New law for distilling Florida whiskey directly to customers

Beginning July 1, legislation allows distillers to sell 2 bottles per year directly

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Rum made from citrus to whiskey made with Florida corn, craft distilleries are popping up in the state.

Beginning July 1, new legislation will allow the distilleries to sell two bottles a year directly to customers, which is designed to promote another kind of tourism.

For 20 years, Dick and Marti Waters worked to support their dream of fledgling farm. Then Marti heard about farmers in Iowa distilling vodka. She called Dick at work.

"I said, 'Honey, I got a job for you.' He said 'What?' I said, 'Making whiskey.' He said, 'Hey, sounds good to me,'" said Marti.

That was six years ago. Now, the two are producing 500 cases of Palm Reserve Whiskey a year.

"Good whiskey comes off the still," said Dick. "You cannot put bad whiskey in a barrel and let it sit and it turn into good whiskey. It doesn't happen."

What makes their product so unique and so smooth are 500 gallon barrels. Used just once, the whiskey picks up the sugar from the oak and gets its color from the charred wood.

Getting a license wasn't easy in 2007. First, they called the state.

"Do you want to do what? They couldn't believe it," said Dick.

Once the state said yes, the Waters needed approval from the county.

"And went to the clerk and the clerk says, 'You can't do that,'" said Dick. "The county commissioners told us to think outside the box, and he said, 'This is damn sure outside the box.'"

The rest is history. The work is hot and long.

So if your wife calls you and says, 'Let's make whiskey for a living,' it's kind of a no brainer, ain't it?" said Dick. "You know, you go, 'OK, well let's try that.'"

The state has 18 licensed distilleries, but it is unclear how many are craft shops. The American Distillers Association lists six craft distilleries in Florida.

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