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Monday, January 29, 2018

St. Augustine Distillery, Florida

My trip to St. Augustine was meant to be a mix of (some) relaxing and classic Katie Wanders sightseeing.  If you know me, you know that relaxing is not something I... excel in.  As my sister loves to remind me there are two types of "holidays" - one is if the vacation variety and one is a trip (see and do everything).  She goes on vacations where the main goal is to relax somewhere, anywhere, usually not far from home.  I however always go on trips.  I have a full itinerary planned weeks before which typically involves far more activities than time allows for.  

St. Augustine Distillery in a historic renovated Ice Plant 

During my long weekend in St. Augustine, we did so many great activities from touring forts and wine tastings to swimming with manatees and feeding crocodiles (more on that later in the week).   While there wasn't a ton of time spent lounging around or sleeping in, I do try to balance the active-on-the-go type of activities with the more leisurely variety.  Like tour a distillery, drink some spirits, and have a fantastic lunch sort of leisure.  After a busy weekend and lots of sightseeing, that is exactly what I did. 

Going in, I didn't know a lot about the distillery. I knew they made whisky rum, gin and vodka all virtually next door to the winery.  I had tried the wine and how could I leave Florida without trying the local gin?  

St. Augustine Distillery entrance/museum while you wait for your tour

I was impressed the second I walked into this beautiful historic building.  The waiting area for the tours served as a fantastic museum on the history of this building which was so fitting for its current use, an ice plant.  The tour began at 12 and our guide was great, sharing great information about the building, the renovation, the history of ice plants, and of course, how they make their spirits.  The enthusiasm and knowledge of our guide were wonderful and I learned so much about some of my favorite cocktails.  After the tour through the distillery, we sampled a few mixed drinks (the distillery also make their own mixers) and also had the chance to try the liquors straight. It was a different experience to be able to try their spirits on their own and with their mixers.  The prices were higher than I was used to but made sense with the high quality and small batch vibe going on in the distillery. 

Cocktails and spirits to sip, a fantastic tour and guide were all great but the lunch we had at the upstairs restaurant was the cherry on top.  My advice? Come to the distillery hungry, enjoy the tour, the tastings and the buzz and head upstairs for a fantastic lunch before heading home.  High-quality spirits, food, and staff in a historic building with a ton of charm, free tours and excellent spirits and mixers (all for sale)- I highly recommend a trip to St. Augustine Distillery the next time you find yourself in northern Florida. 

Trying some of St. Augustine Distillery's cocktails 

St. Augustine Distillery Museum 

St. Augustine Distillery makes Small Batch Whiskey, Rum, Gin & Vodka
  • The spirits capture the taste and flavors of Florida and reflect the passion, care and commitment of the people who make them. 
  • Locally founded and community owned 
  • With access to locally grown sugar cane, wheat, corn, and citrus
  • After 18 months, 28 local people signed on to help us build the distillery. 
  • In Florida's oldest ice plant - the Historic FP&L Ice Plant. Built as part of St. Augustine’s first power and ice complex in 1907 -- restored and brought her back into service so she can serve the community for the next century. 
  • The Ice Plant is a contributing building to the Lincolnville Neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places and was the first of it’s kind to make commercial block ice in Florida over 100 years ago.

