Dick & Marti are the owners of Florida Farms Distillers and have been in business for about 4 years and on the market about 2 years.
My favorite question to ask distillers is how it all started. “Read an article in our local paper about 5 years ago telling how Midwest farmers had started making craft spirits, using their left over grains, to supplement their incomes. We have had our farm about 20 years trying to figure out how not to go out the gate to work to support our farm.” Said Dick. See a small farm is a money eater, so they were interested in turning that around. Dick went online and downloaded info from the TTB and filled out an application. “It is not an easy process….took about 9 months to get approved, and there were more hurdles. We were not allowed to apply for our State permit until we had received our Federal license. State required us to get County approval before they would accept our application….finally about 4 months later we were approved by all.”
Dick & Marti have a small 60 gallon reflux column still that produces about 5 gallons of whiskey per distillation(Talk about hand crafted). The process usually takes about 10-11 hours from start to clean up. “There are just the two of us doing the work, all of it by hand…we are very low tech.” They use locally produced corn and the grains (barley malt & 2 types of rye) come from the Midwest. “We make whiskey the old fashioned way, making the cuts by taste not temperature. It has a more intense flavor profile.”
The most difficult part of running a craft distillery is promoting your company and building a brand. I asked Dick and Marti how they got around this challenge. “We get the word out about PRR (Palm Ridge Reserve) by doing tastings and presentations throughout Florida, about 120 last year. It’s amazing that even with all the nice press we have had, most Floridians don’t know there is a locally produced whiskey available. Our local fans are helping to spread the word as are local restaurants and bars. Their support is much appreciated! Some states allow tasting rooms and sales on premise. Florida is a 3 tier state, meaning we have to sell all of our product to a distributor who in turn sells to retailers.” But They are looking to change this! “We and some of the other craft distillers are in the process of forming a “Florida Craft Distillers Guild” which we hope would give us the opportunity to have the Legislature address new rules for craft distilleries, making it easier for small distilleries to do business. eg: sliding scale for license renewal, tasting rooms & sales on premise. Florida is still slowly evolving with craft distilling.”
Dick and Marti will continue to let people know that there is good whiskey made in Florida and hope to get local support like Kentuckians & Tennesseans for their local brands.
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