In 2012, Lee Nelson and Pat O’Brien started the Florida Cane Distillery, located in the heart of historic Ybor City. O’Brien was impressed when Nelson would bring samples of his distilled Vodka to their hockey league practice. They were intrigued by the rapid growth of the craft beer industry and that more people were placing an emphasis on local, quality food and beverage. With their love of distilling and a solid friendship, they partnered together to tap into that local mindset and create a distillery focused on local Florida ingredients.
The Florida Cane Distillery is now offering classes for those interesting in learning the art and technique of distilling spirits. Jesse Tate, one of the company’s distillers, along with Nelson, teaches the classes.
Tate has been distilling for more than two years with the Florida Cane Distillery. He attended the University of South Florida and Siebel Institute of Technology’s course on Craft Distilling Operations and Technology.
Tate explains that the idea of holding distilling classes developed after he heard so many of the customers asking, “Where do I even start?”
“I remember what it was like standing in distillery tours in various places, looking around at all the equipment and assuming that it was way too difficult for an average guy to get into,” said Tate. “After a little casual research I realized how wrong I was. With these classes we wanted to show people just how easy and fun making your own whiskey can be.”
Tate has enjoyed teaching distillery techniques in his five previous classes. The Distillery is currently conducting its sixth class this month and is tentatively scheduling future classes. His favorite part of teaching this class is tasting the final product made by his students.
“We finally get to see all that hard work paying off in tangible form,” said Tate. “Plus the whiskey itself is pretty darn good.”
The classes are limited to 10 people and take place during three consecutive Wednesdays, from 6 – 9:30 p.m. The cost is $350 and includes the cost of materials for the whiskey, a one liter mini barrel to take home and any taxes associated with the production of the whiskey.
The Florida Cane Distillery is located at 1820 N 15th S. in Tampa. To inquire about future class schedules visit www.FloridaCane.com or call 302-9696.