Listening to a presentation- start of the tour

St. Augustine Distillery spirits and mixers

  • Florida Double Cask Bourbon**
    • Great flavor, the barrel is only used for bourbon ONCE before being repurposed for another spirit or something else.  
    • For their casks, the distillery uses wood from three different states, two different size barrels and five different char profiles.
    • St. Augustine Distillery co-founders Philip McDaniel and Mike Diaz made the first bourbon to be put into barrel in the State of Florida since Prohibition
    • This bourbon has been described as " deep and warm with notes of caramel, dark fruit, oak and dark chocolate with a full bodied taste that is deep and complex and a finish that’s warm and pleasantly lingering". 
    • Read more about this spirit and how the Florida environment affects the bourbon. 
  • Florida Cane Vodka
    • Smooth vodka, easy to drink mixed well in their "Florida Mule".  Their mule mix* is 4 Parts Lime Juice, 2 Parts Rich Simple Syrup, and 1 Part Ginger Juice. 
  • New World Gin
    • In  2015,  the New World Gin brought home a Gold Medal from the San Francisco International Spirits Competition, and as well as the American Craft Distilling Association held in Austin, TX 
    • This gin will turn gin hates into gin drinkers.  It is very light on the juniper and has a great clean finish.  It converted a few people in our tour group! Let's call it a very delicious non-ginny gin. 
    • We tried this in a classic "gin and tonic" with their in-house tonic syrup. Most tonic waters today contain only minimal amounts of quinine.  This premium tonic syrup containing quinine is for sale at the shop.  Just add soda water. 
  • Post Distilled Rum
    • Good- quite delicious in the "Rum Tiki" mixed drinks that were made (St. Augustine Distillery Rum, Pineapple, Coconut, Lime, Orgeat, Cinnamon).
  • Port Finished Bourbon**
    • The Port Finished Bourbon won a Triple Gold Medal in the 2016 MicroLiquor Awards.
    • This was very good but lingered on the tongue a little longer than I was used to...
  • Barrel-Finished Gin
    • Did not sample this while visiting
* along with the above-mentioned spirits, St. Augustine Distillery also sells their own mixers.  

** Did you know bourbon had rules?  For whisky to be called bourbon:
1. It must be made in the United States (95% of the world's supply is made in  Kentucky). 
2. Aging must take place in a new, charred, oak barrel. 
3. The mash must be at least 51 percent corn. 
4. The whiskey cannot enter the barrel at higher than 125 proof. It cannot enter the bottle at a proof less than 80.
5. Nothing can be added but water and only to lessen the proof when necessary. Other whiskeys can add color and flavor. Not bourbon, it must be au naturel.-- Shannan Siemens

Bourbon aging on-site 

Gift Shop Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
Tour Hours: Mon-Sun 10:30am-5pm

Distillery tours are free, include a free tasting and begin every half-hour.  Tours are first-come, first-serve.  Last tour of the day is subject to change due to on-site special events. Typically, first tour starts at 10:30 AM and last tour starts at 5:00 PM. 

Venue Rental 
Yes, Museum & Theatre: Capacity 60 Seated.  Tasting Room:  Capacity 40 Standing

Free- does fill up fast

Food and drinks served at the Ice Plant Bar (upstairs)

12 Riberia Street, St. Augustine, Florida 32084

Production area

Our great guide pouring drinks

Menu at the Ice Plant

Thought it was good until now? It is about to get better.  Not only does this distillery nail the spirits and crafted cocktail, but I was so impressed by their food at their upstairs restaurant "Ice Plant".  

"Inspired by the historical period of the early 20th century, our idea is to reintroduce our guests to a time where the experience of having a cocktail and a bite to eat was both healthful and enjoyable.  Focused on the art and craft of mixing exceptional local ingredients in precise measurements to create perfect and unique flavor profiles."

Smoked Local Fish Dip( ($10) with Grilled Sourdough Bread, Pickled Okra

Their menu looked fantastic and I was able to try the smoked fish dip, the jerk roasted pork sandwich, and the mushroom burger.  The prices were all very fair (sandwich and side for $10) and let me tell you, it was all phenomenal.  The dip started it off with its smokey flavor and old bay house-made chips.  And pickled okra? yes, please.  Then I sunk my chompers into the jerk sandwich and the burger and I was convinced this was some of the best food we had in St. Augustine.  The vegetarian mushroom burger was the most meat-like non-meat burger (it makes sense, right?) I had ever had and I hope to recreate this.  I am still dreaming about this mushroom ((veggie) burger, something I thought I would never say.  

Market Mushroom Burger ($14) Gruyere, Caramelized Vidalias, Arugula, Tomato, Lemon Aioli

Jerk-Roasted Pork Sandwich ($10)  Umami Mango Slaw, Datil Peppers, Salsa Verde, Black Garlic Aioli 
My only complaint was that the food was a little slow to come out of the kitchen but the presentation, the color, the detail, Ice Plant hit a home run with its food. A great distillery tour in a historic ice plant sipping on spirits and enjoying amazing food. Not a bad way to spend a relaxing chilly day in Florida. A top rated tour in St. Augustine with free booze, amazing food, and great history.

Happy Sipping and Dining,

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