Made in Tampa Bay: Florida Cane Distillery

An Ybor City distillery is hand-crafting specialty spirits from sugar cane and the brand is beginning to make a name for itself far beyond Tampa.

The folks at Florida Cane Distillery stay busy turning one of Florida’s most notable agricultural products into whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, and moonshine.

The brand’s 32 varieties can be found in more than 300 restaurants and 180 liquor stores around the country.

Heading up the Ybor City operation is Lee Nelson, who says the team produces about 2,000 cases of spirits a month.

As far as flavors are concerned, the sky’s the limit.

"This jalapeno vodka was developed for Ulele, and it's featured in their ring-of-fire cocktail,” Nelson said. “We liked it so much, we brought it to market. It's distributed now all over the state."

Walt Disney World has been buying their orange-flavored vodka for almost five years.

There are a couple of things that the distillers at Florida Cane Distillery say set their spirits apart from others.

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"So, really the secret to how smooth our vodka is… our filtration system,” Nelson explained.

"This is the only wooden still in North America that's operational, and there's only about a half dozen on the planet. We took a bourbon barrel and converted that. We built the top here, which is made up of glass wood, and of course we have copper and that will go through these barrels. This is a thumper and we'll chill it and collect the distillate for the rum out of there," he said as he gave FOX 13 a tour of the facility. "Every batch that we make is made in this stainless-steel drum, so if we're making vodka, we're going to put the flavored product in there. We're going to put simple syrup in there, which you're seeing now, and then we'll, of course, add water because water is the most important ingredient in any finished distilled spirit."

Florida Cane Distillery started seven years ago in Brandon, but moved to Ybor City three years ago. The distillery has a tasting room up front where customers can interact with the workers who make the products.

Tours of the distillery are free and they’re open Thursday through Sunday. They also offer distilling classes about once a month.

“I'll talk about distilling with anyone that will listen. I'm really excited to bring folks that are as excited to about the process as I've been and continue to be,” Nelson said.

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