After doing a preliminary write-up a couple weeks back, I was finally able to visit Drum Circle Distilling in SW Florida to see exactly how they are hand-crafting Siesta Key Rum. Their sole operation is housed in a rather non-descript warehouse complex located just north of glamorous downtown Sarasota. But don’t be fooled, there is real magic happening inside these walls.
Owners Troy Roberts (above) and Tom Clarke were hard at work when I arrived mid-morning last Wednesday. Both men grew up in the Siesta Key area. They not only run the place, they are also the only two employees of this exciting, fledgling enterprise. Troy has long been a connoisseur of fine rums and eventually decided he wanted to try making it — but only if it was world class stuff. No corners have been cut and, much like the old Orson Welles commercials, they will sell no rum before its time.
If you’re gonna get in the rum business, you gotta be 1 part Jimmy Buffett and 1 part Enrico Fermi. No kidding. Just look at the product development workspace pictured above. I’m guessing that Troy and Tom are glad they paid attention during high school chemistry classes!
The early makings of clear Siesta Key Rum rumble away in the copper plated still seen above. It looks a bit like a giant deep sea diver’s helmet, doesn’t it?
Testing various versions in search of the perfect blend of rum.
I’m guessing this step ladder gets a lot of work.
The sparkling, metallic equipment at Drum Circle is all top notch and made by the Christian Carl Distilleries in Stuttgart, Germany (www.brewing-distilling.com). Sure, Germany is not exactly the epicenter of the world’s rum production, yet Troy explained that the Germans make some of the finest distilling machinery money can buy. Roberts mentioned that gin is perhaps the most common spirit distilled using Carl’s technology.
Competing products are frequently sampled to compare differing flavor profiles. Troy said they don’t ever want to become big like Bacardi, but they want to be consistently better than Bacardi and the other giants in the global marketplace. Based on our initial tasting, they are off to a fine start.
It’s all small batch at Drum Circle Distilling. The little oak barrels shown above are used for the aging of a soon-to-come Siesta Key Gold Rum. These barrels are quite expensive (about $250 each), which will likely mean a slightly higher price point when this product is at last ready for market. The clear rum currently sells for about $21 per bottle (a bargain), while the gold will probably fall in the reasonable $25-$28 per bottle price range. Siesta Key Rum is now offered by some 50 different liquor stores and restaurants in the greater Sarasota/Bradenton area. Slow, steady growth will insure that product quality remains high.
Not a bad way to make a living, huh? Troy joked that they do most of their drinking before 5 o’clock around here, yet he hasn’t drawn a real pay check in about 3 years now. This is indeed a labor of love.
Is this a rum distillery or NASA?
Troy looks ready to climb aboard his “rocket ship.”
Tom shows how the small run bottling & labeling process is done.
A roll (above) of Drum Circle’s signature sand dollar labels, which are affixed at the top (over the cork) of each bottle of Siesta Key Rum. The corks (imported from Mexico) also have a very distinctive look to them.
This (above) is the “employee break room” at Drum Circle Distilling. These guys are really livin’ the dream! We are tremendously impressed with the progress they have made and won’t be betting against them as they set out to first conquer Florida, and then the rest of the Southeast USA.
Troy and Tom were terrific hosts during my visit and graciously presented me with a bottle of rum, a Drum Circle Distilling T-shirt, and an oval SK Rum bumper sticker as I headed back outside into the bright Florida sunshine. It wasn’t even lunch time and I was already thinking about which rum drink I was going to concoct when I arrived home at our beachside condo. It seems these guys were already rubbing off on me. RRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!
For a couple cocktail recipes, visit the Drum Circle web site at …
And for more info on Siesta Key’s Drum Circle tradition, please go to …