I fancy myself as one that’s in the know. However, I didn’t know about the St. Augustine Distillery until a recent visit to Sams Club. Sams Club, where you can buy our booze in bulk and not look like you’re one step shy of a 12 step program. Honestly, their label caught my eye…..you should see me in the wine aisle.
I’ve done distillery tours in the whiskey belt, Tennessee and Kentucky, but I didn’t know folks were cooking mash locally.
Distillery facilities are very similar in operation, there will be water, some sort of grain, a huge copper vat and a bit of vapor, that’s how you make spirits. They make reality shows about it. What makes a distillery tour memorable is the stories, and of course the samples.
So here are the Cliff Notes for the St Augustine Distillery or the way I interpret it. People like booze, they also like niche distilleries, or at least I do. Next throw in 28 locals that understand and appreciate a city’s rich history in addition to the desire of providing small batch offerings to the public. After 36 months of planning fueled by coffee, they opened their doors.
While waiting for your tour to start you’ll get the opportunity to spend time in their museum. It’s here that you really get the sense of this historic building. I’m a big advocate of the eat and drink local movement. It just so happens that St. Augustine walks that talk as well. They source their spirit ingredients from Florida, their bottles from the Pacific Northwest and their barrels from Kentucky.
Amber was our tour guide, and she nailed it as she went through how they’ve repurposed Florida’s oldest ice plant into what we were now standing in. The founders realized that the old ice plant building would be big enough for the distillery and convenient enough to offer tours. They did an amazing job preserving the architecture and integrity of the 1907 structure. On top of which they modernized it to house the required distilling equipment.
Even though they’ve only been opened since early 2014, St Augustine as already won a few awards.
- 2014 The Fifty Best (TheFiftyBest.com) Best Domestic Vodka, Double Gold Medal
- 2014 Award for Excellence for the Reuse/Repurpose Sector by the Urban Land Institute of North Florida
- 2014 Adelaide Sanchez Award for Historic Preservation, Restoration, Education and Interpretation
- 2014 Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, Restoration/Rehabilitation Outstanding Achievement
- 2014 Slow Food First Coast Snail of Approval
- 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Gold Medal for New World Gin, Bronze Medal for Florida Cane Vodka
- 2015 American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) Competition, Gold Medal for New World Gin
Awards are great, but the proof is on the palate and that’s why they have a tasting room.
The tasting room(s) offerings were classic cocktails.
- Florida Mule – St Augustine’s take on the Moscow Mule. I’m not a vodka nor a Moscow Mule aficionado, but a very tasty drink.
- Rum Tiki – A coconut pineapple rum inspired elixir. The rum was so good that I left with a bottle.
- Gin Tonic – Gin mixed with their strong tonic syrup. A twist on the classic gin and tonic.
- Old Fashioned – Now you’re in my territory, the classic cocktail. I’m not a fan of premixed mixers, but theirs did allow the flavor of the bourbon to come through.
The tour and tastings are free, well worth the price. They make sure you exit through the gift shop. You’ve been to Disney, marketing 101. In reality, the gift shop prices weren’t out of hand. I left with a bottle of rum and bourbon, and probably paid a dollar or two more than I would have at my local liquor store, but then again I overpaid for an engraved Ducks Unlimited bottle of Jack Daniel’s single barrel.
So here’s the lowdown, St Augustine is an easy day trip. The town is packed full of history, so carve out an hour to take the tour and sample a craft distillery’s offerings and then soak in the town’s history.
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