It's Rum Week! (OK, to be fair, we know Rum Week has lasted longer than a week but what's a few days among friends, right?) At Bourbon & Barns, we know many people like to travel to the beautiful beaches of Florida for some summertime relaxation. So, there's no better time than now to highlight some of the distilleries who produce that tropical distilled spirit known as rum. So . . . Welcome to Rum Week!
Today, we catch up with JoAnn Elardo of Wicked Dolphin Artisan Rum in Cape Coral, FL. You can also learn about Wicked Dolphin at www.wickeddolphinrum.com.
Bourbon & Barns: Let’s start at the beginning. How did Wicked Dolphin Artisan Rum get its start?
JoAnn Elardo: It all started when I was reading article on the Sugarcane fields of Florida – I found that Florida produces 50% of the sugarcane for the USA. This interested me, being about a 30-minute drive from the fields. . . . I thought, “Why aren’t we making a Florida Rum!” This was our start.
BB: Can you help our readers understand the rum distillation process a little better? Can you take us through the process from beginning to end?
JE: The process starts with a wash kettle. We take filtered water and our local sugar and cook it in wash tank. After we cook, we transfer to the fermentation tanks (jacketed tanks that can keep a constant temperature). Here is where we will add yeast into the wash that was just made. The yeast will eat the sugar leaving behind CO2 which in turn leaves behind alcohol. From this point, we take the distiller’s beer (after fermentation, it is called distiller’s beer) and run it through our Vendome copper pot still. In this process, we are able to distill all the alcohol produced in our fermentation. This is where we will bring the proof from 20 up to about 180 proof. We will separate the head, hearts and tails. We only take the heart of the spirit run. This will be the cleanest spirit we are able to produce. This process will take about 14 hours just for the distillation.
BB: I understand that your distillery is located near Florida’s sugarcane fields and you only use local ingredients. What does it mean to you to be able to use these locally-sourced ingredients?
JE: Florida has some great resources – we grow a lot of fruits that give us the opportunity to explore and try different things. Our plan from day one was to be a Florida Spirit and use the local ingredients we have. If you try our Wicked Dolphin Spiced Rum, you will note . . . we use local spices and oranges to create a true Florida spiced rum
BB: Wicked Dolphin offers three lines of products. There’s the Reserve Rum (Silver, Brewers addition and Gold), the Premium Rum (Crystal, Spiced, Coconut, and Black) and Rumshine (Strawberry, Blueberry, and Apple Pie). What is the difference between these product lines?
JE: Wicked Dolphin Reserved line has barrel aged in it. It will have served at least a year in a barrel and up to 5 years at the moment. The Premium line is the mix drink line premium rum, handcrafted to make an awesome drink. RumShine is our Handcrafted Rum with fruit added (our take on MoonShine). . . The Blueberry and Strawberry are 100 proof. The Apple Pie is 80 proof.
BB: Your distillery is located in Cape Coral, FL, which is a naturally hot and humid environment. How does the heat and humidity impact the distillation process? Does the environment allow the spirits to age faster than they would in a less hot and humid environment?
JE: The weather in southwest Florida affects the aging process. The heat helps accelerate the aging processes. As far as the distillation process, the heat only affects the condensation in the condenser. We need to chill the water going into the condenser, since the ground water comes out at a temperature of 82 degrees. We will need to cool the water down to 60 degrees for the condensation process in the condenser.
BB: What is the future for Wicked Dolphin? Are there any new products we should look for?
JE: Yes – We have a Wicked Dolphin Vodka that we just launched. It has a great taste and is awesome in cocktails. We do something a bit different – we filter it with a coconut filter. It gives us a smooth taste. Also, look for a Vanilla Bean Rum. We have it available at the distillery for sale. It sells out a lot so we have not had a chance to get it into distribution with Republic National but we will soon.
BB: Where is Wicked Dolphin available?
JE: You can get Wicked Dolphin at about 3,000 locations. Florida is our largest distributed state. Also, our products are available in South Carolina, Georgia & Maryland. We also have a store online. Please go to www.wickeddolphin.com.
BB: Please add anything else you’d like to add.
JE: Please connect with our social media: Instagram – wickeddolphin, Facebook – Wicked Dolphin