By Ashley Goodman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by St. Augustine Distillery
Nearly three years in the making, The St. Augustine Distillery is ready to open its doors to the public on Friday.
After visiting Portland and realizing that craft distilleries are on the forefront, Philip McDaniel, owner, and Ryan Dettra, former owner of Café 11, decided to jump on the craft distillery wagon.
The distillery is housed in the historic Ice Plant building located on Riberia Street in Lincolnville, which was built between 1917 and 1924.
“We looked up and down San Marco, we looked on St. George, and the island, but we kept coming back to the Ice Plant. The building is iconic,” McDaniel said. “It was a long, hard road to do what we did, but it was worth it.”
McDaniel and other investors poured 2.7 million of their own savings into the building. After attending several trade conferences, McDaniel met Dave Pickrell, the master distiller for Maker’s Mark, and instantly recruited him to assist in recipe development and the overall planning of the distillery.
Vodka, gin, rum and whiskey will be made on site. Most of the ingredients like corn, wheat and sugar will come from farms in St. Johns County. McDaniel is proud to say that they will be making the first bourbon ever to be distilled in Florida.
“I feel humbled and a little nervous. You hope people will like what you made,” McDaniel said.
For McDaniel, quality ingredients will always come before location.
“We want to buy as close to home as we can, but we never want to sacrifice quality,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel doesn’t care to compete with big time liquor giants.
“We will never be able to produce whiskey like Jack Daniel’s does. In a single 24 hour period, they can make two 40 foot trailers filled with spirit, we can make one 53 gallon trailer,” McDaniel said.
One of the most important factors that went into the making of the distillery is giving back to the
community. He also wants locals to feel like they have a sense of ownership.
“When you buy our product, you’re not just buying a bottle of vodka, you are buying into St. Augustine as a community,” McDaniel said. “You’re helping to support these farms, create jobs and preserve the oldest ice plant in Florida.”
McDaniel hopes to have three more spirits mastered by the end of this year. Their very own rum will be out by 2015. Above all else, he hopes to attract as many people from St. Augustine as possible and to educate people on the process of obtaining wholesome ingredients.
“If we can get people to realize we’re doing this to better the community and if we can become a model for other businesses, that would be great,” McDaniel said.