On a recent weekend trip to St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, we hit up one of the newest spots in town: the St. Augustine Distillery.
Located off one of the main downtown thoroughfares, King St., the Distillery takes up half of an old ice plant on Riberia St. It opened its doors to the public in early 2014 and makes small batches of vodka, gin, rum and bourbon, although only the vodka and gin are for sale at the moment.
Before we actually visited the place, we were able to experience both the gin and vodka in our drinks at the Ice Plant — which occupies the top floor of the building the Distillery is in. Obviously we enjoyed our drinks, because on a breezy Saturday in November, we found ourselves on one of the free tours of the place.
Of course, I love free, so I was pleased there wasn’t a charge to check the place out. Although if there was a fee, I probably would have paid. The place isn’t huge — all the distilling takes place in one small- to medium-sized room — but has a neat local vibe to it and they make a fantastic product. The place eats and breathes local: the farmers are local and the spirits are intended to capture the taste of where they come from. Both the vodka and gin are made from Florida cane sugar, the vodka 100 percent, while the gin includes a variety of botanicals to give it a unique taste.
The bourbon, as we learned from our tour guide, Benjamin, is currently being aged in oak barrels on the property in an un-air conditioned room, so it soaks in all of the local flavors. If you’re waiting patiently for it to be released, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer. It will be ready in approximately two and a half years. Supposedly that makes it taste good, and, technically, makes it bourbon. Apparently there’s a lot of rules when it comes to making bourbon.
At the end of the tour, you get to sample the vodka and gin. On Saturday, the Florida Mule and Gin and Tonic were on tap, although they are probably the same drinks they always make. There was some talk about how gin isn’t popular, but it is my FAVORITE spirit and their variety didn’t leave me disappointed. We also couldn’t help but pick up some of their strong tonic syrup, because you only live once, right? (Or so the youth say. According to Nancy Sinatra, Ian Fleming and Sean Connery, the trifecta of awesome, you actually only live twice.)
I highly recommend checking out the distillery and buying their product. At their shop, you can only buy two bottles per person, per year. Blasphemy, if you ask me. But the Florida legislature didn’t ask me, and so that’s the rule. Their products are also available in some liquor stores, and of course, you are always encouraged to sweetly ask your local store to carry it if they don’t already.