Editor’s Note: Happy National Punch Day! To celebrate, we’d like to journey down to Florida, to explore the creation of everyone’s favorite punch ingredient – rum!
Sitting on Florida’s Siesta Key beach in 2007 sipping El Dorado 12 Year Old rum, Troy Roberts decided to take his love for the beverage to a new level. He ordered his still and prepared for the opening of the first rum microdistillery in Florida, Drum Circle Distilling. Six years later, each of his three core rums have won prestigious awards including Gold at the Miami Rum Renaissance. We asked Troy where he learned the art of rum-making and his background with the spirit beyond drinking enjoyment. “The manufacturer showed us how to operate the equipment, but we learned how to make great rum by visiting other distilleries, reading lots of materials, but mostly through experimentation. There were lots of bad batches early on, but through trial and error, we’ve created rums that we are very proud of. And we think they speak for themselves.”
Drum Circle, named after a local weekly beach event, currently makes three rums as part of their Siesta Key brand: Silver, Gold and Spiced. Troy told us that his goal was always to make the best quality rums possible. “We start by selecting the highest grade of molasses. We use all real spices, no liquid flavorings. And we use honey instead of corn syrup. We know this will result in the best flavored rums on the market.” Troy further noted that quality products cost more but that it’s totally worth it. And it’s hard to deny the distillery’s success: tripled sales in Florida over last year and distribution to 13 other states through Total Wine’s Spirits Direct program. “We’ve already ordered another fermentation tank and my business partner Tom Clarke and I work well over 40 hours per week. Our distillery operates a lot!”
In addition to quality ingredients, Troy noted some other important factors necessary when making the best rums available. He first pointed to their still, custom made and affectionately known by the manufacturer’s name CARL. “CARL uses a lot of copper, which interacts with and removes harsh molecules from the vapor during the distillation process. The copper needs to be clean to be effective during this process. We meticulously rejuvenate the copper by regularly cleaning it with a citric acid wash.” In addition, the yeasts, the recipes, and the skill of the distiller all come together in the final products.
Drum Circle has been very busy trying to stay ahead of the curve and making enough rum. In addition to the Rum Renaissance and nationwide program with Total Wine & More, Drum Circle got some additional notoriety this year when their Spiced Rum was featured in the Dole Whip, a specialty drink made at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival this year. Other projects include perfecting a fourth rum. Troy said, “We are currently creating a Reserve version of our spiced rum, aging it in whiskey barrels. The aging process makes some spices more prominent while subduing others, so we tinkered with the final recipe. I originally made this rum for me, but I let others taste it and was finally convinced to make enough to sell. We are currently aging that now.” You could tell by the excitement in Troy’s voice that he loves this new rum.
Troy wrapped up our chat by saying, “This is a fun and challenging business. There is a lot of hard and physical work, but it’s a great feeling to create a quality product. I know we have something special here.”