Owners worked for a year perfecting a high-quality Florida rum in an old garage, almost in the middle of nowhere in Cape Coral. Before it even hit the market, the handcrafted spirit was winning awards at international rum competitions.
During the same time, curious residents would stop by and ask for tours. They also wanted to taste and purchase, but state law would not permit all of the above. Lobbying legislative leaders, the Dolphin distillers got laws changed enough to allow their business to grow into the attraction it is today.
Wicked Dolphin's barrel room is perfect for tastings and private parties — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Now, tour buses arrive from across the state to check out the fun first-hand. Visitors sample more than just the signature silver and spiced rums; the rum punch is just as big of a hit.
During the free, hour-long tour, you’ll inspect the distilling tanks and learn how the spirit goes through a complex series of heating, cooling and evaporation before the first and last bits of liquid in each batch are discarded. Only the so-called heart of the product is used to make the premium rum.
It's impressive, if you happen to be there during bottling, to see the assembly line in progress. You can also attend a celebratory bottling party. The barrel room is stacked with old bourbon barrels from Kentucky, now full of aging Florida rum. The room also opens to a large outdoor space overlooking a pond, perfect to host large groups and private parties.
During distilling, the rum passes through a giant copper pot still from Kentucky — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
One of the things that makes this rum so unique is the nearly exclusive use of Florida products, starting with the highest quality sugarcane. The rum makers hand peel Florida oranges at night to use in the spice rum. Local honey and star anise also go into the smooth blend. The result is that it smells and tastes distinctly like a product from the "Sunshine State."
Embracing the creative side of distilling, the rum makers have founded a new category of spirits called RumShine, moonshine made from rum. It comes in a barrel-shaped bottle with a label that looks like a Florida postcard circa 1960s. The chunks of fruit in the blueberry and strawberry come from Plant City, a couple of hours northeast. Sweet and smooth enough to drink on its own, RumShine is also great in lemonade and ginger ale.
Wicked Dolphin RumShine is smooth and fruity, without the harsh aftertaste of traditional moonshine — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Other offerings include a limited edition Distillers Reserve rum, aged in sherry barrels from Spain; a coconut rum for the holidays; and a sugarcane-based vodka planned for 2015.
Following the tour, visitors love to browse the colorful gift shop, full of Florida trinkets and Wicked Dolphin gear. You can design gift baskets to take with you, and throw in some Wicked Dolphin sauces: BBQ and hot.
Wether you are a rum lover or not, this tour is both insightful and fun. It makes a terrific stop for unique Florida souvenirs and a product that is of superior quality.
Distillery tours vary in times, depending on the season and special events schedule. Call ahead or check the Wicked Dolphin website before planning your excursion.