LAKE PLACID — Let the good times roll at the newly opened Sugar Sand Distillery at 264 Henscratch Road. The Town of Murals now has spirits — no, not ghosts, but rum, whiskey, moonshine and vodka made from the sweet juice of sugarcane.
This unique tourist destination offers tastings of unaged rum, whiskey, moonshine and vodka made from sugarcane juice. Owners and distillers Don Davies and Jessica Giffin offer a tour of the distillery and grounds.
During a soft opening on April 7, they sold out of all of their bottles. To say the product was a hit is an understatement. The owners do it all from growing the sugarcane to bottling and labeling the end product.
The couple has other businesses and were contemplating what to do with the 10 acres of agricultural land. Giffin said the idea was born on March 31, 2017 when a bunch of friends that they regularly get together with were kicking ideas around. April 1 is when the distillers started the brewing process.
“We used to have orange trees but greening had taken over that,” Giffin said. “We knew we had to pull up the trees. We got a letter from the state saying, ‘Hey, we want your orange trees gone. We will help you get rid of them.’ We wanted to keep it ag-exempt. We wanted to keep it agriculture because that is where our hearts are.”
Giffin and Davies attended expos and trade shows in order to get ideas to utilize on their property. They thought about planting pomegranates, blueberries and a host of other fruits. It turns out, the answer to their mystery was just under their noses.
“We had grown sugarcane at our house as ornamental plants,” Giffin said. “It makes a nice hedge between us and the neighbors; it’s unique. So, we thought we could grow sugarcane out here. We knew it was growing out on CR 621 and ours at home was doing well, so we knew it would grow. We thought about selling it for ornamental grass.”
Giffin explained the jump from ornamentals to booze. The distillers already had the knowledge on making booze and used the sugarcane juice that a friend gave them to ferment and produce the spirits for themselves and friends.
“Everybody loved it,” Giffin said. “They raved about how it came out. We knew that we had a great recipe. We are the only ones in North America that is growing our own cane, squeezing the juice out and producing our own rum.”
The couple double planted about four acres of the sugarcane, which equaled about 15 miles of plants. They were able to double up on the planting because they are hand harvesting and do not need the room to get tractors through rows. Davies is happy to show anyone the planting techniques and distilling process. Be forewarned, he is very knowledgeable and the conversation could be lengthy.
The still is a 250-gallon work of art that feeds into shiny metal tubes where a chemical reaction takes place to make the spirits.
“We knew we needed variety, so we knew we wanted to add vodka and moonshine and whiskey,” Giffin said. “Eventually we will do aged spirits.”
A tasting room is air-conditioned and tastefully decorated and even has a modern jukebox. All sales take place in the tasting room. The distillery will be open from 3-7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays. The tasting and tours are $7.50 per person. Sugar Sand Distillery is available for functions like girl’s night out or other events. They can be found on Facebook or reached by phone at 863-449-0470.
ABOVE LEFT: Don Davies and Jessica Giffin are the distillers and owners at Sugar Sand Distillery in Lake Placid.
ABOVE RIGHT: Distiller Don Davies lets Bob Roberts, right, smell the by product of the distilling process at the Sugar Sand Distillery.
This is a finished product of vodka from the Sugar Sand Distillery in Lake Placid. It is pictured in the tasting room.