Hurricanes Irma and Maria carved a path of destruction across the northern Caribbean, and the region’s legendary rum companies were not spared.
On Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, the Callwood Distillery, which has been making rum since the 1600s, is in ruins. Pusser’s Marina Cay Resort has been wrecked, and the rum maker’s other facilities on Tortola also have been damaged.
After a near-miss by Irma, Hurricane Maria hit St. Croix—the home of the Captain Morgan and Cruzan rum distilleries—head-on. Maria then went on to devastate Puerto Rico, the manufacturing base for Bacardi, Don Q, and many smaller rum producers. Next was the Florida Keys, where the storm lashed the lower Keys and damaged the Papa’s Pilar distillery in Key West, which is currently undergoing repairs and plans to reopen by late October.
Some of these companies are now focused on rebuilding facilities and taking care of their workers, while others have stepped up with donations to relief and recovery efforts. Diageo, the parent company of Captain Morgan, has pledged $1.25 million to Caribbean relief efforts, with a focus on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, Cruzan’s parent company, Beam Suntory, has given a total of $1.6 million, including a $500,000 donation to the Fund for the Virgin Islands.
“We are currently in the process of repairing the hurricane damage to the Cruzan rum distillery and anticipate having it up and running again in the coming weeks. We do not expect any supply disruptions in the marketplace. Most importantly, all of our employees on St. Croix are safe.”
– Clarkson Hine, Cruzan’s senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs
Bacardi has donated $3 million directly to disaster relief efforts, as well as providing an additional $1.6 million in support for the TIDAL X: Brooklyn charity concert, which included performances by Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez, DJ Khaled, and Chris Brown and benefits hurricane relief in the Caribbean and United States as well as for the survivors of the recent earthquakes in Mexico.
Bacardi noted that the company has opened community relief centers near its campus in Cataño, and that while the company’s manufacturing facilities and San Juan visitor center have suffered some damage, the rum barrels and inventory of aged rums are intact and the company’s blending facility is expected to be up and running as soon as generators arrive.
“What I can tell you is we are okay, our port terminal is good, and our receiving facilities are working. It’s the lack of power, limited cell phone service, clogged roads, long lines for fuel, the ongoing curfew, etc., that are the most difficult at the moment. Each day, things improve a little bit.”
– Amy Federman, Bacardi spokesperson