Distilling Florida Whiskey

For twenty years, Dick and Marti Waters worked to support their dream of fledgling farm. Then Marti heard about farmers in Iowa distilling vodka. She called Dick at work.

I said, 'Honey, I got a job for you.' He said 'what?' I said 'making whiskey.' He said 'hey, sounds good to me,'" said Marti Waters.

That was six years ago. "We get this one from Florida co-op." Now the two are producing five hundred cases of Palm Reserve Whiskey a year.

“Good whiskey comes off the still. You cannot put bad whiskey in a barrel and let it sit and it turn into good whiskey. It doesn't happen," said Dick Waters.

What makes their product so unique and so smooth is these five gallon barrels. Used just once, the whiskey picks up the sugar from the oak and gets its color from the charred wood.

Think of it as if they are birthing a baby here, it takes about nine months from beginning to end for the whiskey to be ready.

Getting a license wasn’t easy in 2007. First they called the state.

"Do you want to do what? They couldn't believe it," said Waters.

Once the state said yes, the Waters needed approval from the county.

"And went to the clerk and the clerk says, 'you can't do that,'" said Waters.

Until someone said:

"The county commissioners told us to think outside the box, and he said, 'this is damn sure outside the box,'" said Waters.

The rest is history. The work is hot and long.

“So if your wife calls you and says 'let's make whiskey for a living...' It's kind of a no brainer, ain't it Mike? You know, you go 'okay, well let's try that,'" said Waters.

And so now they do, quite well.

The state has 18 licensed distilleries, but it is unclear how many are craft shops. The American Distillers Association lists six craft distilleries in Florida.


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