I have been a fan of St. Augustine, Florida for years. It is the “Oldest City in America,” founded by the Spanish in 1565. The explorer, Ponce de Leon made the site famous by declaring that a local babbling spring was the Fountain of Youth. Visitors, from around the globe, visit St. Augustine in hopes to feel young again. Maybe that is why I am a fan.
I am an explorer too, and I think that I found the real Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine. It is across the historic town…at the St. Augustine Distillery. You too can visit the distillery, and feel young again—if only for the afternoon.
Why do more than sixty thousand visitors take the St. Augustine Distillery Tour each year?
I am fond of craft beverage tours. So, on a recent trip to St. Augustine, Florida, I decided to find out why both tourists and Floridians flock to this small-batch distillery. The tour has won many awards, including the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2017. The spirits themselves are award-winning too.
Not wanting to tour alone, I convinced a few travel bloggers, friends and family to join me. After browsing the distillery’s website, it was not hard to convince them to come along. St. Augustine Distillery crafts Bourbon, Vodka, Gin, and Rum. The distillery provides something for every taste.
I will pause here and state that I am a fan of “The Visitor Experience.” Attention to detail, welcoming and knowledgeable associates and a well-displayed retail area always grab my attention. I am a full-time traveler, and an explorer looking for the unique Visitor Experience. As a writer for Dine, Wine & Stein Magazine, I am on the hunt for the perfect Visitor Experience.
Our St. Augustine Distillery Experience
We walked into the St. Augustine Distillery and were immediately greeted. “Welcome to the St. Augustine Distillery”. The free distillery tour runs every thirty minutes. While waiting for our tour, we browsed the distillery museum. Be sure to sign up for the free newsletter, while in the museum. I have found the newsletter to be an excellent source for signature cocktail recipes.
We learned that the home of the St. Augustine Distillery is in the site of Florida’s oldest ice factory. The FP&L Ice Plant was established in 1907. The building is in the National Register of Historic Places. The founders of the St. Augustine Distillery brought the building back to life, a cornerstone of the community. Sometimes, I enjoy a little ice in my Bourbon; so, the story comes full-circle.
I also enjoy old photographs. The museum includes photos of the ice plant from the 1920’s. You know that it is hot in Florida. Imagine the Florida heat without the convenience of modern air conditioning and refrigeration. The FP&L Ice Plant brought block ice to the region. Maybe even a chunk of ice to local glasses.
Later in the tour, we learn the heat and humidity in Florida provides an advantage to crafting spirits. If you are visiting in the Summer, the fermentation area will be hot and humid. Just think of it as the special ingredient in an award-winning craft beverage. And cool samples are around the corner, literally.
We also learned that the St. Augustine Distillery uses local grains and products to create their signature spirits. The distillery is a true partner in the community. Add a strong sense of community to the list of reasons why you should visit this distillery.
The sign of a great visitor experience is the smile on your face. Our group was smiling through the entire tour. Our guide was both informative and fun. Of course, the samples kept us laughing too. The tour is open to guests of all ages, but only those 21 and over can taste the samples. And we tasted the samples. My favorite was the Florida Double-Cask Bourbon.
Here’s what Sonya and John Schweitzer, travel bloggers say about the tour at the St. Augustine Distillery:
“John loves Bourbon. I (Sonya) am a gin girl. When we read that St. Augustine Distillery distilled both, we couldn’t wait to take the tour! We took the last tour of the day and were only 2 of 4 on the tour, so it felt really intimate and personal.
The tour guide was very theatrical and knowledgeable and kept us engaged and amused throughout the tour. The tastings were generous, and very tasty. I even enjoyed the Vodka and Rum tastings!
It is very easy to spend a lot of money in the retail store where you can buy mixers and merchandise along with the Distillery bottles of alcohol. If you have the opportunity to visit St. Augustine Distillery, don’t hesitate – just go!”
Follow the travels of Sonya and John on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/itinerantlife/ and @itinerant.life on Instagram.
The St. Augustine Distillery Tour impresses both travel writers and visitors to America’s Oldest City.
The Secret for Home Cocktail Enthusiasts
Near the end of the tour, you are offered samples of two custom cocktails. Pay attention as your guide shows how to create the cocktails at home as the host of your cocktail party. Your guide will provide a fool-proof solution to the perfectly mixed cocktail. I love an Old-Fashioned, and I was not disappointed. I wanted to create that spiced, smoked Old-Fashioned back at our RV.
The secret was in a brown glass bottle that resembled a vintage apothecary bottle. The distillery has its line of branded mixers. Each sold in a distinctive bottle. Not only are the mixers well-balanced with unique ingredients, but they will add flair to your bar. It’s a mixer and a conversation piece.
The St. Augustine Distillery Old Fashioned Mix is a combination of Florida cane sugar, molasses, orange peel, and spices. It is aged in the distillery’s bourbon barrels. Easy-to-follow instructions included on the back of the bottle. We left the St. Augustine Distillery with shopping bags in hand. Later that night, I successfully made my first batch of Double-Cask Old Fashioned cocktails. Yes, they did taste exactly like the sample we all enjoyed during our St. Augustine Distillery Tour.
The tour ends in the St. Augustine Distillery retail store. Your tour guide will introduce you to the retail mixologist. There is an in-store tasting bar, and the award-winning gin was the showcased spirit during our visit. Our group purchased the gin and the bourbon as well as a few of the custom mixers.
If bourbon is not your top choice, how about the perfect Florida Mule or a Gin & Tonic. Another favorite is the branded Tiki Mixer. The retail mixologist will have you hosting a cocktail party and wowing your guests. You can take the “taste of the tour” home with you or give a taste of St. Augustine with a gift-box set.
If you are pressed for time, you can visit the retail store without going on the tour. You can stop by the retail store seven days a week. The store has its street-side entrance, and spirit type divides the retail area. Want to create a rum drink? All of the supplies needed are in one area, including glassware, mixers and even recipe cards.
I recommend this tour. It provides an excellent Visitor Experience. It will make you smile and will make you feel young at heart. It’s the other Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Florida.
The St. Augustine Distillery is located at 112 Riberia Street, St. Augustine, Florida. The distillery provides free parking, and the tour is also free. The tours run seven days a week, 10:30AM-5PM and are first come-first served.
Visit StAugustineDistillery.com for tour updates, product information, and recipes
Be sure also to pick up the Fall issue of DW&S. We will be enjoying the crisp air, ripe apples and wine in the Hudson Valley of New York. Look for the Fall issue in September.