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As far as I’m concerned, the best places for weekend trips have a combination of good places to drink & eat, as well as interesting history & other culture. St. Augustine, Florida has all of these things. My plan for my weekend visit was to explore the oldest city in the United States, drinking plenty of craft beer along the way. When I saw that there was a new distillery called St. Augustine Distillery right in the center of town, I knew I had to visit.
A visit to the St. Augustine Distillery
St. Augustine Distillery is located in an old ice plant near downtown St. Augustine. The historic Florida Power & Ice Plant opened in 1907, providing two necessary items for surviving the Florida heat & humidity. Nowadays, St. Augustine Distillery provides a third.
The distillery is locally owned by a group of 28 people with a love of craft sprits, who bonded together to go through a long process of getting a distillery off the ground. After a few years of slow progress, St. Augustine Distillery opened in 2014.
St. Augustine Distillery tours are free, & they take place every 30 minutes. Tickets are first-come, first-serve. The tour starts in a small museum, then passes through the distillery & the barrel room to a tasting room, finally ending up in the store. Each tour takes 45 minutes, but leave more time than that for enjoying some drinks afterward.
It’s obvious from the start that St. Augustine Distillery is a labor of love. Sometimes when you visit a new distillery or brewery, it’s clear that it was opened just to make money & take advantage of market trends. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you go into a place like St. Augustine, where they painstakingly restored a historic building & have made it clear that they are here to be part of a community, it’s more endearing. From the start, you learn how in addition to being a local business, St. Augustine Distillery seeks to use ingredients from small sustainable farms & companies around the United States.
In addition to the intro exhibits, while you pass through, you also also learn about the distilling process & other facts about the distillery during the tour. For example, bourbon ages faster in heat & humidity, which Florida definitely has.
The old ice plant is such a perfect place for a distillery like this. It sat abandoned for 30 years, but it’s wonderful to now see it restored into something with such a noble purpose. The distillery has won awards for preserving & restoring the building. You’re probably not here for architectural commentary, however, so let’s get to the good stuff. St. Augustine Distillery makes bourbon, rum, gin, and vodka, all in small batches. Despite having only recently opened, they’ve already been winning awards for their spirits.
In the tasting room, we tried a few cocktails made with their whiskey, rum & gin, including a Florida Mule, Rum Tiki Cocktail, & Grapefruit Hibiscus. All of the mixes are available for sale along with their liquor, so you don’t have to worry about having the right ingredients.
The final stop was the store & bar, where we were able to sample more of St. Augustine’s bourbon. The guys serving us looked exactly like you’d expect guys who work in a craft distillery to look like.
In addition to taking a tour of the St. Augustine Distillery (or instead, if you prefer or aren’t there during tour hours), you can also visit the attached Ice Plant Bar.
My visit to the St. Augustine Distillery was one of the highlights of my time in the city. Their small-batch spirits are well-made with love, & it shows. If you’re a fan of cocktails, I highly recommend taking a tour if you’re in the area.
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This place looks fabulous Jonathan! Awesome history behind it too.