St Johns Bay Rum | History of St Johns Bay Rum - St Johns Fragrance Co LLC™

St Johns | History of St Johns Bay Rum

A Fascinating 175 Years of History

St. John Bay Leaf Oil

It all began over 70 years ago with U.S. naval officer, John Webb, stationed in the Virgin Islands during World War II and a single ingredient - bay leaf oil - long regarded as a health and beauty aid by island natives.  Intrigued by the rich history of the bay rum industry and other experimenters before him, Webb mixed this versatile essential oil with exotic Caribbean spices to create a distinctly masculine scent. He went on to package these bottles by hand using local palm fronds, and from there, St Johns Bay Rum™ cologne was created, bringing the allure of the islands to the U.S.

Recognized worldwide, these “Fishnet Weave®” bottles have since become iconic, embodying the essence and guiding principles of the St Johns Bay Rum™ brand:

  • Authentic
  • Distinctive
  • Timeless
  • Traditional

Today, the St. Johns Fragrance Company™ continues to handcraft the finest bay rum products, staying true to original formulations, all while evolving to fit today’s modern man.   St Johns Bay Rum™ is proud to be a classic, committed to being an essential part of every man’s grooming routine.


The Invention of Bay Rum
In 1838, Danish chemist Albert Heinrich Riise became interested in this local remedy and discovered that by mixing St John bay leaf oils with fine Virgin Island rums, it created an amazing fragrance. His unique invention was awarded the Centennial Medal in 1876, as well as awards in New Orleans and Chicago.


Virgin Island Bay Rum
The reputation of St John bay leaf oils continued to grow as one of the best in the world and in 1903 the Danish Plantation Company purchased 237 acres at Cinnamon Bay to cultivate St John bay trees. Their success encouraged other plantations to do the same in Carolina Estate, Maho Bay and Lameshur Bay. The production of bay rum became an important Virgin Island export in the early 1920's. Local small batch distillers blended bay leaf oils and Caribbean rums to make many varieties of Virgin Island bay rums. At its peak, historians estimate that 1,000 gallons of pure St Johns bay leaf oil were blended into over 35,000 gallons of Bay Rum.


Prohibition and Bay Rum
In 1921, the national prohibition of alcohol meant Virgin Island bay rum could no longer be exported to the United States. By adding aspirin to bay rum, manufacturers were able to skirt the prohibition and word spread that drinking bay rum not only made you feel good but also relieved aches and pains. Virgin Island bay rum production reached a peak of over 100,000 gallons annually.


World War II
The onset of World War II forced AH Riise Enterprises, the largest Virgin Island bay rum company, to buy their own boats to transport bay rum to Miami. They also brought back food and merchandise to help ease the
Bay Oil Still


A New Beginning
Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 dealt a severe blow to the Virgin Island60th Anniversary Bottles and destroyed the St Johns factory. Dedicated employees rallied to salvage what could be recovered from the


Bay Rum is Back
John Webb of Minneapolis was stationed with the U.S. Navy on St. Thomas during WWII. He became intrigued by the bay rum industry and decided when the war was over he would revive bay rum in the Virgin Islands. Webb settled on St. Thomas and embarked on producing St Johns Bay Rum® in 1947. The idea of palm weaving the St Johns Bay Rum® bottle was inspired


The Mad Men Years
In 1957, John Webb hired a Madison Avenue agency in New York City to represent St John® in the United States and soon it could be bought in America's leading stores such as Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. Between 1957 and 1963, a series of outstanding ads were placed in the New Yorker magazine.


wreckage and were able to resume shipping to customers within a few weeks. With the global internet expansion, St Johns created its first E-Commerce store: and starting reaching fans from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and many more. In 2007, to celebrate 60th Anniversary Bottle


Virgin Island Ownership
In 1978, Columbus, Ohio retailer Jerry Woodhouse bought the St Johns® brand from Warner-Lambert. Mr. Woodhouse concentrated on increasing sales locally on St.Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. This reestablished the St Johns brand at fine hotels, gift shops and better retailers across the Virgin Islands. Mr. Woodhouse's efforts also helped St Johns fragrances enter Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Brooks Brothers to name a few. Even Hollywood took notice with St Johns Bay Rum featured on episodes of M*A*S*H and movies like "Down and Out in Beverly Hills." Mr. Woodhouse introduced two new scents, St John Island Spice Cologne for men and St Johns J'ouvert for women as well as St Johns sun care products uniquely formulated for the Caribbean sun.


St Johns Today
In June of 2015, the St. Johns brand was acquired by a group of private investors. Together this team of industry veterans transformed St Johns into a small batch fragrance factory that exclusively small batch fragrance factory that exclusively produces all of St Johns award winning fragrances.