Located at the southernmost point in the United States, Key West is an idyllic island city that has been a haven for artists, writers, and musicians for decades. It’s also a place steeped in history, with a rich cultural heritage that can be seen in its architecture, cuisine, and traditions. One of these traditions is the production of rum, which has been an important part of Key West’s history for centuries.
For many years, rum was produced illegally in Key West, with bootleggers and smugglers using the island’s strategic location to transport their goods to and from the Caribbean. However, in 2013, a group of entrepreneurs decided to change that by opening Key Wests first legal rum distillery.
This article will explore the history of rum in Key West, the process of creating the first legal rum, and the impact it has had on the island’s culture and economy.
The History of Rum in Key West
Rum has been produced in the Caribbean for centuries, and it didn’t take long for it to make its way to Key West. The island’s location just 90 miles from Cuba made it an ideal spot for smugglers and bootleggers to transport rum to the United States during Prohibition. In fact, it’s estimated that at one point, up to 90% of the rum consumed in the United States was smuggled through Key West.
After Prohibition ended, rum production in Key West continued, albeit illegally. Many of the island’s residents continued to make their own rum in small batches, often using recipes passed down through generations. However, without the infrastructure and resources of a legal distillery, the quality of the rum varied widely.
Creating Key West’s First Legal Rum
In 2013, a group of entrepreneurs decided to change the game by opening Key West’s first legal rum distillery, named “Key West First Legal Rum Distillery”. They had a vision to create a high-quality rum that would pay homage to the island’s history and traditions, while also supporting the local economy.
The process of creating the first legal rum began with sourcing high-quality sugarcane from local farmers. This sugarcane was then processed to extract the juice, which was fermented and distilled using traditional methods. The distillery used a custom-made copper still imported from Portugal, which allowed for precise control over the distillation process.
The resulting rum was then aged in oak barrels, giving it a smooth and complex flavor profile. The distillery produced a variety of rums, including a white rum, a gold rum, and a spiced rum, each with its own unique character and flavor.
Impact on Key West’s Culture and Economy
Since the opening of Key West’s first legal rum distillery, it has had a significant impact on the island’s culture and economy. For one, it has helped to preserve the history and traditions of rum production in Key West, while also bringing attention to the island’s unique culture and heritage.
Additionally, the distillery has created jobs and supported local farmers, who supply the sugarcane used to make the rum. The distillery has also become a popular tourist attraction, with visitors from around the world coming to taste the rum and learn about its history and production.
Beyond the distillery itself, the legal production of rum in Key West has helped to reduce the amount of illegal activity on the island. With a legal, high-quality product available, there is less incentive for bootleggers and smugglers to operate in the area.
Looking to the Future
As Key West’s first legal rum distillery continues to grow and expand, it’s clear that it has a bright future ahead. The distillery has already won numerous awards for its rum, including a gold medal at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and it’s poised to become a leader in the craft rum industry.
Looking ahead, the distillery plans to continue to innovate and experiment with new flavors and techniques, while also staying true to the island’s history and traditions. They have also expressed a commitment to sustainability, using local and organic ingredients whenever possible and implementing eco-friendly practices throughout their operations.
Overall, Key West’s first legal rum is a testament to the island’s rich cultural heritage and the entrepreneurial spirit of its residents. By embracing the past while looking towards the future, the distillery has created a product that not only tastes great, but also supports the local economy and preserves the history and traditions of rum production in Key West. So, the next time you’re in the area, be sure to raise a glass to history and try Key West’s first legal rum for yourself.
The opening of Key West’s first legal rum distillery has not only produced a high-quality product but has also had a positive impact on the island’s culture and economy. The legal production of rum has helped to preserve the island’s rich history and traditions while also bringing attention to its unique culture and heritage. Moreover, the distillery has provided employment opportunities for locals and supported local farmers who supply the sugarcane used to make the rum.
The success of the distillery is evident in the numerous awards it has won and its plans to continue innovating and experimenting with new flavors and techniques while maintaining a commitment to sustainability. By embracing the island’s past and looking to the future, the distillery has created a product that not only tastes great but also supports the local economy and preserves the history and traditions of rum production in Key West.
In summary, Key West’s first legal rum is a testament to the island’s rich cultural heritage and the entrepreneurial spirit of its residents. It’s a story of innovation, preservation, and progress that has not only produced a high-quality product but has also had a positive impact on the community. So, let’s raise a glass to history and celebrate Key West’s first legal rum for its success and contributions to the island’s culture and economy.