run by the Nelthropp family who’ve been making Cruzan Rum since the early 1800’s. The name Cruzan is derived from the word “Crucian” which refers to the people who live on St. Croix

The distillery property, originally a sugar mill built in 1760, has been the home of Cruzan since day one. Many of the building on the property date back to the old days, including the old sugar mill.

It was refreshing to see that things are still done the “old way.” Captain Morgan is also on the island and from the road, their distillery looks more like a shiny modern chemical plant. Cruzan is more along the lines of what you’ll find in Kentucky on the Bourbon Trail.

Back in the day the rum was made from the sugar cane that covered most of the island but as sugar cane production came to a halt on the island, they shifted to using molasses as the main ingredient. The molasses is a lot thicker than what we’ll find at Publix. It’s shipped in from South America to the port and delivered via tanker trucks.

Similar to the way that beer and other liquors are made, the ingredients (in this case molasses) are mixed with water in a brew kettle and brought to a boil before heading to the fermenters where the yeast goes in. Unlike a brewery though, open air fermentation tanks are used. Since the fermentation process only takes a few days, there isn’t concern about wild yeasts. Once the wort is done fermenting, it’s run through a continuous column still where the dark, fermented beer is turned into the crystal clear distillate that goes into the American white oak barrels, along with some charred oak chips.

All of the barrels used are former bourbon barrels. Our guide explained that while they are now using Jim Beam barrels exclusively, there are plenty of barrels in the racks from other distilleries. Sure enough, we quickly found some from Early Times and Clermont Springs.

Once they decide that the barrel is finished aging, it’s emptied out and the rum is shipped off to the US mainland for bottling in special container tanks. The flavoring is added for the flavored rums back in the States too.