Suncoast rum maker gets to open tasting room at its distillery

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NORTH SARASOTA, Fla. - A change in Florida law about alcohol making means that a Suncoast company that does business around the country can sell its product in its own facility.

The process to make Siesta Key Rum goes fairly straightforward. But the road from the still to sale in its new tasting room just a few dozen yards away, took a detour through Tallahassee. “We had to get a special law passed for the craft distillers in the state to allow us to have a tasting room and pour samples,” says Troy Roberts, CEO of Drum Circle Distilling.

His small company in north Sarasota that distributes its three kinds of rum to 14 states, now gets to sell directly to customers in the same building where they make it. “We're just looking to get more people aware of the rum,” says Tom Clarke, one of Roberts' two partners in the company.

Drum Circle currently offers tours at which it offers samples, but the new tasting room will also sell whole bottles, plus candles, T-shirts and hats. “In terms of revenue (the tasting room is) a relatively small part of the business,” Roberts says. “But in terms of getting people to try our rum, it's huge.”

Troy Roberts started the company in 2007 after selling off the websites he owned. It's illegal to have a still in your house, so there's no starting this as a hobby and hoping you can turn it into a business. “To get started you have to buy a big still,” says Roberts. “So you hope you get good enough that it's something that people want to buy.”

When his rums starting winning awards, he knew his company would succeed. When the Total Wine chain of stores agreed to carry Siesta Key Rums, they went cross country. “It's pretty neat because I moved back to Sarasota from Seattle,” Clarke says. “And now I've got a bunch of friends in Seattle who can purchase our rum.

Clarke joined the company in 2009. Troy's father Jim, a retired airline pilot, does the woodworking to build the bar. The company has remained small and close to it humble roots, making something high-end from a kind of spirit once not thought of as something you sip. That has changed.

“There are indeed rum snobs,” Roberts says. “Rum has a history going back several decades that it was an inexpensive way for people to get alcohol. But over the years there has developed a high-quality rum, and a following just like you'd have for whiskey for example.”

State Rep. Greg Steube, (R-Bradenton) will attend. He supported the law change that allows distillers like Drum Circle to open tasting rooms. Details:

Saturday, November 2nd

10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Drum Circle Distilling

2212 Industrial Blvd.

Sarasota, FL 34234