Answer: It depends.
Malibu is partly vegan since not all of its varieties are guaranteed to be cruelty-free. For starters, the Malibu original flavor does not contain any animal derivatives but one of its main ingredients is likely to have undergone a process that requires an animal byproduct.
One can only name a few liquor brands that feature a high-quality taste of Caribbean rum, but it is unlikely that Malibu will not make it on anyone’s list. The first version of Malibu rum was born in Curacao, Lesser Antilles, with the original main ingredients being fruit spirits, rum, and authentic Caribbean coconut flavoring. The latter two were retained in the current iteration of Malibu original rum.
Since it is general knowledge that fruit-flavored liquors are plant-based, vegans would automatically assume that they are fit for their green and cruelty-free diet. However, long-time vegans would know that a bit of research should expose any seemingly vegan products that are not vegan-friendly after all.
You have chosen the right place to learn more about Malibu rum and double-check if this liquor brand deserves to be included in your vegan cocktail party. We will analyze every component of this delicious spirited drink, as well as the processes that the product undergoes, to confirm if no animals were harmed or exploited.
What Are The Primary Ingredients Of Malibu Rum?
As we have stated, the ingredients of Malibu rum are primarily fruit extracts. These are stored and processed over a period of time to create an alcohol content. Since the ingredients are mostly fruits, we can say that Malibu rum is made purely from plant derivatives.
Most people only recognize rum as a kind of alcoholic beverage made with special fermented ingredients. To be more specific, rum is created through the careful fermentation and distillation of sugarcane molasses. The process of fermenting molasses is intricate, and it must be followed exactly as how it should be done, or else the special rum flavor will not be achieved.
Fermented molasses that will be transformed into rum are stored in oak barrels. Only a few places in the world are blessed to be capable of producing rum, which are the same regions with an abundant supply of sugarcane. The Caribbean islands are known to be a haven for rums with distinct flavors, thanks to the unique type of sugarcane that grows exclusively in the region.
Malibu rum highlights the distinct flavor of Caribbean rum that you can only experience in the Lesser Antilles and Barbados. If you wonder about the vegan status of Caribbean rum, we can confirm that it is indeed plant-based and no animal derivatives are secretly included in the recipe.
The fermentation process of rum does not require animals. We know from science that fermentation is initiated by microorganisms, including single-celled fungi and bacteria.
In the case of Caribbean rum, yeast or Saccharomyces cerevisiae is used in the fermentation of sugarcane molasses. Just to be clear, yeast is a kind of fungi and does not belong to the kingdom Animalia. Fungi do not have a central nervous system that will make them sentient. Consuming yeast should not be cruel or exploitative and is therefore acceptable for vegans.
Even as Malibu rum contains sugarcane molasses, there needs to be some extra source of sweetness to balance the bitter-tasting kick due to fermented ingredients. Therefore, sugar is also added to the liquor mixture separately to further enhance the flavor.
Again, this ingredient of Malibu rum is plant-based without a doubt. It is virtually impossible that animal byproducts would be included, either intentionally or unintentionally, to improve the sweetness of the drink.
However, animal derivatives can still be involved in the processing of refined sugar added to Malibu rum. With this, the product is still not guaranteed to be vegan-approved. We will discuss this matter later on in this article for confirmation.
Natural Coconut Flavoring
Aside from Caribbean rum, Malibu rum also features a special coconut flavor. This is actually the main selling point of this product. It is the reason why many people are looking for Malibu’s original rum variant. From the name itself, we would know that Malibu’s natural coconut flavoring comes from real coconut.
Same with other flavored drinks that use natural fruit flavors, Malibu rum uses actual coconut extracts to give an authentic taste. It is quite challenging to match the real taste of the actual fruit using synthetic ingredients. The best way to achieve this natural flavor is by using fruit extract, although it must be carefully processed to preserve its fresh taste.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Malibu’s natural coconut flavoring is plant-derived. It is unlikely that animal derivatives will be included in the mix to produce the flavor. We can also say at this point that animal byproducts are not needed to preserve coconut extracts.
