Though I’m not necessarily a big drinker, I have learned over the past decade or so to appreciate the craftsmanship and chemistry that goes into producing various types of liquors and beers.

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to write a series of articles for Let’s Go in which I wrote each week about one of the new (at that time) craft beer breweries that were opening up. Having never been a beer fan at all, I emerged from that experience a craft beer aficionado.

When I tour liquor distilleries, many times, the result is the same. The Wicked Dolphin Distillery in Cape Coral has now made me a rum fan.

Not that far from Southwest Florida’s sugarcane fields, this family-run distillery makes handcrafted rum in a 750-gallon copper pot still (named Harriett), using 100% Florida sugar and other natural, local ingredients. As I learned on one of the Wicked Dolphin tours, that process and the quality of the ingredients make all the difference in the taste of the product.

With about 40 people on my free tour, it was more crowded than any of the other brewery/distillery tours I’ve attended, but Assistant Distiller Paul Cottrell didn’t have a problem keeping the crowd engaged. He started out with an explanation of the full line of Wicked Dolphin products, which included many different flavors of rum, two “Rumshine” types and even one vodka.

While Paul cracked jokes and kept the crowd laughing, he also doled out a lot of information: The Wicked Dolphin goes through more than 30,000 gallows of clean, filtered water a week to make their products; they use eight to 10 tons of sugar in a month; and they put their rum through a total of nine distillations in the process, to make a cleaner, clearer rum.

As we made our way over to the equipment to learn about various stages of rum-making, Diane and Angela weaved through the crowd with trays of cocktails — coconut rum, pineapple juice and cranberry juice. I abstained, not because I was on the job, but because of this ridiculous diet I am on. Note to self, plan a cheat day when I visit an alcohol distillery in the future.

Anyway, our tour went from there to the barrel room, which held an impressive 160 barrels. Paul explained that the content of each of those barrels would result in 100 gallons of rum, which was a pretty amazing fact. Afterwards, we all filed into the tasting room, where Diana and Angela were waiting for us.

They gave us tiny little tastes of the Wicked Dolphin Pineapple and the Mango rums. I did partake of those (I said they were small!) and they tasted full of the flavor of the fruits they were made with, just delicious. After requesting a taste of the Vanilla rum, also tasty, I ended up buying a bottle to take home with me.

I won’t be on this diet forever, after all.

Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at dj@flessner.net.

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