ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Phil McDaniel wants to create St. Augustine’s only distillery by renovating an old, empty ice plant building on Riberia Street in downtown.  He wants to create a distillery on one side, and an upscale bar and gift shop on the other. The distillery would also be open for tours.   Wednesday, McDaniel showed off examples of distilled spirits – vodka, gin, and whiskey — from up-and-coming craft or micro-distilleries from other states.  He said the craft distilleries are  popping up around the county, but there are very few in Florida.

“We believe Florida is ready and northeast Florida is ready to see this industry come here,” McDaniel said. “We’re an artsy town,” Humphreys said. “We’re known for our restaurants so the distillery of spirits, with the winery and micro-brewery complement each other perfectly.” According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the U.S. exported a billion dollars worth of distilled spirits in 2008.

McDaniel wanted to get on the front edge of the growing micro-distillery industry. He said a craft distillery will have a positive economic impact in downtown St. Augustine by creating another tourist destination and possibly jobs. It could also positively impact Florida farmers. “We’re looking at using mostly Florida grown agricultural products,” McDaniel added. Sugar cane from south Florida would be used for the rum. Corn from Hastings possibly would be an ingredient for the whiskey, and corn and red winter wheat from the panhandle would go into the bourbon.

“The success we’ve seen across the country is formed largely by people who are passionate – like I am – about creating a great product using locally grown agriculture.”

The city of St. Augustine’s Planning and Zoning Board has approved the project at the ice plant building. McDaniel said the distillery and bar/retail area is about eight to 12 months from opening. He said the nearly 14,000-square-foot building is under contract. “This could be another part of culinary tourism here in St. Augustine.”

First Coast News 12.29.2011

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