Welcome to the final installment of Rum Week. (OK, we admit Rum Week has turned into Rum Summer, but what’s a few days or weeks among friends, right?). Since many people like to travel in the summer, especially to the beautiful state of Florida, we thought it would be a good time to explore some of the craft distillers producing rum in the Sunshine State. Be sure to check out our previous Q&As with Timber Creek Distillery and Wicked Dolphin Artisan Rum at http://bit.ly/2tHCrPH and http://bit.ly/2v3OoRc. If there are any other distilleries, you think we should check out, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, we catch up with St. Petersburg Distillery in, you guessed it, St. Petersburg, FL. This distillery produces a variety of spirits, including two lines of rum, in Prohibition era pot stills. They are also aging bourbon that will be released at a later date, so keep your eye out for that as well. Thanks to St. Petersburg Distillery’s Frank Dibling (VP of Production) and Theodore Jones (Research and Quality Development Manager) for the taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more about the distillery at www.stpetersburgdistillery.com
Bourbon & Barns: Let’s start at the beginning. How did St. Petersburg Distillery get its start?
St. Petersburg Distillery: With a family history of successful entrepreneurial operations, including Iafrate Construction and Angelo’s Recycled Materials, Dominic Iafrate Sr. decided that he wanted to expand his portfolio from the construction industry to a new and evolving industry, craft spirits. With the trends seen over the past few years in the craft beer industry, and a craft spirits industry experiencing similar interest at infancy, he saw an opportunity to enter the market. Once his mind was set, he built out a production facility that would support nationwide growth, secured a team of experts to develop and market the best craft products, and the company was licensed and able to begin production in February of 2014. The idea being that he could pioneer a new business venture that he could hand down to his grandchildren.
BB: You have several product lines but let’s start with Oak & Palm. This line features a spiced rum and a coconut rum. What can you tell us about them?
SPD: Our Oak and Palm Florida crafted rum is inspired by our close proximity to the Caribbean. It is specifically inspired by a Puerto Rican style rum base and is distilled in our pot stills here at St. Petersburg Distillery. We then add natural coconut for the coconut rum that exudes a hint of vanilla and sugar sweetness with a full and creamy, yet rich, natural flavor. For the spiced rum, we add rich vanilla, nutmeg, honey sweetness and baking spices to create a round, full-bodied rum with lingering sweetness and a long-balanced finish.
Last, we blend each through a tedious process of cutting the product in stages from high proof to bottle proof with distilled water as opposed to reverse osmosis water. The key steps in this process are the resting periods in between each cutting stage which allow true bonding to the alcohol and flavors.
BB: You also have a line of products called Old St. Pete and it features a spiced rum, a tropical gin, a sweet corn whiskey and a vodka. What can you tell us about the spiced rum? How is it different from the Oak & Palm rums?
SPD: Righteous rum is different in many ways. First and foremost, Righteous rum is a Florida cane molasses rum and is offered at a higher proof than the Oak and Palm. For this rum, we use a proprietary blend of spices that differ from those in the Oak & Palm rum. However, we use the same resting period process for both rums. Oak & Palm Spiced Rum does really well mixed in cocktails, like a Cuba Libre, whereas the Old St. Pete Rum is best served neat or on the rocks.
BB: The Old St. Pete product line has distinctive vintage branding and labeling that reflect the history of St. Pete. Each bottle has a small recipe book that draws inspiration from vintage postcards. What can you tell us about the branding and labeling of Old St. Pete?
SPD: The Old St. Pete branding and packaging is focused on embodying the spirit of sunshine. We incorporated a winking sunshine on the bottles because we are in the sunshine state and, even better, in the sunshine city of St. Petersburg.
BB: I understand you are also currently aging Bourbon. What can you tell us about it? What’s the mash bill? How long do you plan to age it for? When do you plan to release it?
SPD: Our bourbon was started a year ago and we plan to age it until we feel that it exemplifies our defined quality of craft spirits. The mash bill for this bourbon is proprietary and something that we will not divulge. We are currently laying 200 barrels per year, 100 of bourbon and 100 of corn whiskey. When we release our first batch of bourbon, we will retain a significant amount for a reserve line that will be released at a later date.
BB: I read that your pot stills were built in the 1930’s, which adds a historic character to your products and to your distillery. What can you tell us about the stills? Why do you think it’s important to incorporate historic items like this into the process?
SPD: The stills, when originally manufactured, were not meant to distill alcohol because it was during prohibition. They were originally considered pharmaceutical apparatuses because most drugs at the time were made by using alcohol to extract the compounds from plants.
It is important to use these aged stills for many reasons, but one is that it reminds us that we are craftsmen and that we must maintain our level of quality to respect the craftsmen that came before us. The use of the older method pot still provides a unique and special quality to our products that current modern manufacturing does not allow.
BB: What’s the future of St. Petersburg Distillery? Are there any new products or developments we should be on the lookout for?
SPD: The future of St. Petersburg Distillery is to continue to grow and cultivate our brand within the Florida marketplace. As you may be aware, Florida is the leading market for beverage alcohol and we see a great opportunity to grow and be successful in this market. We are striving to be a leader in the North American craft distillery category. We feel passionate about first being a leader in the state of Florida which will position us for great success throughout the country.
BB: Where are your products available?
SPD: Our products are available at a number of independent and large retail stores, including ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, Publix, Total Wine and More, Walgreens, and Winn-Dixies state wide. In addition, we are carried at many fine liquor stores in the greater Tampa area. You can also find our products on menus and in bars throughout Florida as we continue to grow and are saturated locally in the St. Petersburg and Tampa areas.
BB: Please add anything else you would like to add.
SPD: We have a combined 35-40 years of manufacturing experience and 21 years of quality and research development experience with which we have been the creators behind many products for customers other than ourselves.