Florida's governor signed a bill earlier this month allowing the state's craft distilleries to sell directly to the public. Among them is Destilería Canéca, or Miami Club Rum, Miami's only commercial distillery.
Prior to the passage of House Bill 347, alcohol manufacturers were (and still pretty much are) strictly forbidden to sell of their product directly to the consumer. It was part of the post-prohibition three-tier system that separates manufacturer, distributor and retailer.
But don't expect alcohol distributors to go bust or the system to fail over this law because it only allows the sale of two bottles per person, per year. That is a significant decrease from the original 24 bottles-per-year that the original bill would have allowed.
In fact, Miami Club Rum owner and distiller Matt Malone wants to preserve the relationship between distributor and retailer. "We have a great distributor", said Malone, who distributes his product through Southern Wine and Spirits. "We're not in the business of distributing. Nor do we want to get into the business of being a bar or becoming a liquor store. Our purpose is to make the product and promote the brand."
Malone will have a distillery-only product that will be available on July 1. The price is $34 per bottle, compared to the suggested retail price of $28 at a liquor store. The new product is essentially the same, but with a different label that will have a memento feel to it.
The biggest boost the law will have on craft distilleries appears to be an increase in tours and tour sales, particularly for tourists from cruise lines. Now customers can take a tour, have a tasting, and bring home a couple of bottles of rum.
Because the law regulates how many bottles can be sold directly to consumers, Malone says he will require a photo ID that proves age and basic identifying information such as a name, which will be kept on file to ensure people are complying with the law.
Married into a family whose rum-making expertise goes back five generations in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Malone opened Destilería Canéca in late 2011. His product first hit store shelves this past November and received its first export order to Zurich, Switzerland earlier this month. His first exporter and distributor overseas is Switzerland-based Gerik Spiquel.
The distillery makes its rum with sugar cane harvested from local fields and produces enough product to fill about 5,000 cases per year. Each batch is aged in imported French oak barrels, the only ingredient not from South Florida.