Fresh Off the Still

By Megan McDonald July 21, 2011

Siesta Key's gold and silver rums. Coming very soon: a spiced variety.

Some days, my job ain’t so bad.

Like, for instance, last Thursday. I had to interview Troy Roberts for a Biz(941) story—just a little interview, easy enough to do over the phone. Except Troy is the founder/owner/operator/chief dishwasher at Drum Circle Distilling—makers of Siesta Key Rum. Obviously this is the kind of assignment that requires firsthand experience. And, as Troy said, “It’s always fun to try it fresh off the still!”

Not to say it wasn’t educational. I’ve had a little education in distilling from an unnamed bootlegger I know, but this is the real deal. I pulled up to the warehouse and wasn’t sure I was in the right spot until I caught a whiff of the product—booze in the breeze.

Troy was nothing more than a rum fan until one day, prepping to make a rum cake, he discovered a reference to someone who made their own rum. Up to that point he’d managed a number of successful websites, but “I always wanted to make something tangible,” he says. So he bought a still and recruited his 70-year-old father to help him assemble it. Four years and a couple thousand regulatory certifications later, and he’s celebrating the release (like, next week) of his third Siesta Key Rum variety, a spiced rum to accompany the silver and gold.

I’ve never been a huge rum drinker. “I’m a bourbon gal myself,” I told Troy. He pointed to a stack of barrels, filled with aging gold rum and labeled “MM” on the top: Maker’s Mark. Bourbon makers can’t reuse their barrels, so rum makers traditionally buy them and use them for their gold rums. Just one of the many things I learned.

What else? Silver rum is distilled to the point where it pretty much comes out ready to drink, but gold rum comes out “rougher” with more of the “things” (impurities that would otherwise be filtered out) that, well, basically make it taste like burning. But those same things are what interact with the wood and give the gold rum its flavor after sitting in the barrel for a bit.

I got to sample rum at various points in the process—surprisingly smooth. Like, really smooth. Even the rougher eventual gold rum, which Troy caught a sample of as it poured off the still and into a giant metal container. The higher proof makes it feel like the rum evaporates off your lips. Plus, all rum starts with sugar—in this case, they use molasses—so the stuff right off the still had the faint smell of burnt marshmallows.

He also gave me a sip of the spiced rum. Turns out, Captain Morgan is a poor representation of spiced rum, since it’s really more vanilla-y. Troy listed off a string of spices used in Siesta Key’s spiced rum—cinnamon, cardamom and several others. The smell coming out of the vat was incredible. He plans on having tastings in the fall using eggnog.

So that’s that, I’m sold. Turns out, rum’s not bad for sipping. Although in the future I don’t think I’ll be doing it at 11 a.m., just this one time, is was pretty cool.

Filed under
Show Comments