Last summer, I had the pleasure of being a guest of Cruzan Rum for a Dave Mathews concert at the Cruzan Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, Fla. The performance, though great, proved merely a sideshow for me as the event also marked the South Florida introduction of Cruzan 9 spiced rum, which, as some of you may remember, is now my favorite rum.
Cruzan 9, though, wasn’t the only new friend from my home island that I made that night. I also got to meet the man behind the brand, Gary Nelthropp.
Like any family, the Nelthropp’s have secrets, only theirs are juicier than yours and mine since a new rum can always be involved. After a few rounds of Cruzan 9, I tried to get Gary to share one of his. I simply asked what’s next for Cruzan Rum?
I wish you could’ve seen the look on his face.
His eyes lit up. A wide, mischievous grin swept over his face; the kind a friend might have when trying (and failing) to hide details of a surprise party from you. He took another sip of rum, swallowed hard, and said:
I really can’t tell you…but it’ll be a new flavor.
My mind started racing… What could the new flavor be? Cruzan already had 10 flavored rums on the market, covering such celebrated island stapes as coconut, banana, mango and guava. Could tamarind be next? What about sorrel? Or papaya? The possibilities!
Then, I got to the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival where I finally learned the answer. The new tropical island flavor: strawberry.
I was disappointed, but I guess I shouldn’t have been since Cruzan’s pre-existing line-up of flavors already included such non-island faves as black cherry and raspberry. Somewhat reluctantly, I gave it a try…
The verdict: FANTASTIC!
As a Crucian myself, of course, I’m biased, but I can honestly say this stuff wasn’t overly sweet with the medicine-like aftertaste I’ve sometimes detected in other flavored rums (yes, I include a Cruzan blend or two in that nefarious group). Cruzan Strawberry is different; more refined with a clean finish and enticingly refreshing flavor. I enjoyed it chilled on its own with visions of sipping copious amounts of the stuff on the beach during the hot summer months to come dancing in my head.
The flavor of bold, ripe strawberries definitely comes through, but there was something else. A distinctly island flavor that I first thought was just the base rum doing its thing. I later learned that I was only half right.
In its May 3rd press release announcing Cruzan Strawberry, the company noted the following:
Crafted with fine Cruzan rum, all-natural flavors, and cane sugar, it combines the taste of ripe strawberries with a touch of ginger, putting a new spin on the strawberry flavor.
For me, that touch of ginger makes all the difference, smoothing things out and taking me back home. We may not grow our own strawberries in St. Croix, but Gary and Co. sure figured out how to perfect them with this fabulous new rum.