Make Your Own Spirits at Fort Lauderdale's South Florida Distillers

In a place where rum drinks are almost an essential part of daily life, it seems only natural that craft distilling has arrived in South Florida.

This year, two locally based operations began making craft spirits, including Black Coral Rum in Riviera Beach and South Florida Distillers in Fort Lauderdale. Since launching Broward County's first distillery in January, South Florida Distillers founders Avi Aisenberg and Joe Durkin have been busy making an award-winning white rum they've dubbed Fwaygo. 

Most days, the self-taught distillers can be found at their Fort Lauderdale studio, where they transform high-grade Florida sugar-cane molasses into a smooth, easy-drinking white rum. According to Durkin, the entire process is still a relatively small operation. A two-man show, they consider themselves small-batch distillers, working on hand-crafted equipment calibrated by self-made computers. They currently produce no more than 200 to 300 bottles each month. The rest is aged in virgin American white oak barrels.

"That's what sets us apart from the other guys," says Aisenberg. "We have a supersmall production output, but it's just as good — if not better — than the stuff coming from the big-brand rum makers."

Today, the goal is to develop the Fwaygo brand across South Florida. The white rum — chosen as Best in Class during the 2015 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April — is now served at more than 15 South Florida bars and restaurants from Boca Raton to Key West. 

When they aren't bottling or aging, Aisenberg and Durkin experiment with flavored rums, including a limited-edition grilled pineapple Fwaygo that's currently in the making. Considered a seasonal release, it's a variation of the distillery's white rum, infused with locally grown Florida pineapple Durkin sourced from Treehugger Farms in Davie. 

South Florida Distillers makes FWAYGO white rum.
South Florida Distillers makes FWAYGO white rum.
Photo by Adam Hendel

Later this fall, South Florida Distillers will also release its first single-barrel-aged rum, what the duo defines as a bourbon-style rum with bold woody notes and a sweet finish. Those interested in tasting any of the distillery's products can stop by for free private tastings and tours by visiting the South Florida Distillers website and going to the "visit us" icon to set up an appointment. 

"The whole point of the craft industry is to produce something special and different," Durkin says. "And it's our hope that we can help — even inspire — others to do the same thing."

That philosophy includes sharing and collaborating with the local craft scene. In the past few months, the duo has teamed up with nearby breweries like LauderAle, which is using Fwaygo white oak barrels to age certain beers. Even Wilton Creamery is collaborating, creating a hand-made, rum-flavored ice cream available now at the Wilton Manors ice cream shop. 

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The idea, explains Durkin, is to support the craft scene while encouraging others to get in on the action by creating their own small-batch, locally made spirits — everything from vodka and gin to bourbon and rum — using South Florida Distillers equipment.

"Unlike beer, you can't make your own spirits at home, and starting something like this isn't easy," says Aisenberg. "We want to become a sort of craft spirits incubator. A co-op, if you will — a place for people to jump-start their ideas. The more people helping to grow the craft spirits community, the better. And they can get started right here."

South Florida Distillers is located at 1110 NE Eighth Ave., Suite 3C, Fort Lauderdale. Visit southfloridadistillers.com.

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.


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