What Makes Malibu Not Suitable For Vegans?
We have already inspected each main ingredient of Malibu rum. Can we make a verdict that Malibu is vegan-friendly? Well, not just yet. We have only established that the major components of this product originated from plants. However, there are other factors that could still cancel the vegan status of Malibu.
It is now the right time to talk about sugar, or refined white sugar to be exact. We have mentioned a while ago that even though sugar is a plant byproduct, it may still be not vegan-approved. Apart from making sure that the ingredients of a certain product are not animal derivatives, we should verify that the process that created the product is cruelty-free.
It would appear that the process of refining white sugar is not cruelty-free after all. There is a special kind of physical treatment in food products that effectively removes the impurities, and it sadly requires the remains of poor animals.
It is revealed that many animals slaughtered in farmhouses are incinerated to create bone char. Most people are not aware that commercially available sugar appears white because of refinement using bone char.
It can also be argued that animals are being killed and burned for the sole purpose of creating more bone char, which is very unfortunate. There are other ways to refine products without resorting to cruelty, such as sieve filtering and flotation.
Going back to Malibu rum, since it is indicated that sugar is one of its key ingredients, we should confirm whether the sugar used in the mixture is cruelty-free. The good news is that Malibu’s official website clearly provides the answer. The bad news, however, is that the company confirmed that the sugar used in Malibu’s original flavor rum is not vegan-friendly.
Malibu has stated that this refinement process for white sugar is a common practice in the industry. Therefore, the company has no control over what kind of ingredients are included in their liquor varieties.
Are All Malibu Rum Varieties Non-Vegan?
With the company itself admitting that one of the main elements of its product is not vegan, we might be too quick to give up on Malibu rum and move on. However, we should take a second look at the company’s FAQ page. It states that the sugar used in the Malibu original flavor rum is not good for vegans. Therefore, we should scratch only the original Malibu rum variant off the list.
To note, there are many other Malibu rum flavors that are out in supermarkets across North America and Europe. If the original flavor is off the table, you are free to choose the other special flavors that Malibu has to offer, especially for vegans.
Which Malibu Rum Flavors Are Vegan?
Since refined sugar is added to liquors such as Malibu to improve the sweetness and balance the bitter kick of rum, it is possible that other sweeteners can also be used for the same purpose. For one, natural fruit flavors can be added instead of white sugar as a flavor enhancer. Fortunately, this is the case with most Malibu special rum varieties.
The following is the list of Malibu variants that are certified vegan and cruelty-free:
- Malibu Black
- Malibu Island Melon
- Malibu Island Spiced Rum
- Malibu Mango
- Malibu Passion Fruit
- Malibu Sundae
- Malibu Sunshine
- Malibu Tropical Banana
- Malibu Swirl
- Malibu Red
- Malibu Rum Sparkler
The list given above is basically all the available Malibu rum specials aside from the original coconut-flavored rum. You will notice that most of the Malibu variants on the list are tropical fruit-flavored. The natural fruit flavors such as mango, pineapple, and tropical banana are likely to have enough sweetness that refined sugar is no longer needed in the rum mixture.
Malibu rum appears to be a perfect vegan liquor treat, but there are instances that will make this product unfit for the vegan diet. It is not enough to research the origin of each main ingredient of a certain product. As we saw with Malibu rum, all of its ingredients are vegan in nature. The thing is that one of these ingredients underwent a process that is not cruelty-free.
It is worth noting that Malibu did not reveal at first that their original rum variant is non-vegan. Its previous company letters claimed that all of its rum flavors are good for vegans, even the original variant. Later on, it was found out that the refined sugar added to the liquor is actually not vegan-friendly.
Aside from doing your usual research about the product’s ingredients, it is a good practice to contact the company itself that offers the product under question. You will get the actual scoop straight from the manufacturer if you ask them directly.