- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As hard as it may be to fathom, Florida still had Prohibition-era laws on the books until but a few years ago, which allowed distilling to return to the Sunshine State for the first time in nearly a century. In the northeastern sector of the state, I recently visited the St. Augustine Distillery, with its excellent gin. And on a recent visit to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, I popped by the St. Petersburg Distillery to see what magical elixirs are being concocted along Florida’s central Gulf Coast region.

Located in an industrial park in an unassuming part of town, the St. Petersburg Distillery has been up and running since 2014, with vodka, gin, whiskey and even rum emerging from the bellies of the factory floor, where a Depression-era pot still churns out fresh craft spirits both for thirsty Floridians and beyond.

Hanna Marcus, public relations and social media manager, offers me a tour of the facilities that, of course, ends in the tasting room. I’m not typically a gin drinker — never mind that my girlfriend is English — but Hanna insists I give the Old St. Pete’s Tropical Gin a try. I’m glad I did as the taste is both refreshing and offers hints of fruit in the aftertaste thanks to the citrus peels therein.

I’m more a vodka kind of guy, so I definitely must take a stop at the Artisanal Vodka brand, which I would recommend for mixing. But I must say the Banyan Reserve Vodka is absolutely amazing, with a smooth, easy taste that’s perfect with a few rocks in a glass.

Also of particular note is the Oak & Palm Spiced Rum, with its outstanding flavor profile that would either be at home perfectly in a hurricane mix or enjoyed on its own over ice — or even at room temperature.

I’m glad I tried the Royal Mead, which is infused with real Florida honey. It’s something unique and different, and I’d imagine a small tipple of it on a hot Floridian summer day next to the pool.

St. Petersburg Distillery’s products are available in stores and bars, and the tasting room should be open to the public soon. For more information, visit StPetersburgDistillery.com

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