Cocktails & Spirits

Steel Tie Spirits Distillery and Tasting Room to Open in West Palm Beach

Black Coral Rum founder Ben Etheridge (center) will launch Florida's first multispirit distillery in West Palm Beach.
Black Coral Rum founder Ben Etheridge (center) will launch Florida's first multispirit distillery in West Palm Beach. Photo courtesy of Black Coral Rum
Palm Beach County-based Black Coral Rum founder Ben Etheridge is set to open one of the state's largest multispirit distilleries this year. The building, located on the outskirts of Elizabeth Station at 1615 Clare Ave. in West Palm Beach, will offer patrons a chance to sample several kinds of artisan liquors made using mainly local ingredients.

Steel Tie Spirits Company, named for the Seaboard Airline Railroad tracks that run the length of the site, is located a block south of the new Grandview Public Market and next door to Steam Horse Brewing. When complete, the 6,600-square-foot space will house 2,700 gallons of distillation capacity via three stills.

A 200-gallon still will join Black Coral Rum's current 500-gallon still, one that will be used to produce test batches and limited runs. The 2,000-gallon, partially hand-crafted hybrid pot will be constructed similar to old Scotch whisky stills, Etheridge says, allowing him to produce a variety of spirits, such as rum, whisky, bourbon, vodka, and gin. Each will have their own fermentation tanks to allow continual production for expanded distribution and outreach beyond Florida.

"Our goal is to have an old-school, authentic distillery," says Etheridge, a Palm Beach County native whose family has had roots in South Florida since the early 1900s. "I want to move the whole craft industry forward, one glass — and one bottle — at a time."
click to enlarge Riviera Beach-based Black Coral Rum is a Florida-made product that uses local ingredients. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BLACK CORAL RUM
Riviera Beach-based Black Coral Rum is a Florida-made product that uses local ingredients.
Photo courtesy of Black Coral Rum
Etheridge says he plans to use Steel Tie Spirits as a learning center that will allow the most creative minds in the spirit world to collaborate. His goal is to work with well-known national mixologists and tap their passion for craft ingredients to find traditional techniques to create some of history's "lost," Old-World spirits.

"There are so many different spirits that just don't exist anymore, whether it be lack of demand or botanicals," Etheridge says. "I want a distillery that's versatile enough to where we can create anything."

According to John Moore, brand manager and distillery general manager for Steel Tie Spirits, the new facility will be a game-changer for South Florida's craft spirit production. The idea will propel Etheridge's mission to create all-natural Florida products that also work to benefit state charities. Since its inception, Black Coral Rum has used Florida-grown sugarcane molasses to create both its white and spiced varieties, and donates $1 from every bottle sold to the Hobe Sound-based Operation 300.

New Black Coral products will include two limited releases: a double-barrel-spiced one-year-aged black sipping rum and a coffee rum made using locally roasted Black Rabbit Coffee.

"We still plan to stay as close to Florida as we can and have started talks with farmers across the state who are eager to dedicate acreage for custom grains and botanicals that we'll use to produce various spirits," Moore says. "It doesn't get any more local than that."

Steal Tie Spirits. 1615 Clare Ave., West Palm Beach;
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna