Miami has another spirit maker in town. It's called Big Cypress Distillery and co-owner Fernando Plata received his federal permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on December 8.
Located near the Tamiami Airport, Plata's distillery is one of a handful in the county, along with Miami Club Rum, Alchemist Distillery, and Hialeah's Jetsony Vodka. It's named after the kind of trees that thrive in the Everglades. Plata began distilling in mid-December and tells New Times that he hopes to have his first product — a gin — ready for distribution by March 15.
Plata's starting off with a 50-gallon still, since that's all his permit will allow. He wants to convert it into a Carterhead still, an old type that uses a separate copper basket that's filled with botanicals through which the gin vapor passes and becomes infused with flavor.
Big Cypress gin will be slightly different than other gins. It'll be infused with a little wood flavor and it certainly won't be a London dry gin, such as Beefeater or Bombay Sapphire, Plata says.
Soon, Plata plans on upgrading to a 150- or 250-gallon column still that he wants to use to make whiskey and rum. He plans on distilling the grains himself rather than buying and aging neutral spirits.
Learning how to distill came much earlier in life, although the 43-year-old Plata stresses that he is by no means a master distiller. He just knows how to get things done. From start to finish on applying for all of the permits, Plata says it took him a matter of months. It's not a hard process, says the guy who also did a stint with the 82nd Airborne.
When it comes to making liquor, Plata's all about two things: purity and transparency. Plata prefers to have more control during the actual fermentation process, which he says results in a cleaner product. "We'll distill everything in house," Plata says.
The distillation process will be completely open to public as Plant wants 100 percent transparency in the spirit-making process. "The whole process will be detailed: the temperature, the yeast, how we blend them, everything," Plata says, adding that he'll include Food and Drug Administration labels on the bottles, which aren't required for spirits.
It's just one small way Plata is distinguishing Miami from the rest of the craft spirits world. The city is no stranger to fine spirits. Miami is home to Bacardi's American headquarters and its products dominating virtually every bar's liquor inventory here, same with Diageo, a London-based spirits maker.
But there does seem to be a niche for artisan distilling in Miami, where distillers like Plata are attempting to make a small footprint. There's festivals such as the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival held each April and the annual Craft Spirits Festival. "Miami is a young town when it comes to this kind of stuff," Plata says.
Some day, Plata hopes to see more locally-made spirits on bar shelves. "My goal here is when you go to a bar, you'll see at least 10-12 South Florida products," he says.
Plata maintains a blog on Big Cypress' website where he keeps tabs on Florida liquor laws and legislation. The next big news, according to Plata, is whether Florida will allow distilleries to sell unlimited bottles of their product directly to customers.
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Two bills introduced in Florida's House and Senate last October would allow this to happen. Current law states a distillery can only sell two bottles of each of its products per customer each year.
Plata also hopes to have a tasting room, but he says that will be project for the future.
Big Cypress Distillery is located at 13995 SW 144 Ave #207 in Miami. For more information, call (786) 228-9740, or visit bigcypressdistillery.com