Located on Simonton Street, in a former Coca Cola bottling plant you will find Key West First Legal Rum Distillery. The rum is made on site in custom-made copper pots. What’s cool, is you can tour the plant, talk to the owner (if he’s on site), and, of course, taste rum. That is what makes this an experience.
The owner, creator is Paul Menta. He is a man of many talents, including restaurateur. He created the Chef Distilled rum with a philosophy of “chef first, then distiller”. The rums are distilled all with natural Florida ingredients. He uses whole vanilla bean stalks and Key Limes grown in the Florida Keys.
The flagship rum is the 80 proof rum. It is smooth and full bodied. A great mixing rum for your Pina Coladas or even a rum and coke. The dark rum is aged in American oak casks soaked in saltwater at nearby Simonton Beach. You may have seen Jack Maxwell, from Booze Traveler, help Paul with these casks. The Key West sea soaking adds an interesting tasting note to the rums. The barrels are dried after soaking, this leaves the sea salt in the oak and adds a taste of the sea to every bottle of rum. After all, shouldn’t every bottle of rum have a taste of the sea?
The Chef’s line includes such flavors as Vanilla brûlée dark, Mojito Mint, Glazed Pineapple, Key Lime and Green Coconut. The freshest ingredients are used to create these flavors. Using fresh ingredients allows the flavor of the rum and, especially, the ingredients to shine. The flavors don’t taste artificial and overdone. Just a hint of vanilla, a kiss of mint is all you taste. These make great sipping rums.
The Tour and Tasting
Key West First Legal Rum Distillery is open 7 days a week. Stop by for a tour Monday through Friday (1pm, 3pm and 5pm) and Sunday (1pm and 3pm)
They have added a cool class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday … learn how to make a mojito. Admission is free. The group sailed to Cuba and learned all about the art of making a mojito. During the class, learn the art and hear the stories!
While touring the place, note all of the rich hisotry of the location. In 1900, the place was Jack’s Saloon, yet by 1903 it was the Coca Cola Bottling Facility. In the floor, you will find where they paid homage to its history with Coke bottle caps.
The custom-made copper pots are from Kentucky and, as far as we know, are the only ones in the world on casters. Being a chef, Paul saw the importance of having everything mobile. You can move the pot to the ingredients. Also, very handy in clean up.
The tasting is an experience. I normally am not a rum sipper. I use rum more as a mixer in my Boat Drinks, but this tasting opened my eyes, (pallet?), to another experience. The flavored Chef line is my favorite. The Mint and Key Lime were my personal favorites. Sipped or mixed with a sparkling tonic, these rums give enough flavor to create a refreshing cocktail.
After all, Paul is a chef. So, he has added food items to the store. Buy a rum cake in a jar. Can’t you just smell the rum vapors as you open the lid?
In mid-July every year, Hemingway look-a-likes descend upon Key West. These rotund, jolly guys provide a sense of nostalgia to town. Hemingway is back in town and drinking rum!
As part of these festivities, Key West First Legal Rum Distillery creates a special batch of Bad Bitch rum to celebrate. Each bottle is numbered and some are sold or auctioned off as part of a fundraiser for the Hemingway Days event.
Kevin entered to win a bottle being raffled off… and he won. That numbered bottle of Bad Bitch sits very proudly on our bar. Not to be opened. We did buy another bottle of Bad Bitch to enjoy and let’s say we really did enjoy it. This rum is aged in Pinot Noir barrels which gives it a richness, unlike most rums. It has the full flavor of a Pinot Noir and the smoothness of a rum. While enjoying a tasting, ask about the story…
The Key West First Legal Rum Distillery is a great way to spend some time off of Duval. Step in, taste some great rum, and possibly learn a little bit more about Key West history.