Philip McDaniel, co-founder of St. Augustine Distillery, is on a mission to bring the same communal attitude and focus on local agriculture from the big-city beverage scenes here to Florida. If you’ve not noticed, the craft scene is thriving here in the Sunshine State, taking a nod from cosmopolitan cities like Chicago, Seattle and Manhattan.
Just as these bar scenes focus on local agriculture, Philip knew that when starting St. Augustine Distillery it must start with hyperlocal ingredients. “If you can, invest in your community and you can leave your community better than when you found it for that next generation. I want to do something that could leave a legacy project for St. Augustine and I think now it’s evolving into something I think the entire state is going to be proud of.”
Philip should also be proud of what the distillery is doing for the city of St. Augustine. Calling an old ice plant home, which lends a very industrial chic vibe to the entire company, St. Augustine Distillery has brought new hope to the city. “The area was very blighted” Philip mentioned. “It’s given this city a chance to become a magnet for mixologists and the mixology movement.”
Drawing world-class bartenders because of its values is just a third of the St. Augustine Distillery pie. Sustainability is another. “We want to have this beautiful state of ours around for a while, and you kind of have to walk the walk and live it,” Philip said. Besides an innovative three-phase water reclamation system, Philip and Michael feel good about their locally bought grains and corn from farmers. They also donate the high protein, high fiber mash back to the farmers.
So their sustainable practices yield some fabulous vodka, gin, rum and whiskey, but those weren’t the reason they built the distillery – bourbon was. But since they were committed to doing things the right way (organically and from the ground up) and the Florida bourbon was taking time to produce, they walked down other avenues. “Letting the influence of Florida create this first bourbon was top priority,” Philip said.
Oh, and is it cool to name drop David Pickerell, former master distiller at Maker’s Mark? Yea, he did consulting work for them. “That’s why we hired him, so that he could help us make amazing bourbon.”
Amazing Florida bourbon that is in the works and should be finished soon. Philip says the liquid will be “sweet, round, rich, just incredibly flavorful.”
Floridians, you can soon take pride in the fact that your bourbon will also be from the state we call home. The bourbon may not unite Gators and ‘Noles but it sets out to bring a sense of community statewide.