Business hosts guests for free for an in-depth look at its distillery process, and more
By Jane Bartnett
Ahoy mateys. Arrrgh!
Take a tip from the pirates of long ago and discover the fascinating world of rum — Siesta Key Rum, that is.
If you’re in the mood to channel your inner Captain Jack Sparrow, spending a few hours discovering the wonders of Siesta Key Rum is a great way to enjoy a late morning or afternoon on a 45- to 60-minute distillery tour. You’ll learn from a Siesta Key Rum expert about the intricate process of creating rum, the history of rum, and how this award-winning rum distillery came to be.
Best yet, the tour is free.
In a most pirate-like manner Troy Roberts, Siesta Key Rum’s founder and owner, discovered the perfect location for his small rum distillery 15 years ago. Tucked away in an industrial park, close to the Sarasota airport, this is where the “best rum distillery in the United States,” according to the Caribbean Journal, can be found. Although rum was certainly a favorite of many a pirate on the high seas, these days many sophisticated rum lovers enjoy flavored rums. They hardly ever wear eye patches and like to sip their rum cocktail chilled, on the rocks, or neat.
When visitors enter the Siesta Key Rum factory, large gleaming copper stills stand before them. A side wall is filled with wooden casks marked “Siesta Key Rum.” For craft-rum lovers, this is where the magic happens.
Accolades for Florida’s oldest craft distillery have appeared in leading publications around the world. This summer, Forbes magazine singled out Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum as one of the best smaller rum producers in the premium-rum category.
Cooking Light magazine named Siesta Key Spiced Rum one of the best artisan products in the United States, and Garden & Gun magazine called the brand’s Silver Rum “smooth as beach glass.”
For six years in a row, the Caribbean Journal honored the distillery with its Best Spiced Rum award.
In May, to celebrate the distillery’s many achievements, Roberts and his team held a 15th-anniversary party that drew thousands of Siesta Key Rum fans. Owning this business was a dream for this entrepreneur who, as a teen, attended Riverview High School and made Siesta Key his home.
Although Roberts had no formal experience in the distillery business, he honed his business skills by spending 10 years in the software business far from Siesta Key at Compuwear Corporation, serving as director of product management. In 1999, he took his first leap into entrepreneurship when he left the corporate world and launched several successful sports car websites.
When Roberts sold the websites in 2007, he had the financing and the business acumen necessary to launch a successful company. His dream of owning a rum factory and returning to Siesta Key became a reality. That year, Roberts bought a still and opened Drum Circle Distilling, in tribute to the famous Siesta Key drum circle.
Roberts taught himself the craft of rum making by watching YouTube videos and reading books. Soon he began to create his own recipes, all made with Florida molasses and fresh ingredients. His then-fiancé and now wife, Nanci, joined him in the business and the young company opened its doors.
In 2010, Drum Circle Distilling released Siesta Key Silver. Today, Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum, made with raw shredded toasted coconut, and Spiced Rum, created with natural sweetened domestic honey, have both won numerous awards. Siesta Key Coffee Rum, made with imported Colombian coffee beans, has also been added to the company’s offerings, along with the small batch Siesta Key Distiller’s Reserve and Siesta Key Spiced Beer Barrel rums.
Roberts encourages his team of 13 employees to bring new ideas to the table. “We tried mango rum but we weren’t happy with that. Banana rum was another idea,” said Nicole Kaplan, Drum Circle Distillery’s director of operations, with a laugh.
“When Troy started the company, he decided to make infused rums. He is truly a master infuser — that’s the craft. No one makes infused rums like we do.”
In the past few years, the company has seen tremendous growth that Kaplan attributes to the growing interest in rum, as well as the taste and quality of its own products. With more than 30,000 followers on Facebook, Siesta Key Rum is sold in some 2,000 Florida locations. It is also available at Total Wine stores in 20 different states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Siesta Key Rum can also be found at other outlets in Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
“Our Toasted Coconut is our best-seller,” said Kaplan. “If you’re entertaining for the holidays, try a glass of Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum with a splash of pineapple juice. It’s the perfect drink.”
Another tip: Store a bottle of coffee rum in the refrigerator and serve it cold, she said.
A large selection of festive Siesta Key Rum cocktail recipes that are perfect for the holiday season and beyond are found at siestakeyrum.com/cocktails.
The Siesta Key Rum factory store offers a full line of bottles of Siesta Key rums, T-shirts, hats and other items for rum-loving friends and family members on your shopping list.
Free tours are held Monday through Thursday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The Siesta Key Rum Distillery can be found at 2212 Industrial Blvd. To book a tour, call (941) 702-8143 or visit siestakeyrum.com.
Private group tours are also available.