I was invited to attend a vodka tasting at CANE distillery in Brandon, FL. Upon arrival at the distillery I wondered what was awaiting me on the other side of the garage looking doors. The distillery in nestled in and industrial type building with big garage doors that look like warehouses or automotive shops.
Don't let the look of the outside fool you. Once you enter you will be in the tasting room. The bar is beautifully crafted by Baltic Woodsmiths. It's made from monkeypod, giving it the distinct white coloring through the wood. There is a large window letting viewers get a peak of the distillery - where all the magic happens.
And of course, there's the vodka.
We were greeted by Lee Nelson, one of the creators of this amazing vodka. It will only take moments to see how passionate he is about what he does at the distillery.
The dream started with the idea to make something distinctly American. That dream became the idea to make a premium, hand crafted vodka made from only Floridian ingredients.
Florida CANE vodka was born.
As Lee explains the distilling process, he pours us the first drink. We are going to try the CANE version of the Moscow Mule. It was a mix of their cherry vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer.
And it was delicious.
As we enjoyed our first taste of CANE vodka we learned about how they use South Florida sugar cane and water form the Florida Aquafier to distill their vodka.
They also use ingredients from different areas of Florida for their flavored vodkas. Strawberries are from Plant City, oranges from Seminole, Blueberries from Hernando, and so on.
The only thing not fully Floridian about this Vodka is the high flint glass bottle - but it's American made.
We moved on from a mixed drink to the CANE premium vodka, and continued to learn. There are three things to look for when tasting vodka. You should notice the look, the smell, and the taste.
Good vodka should be gem-like. It should have a certain glimmer to it. This vodka won the Bronze medal in the 2013 World Spirits Competition and it was noted that it had the gem-like quality vodka drinkers should me looking for.
Smelling the vodka is next. If it burns the nose a little bit, that's normal. That is what should happen if the vodka is made from sugar cane.
Then, of course, is the taste. Lee explained that they were looking for a vodka that would be smooth and not burn the back of the throat.
My thoughts? Well, drinking straight vodka isn't something I would normally like to do - but it didn't burn. It WAS smooth. This was some great vodka.
Then it was on to sampling some of the flavors. I love the labels (which by the way the bottles are hand labeled with local labor) and I absolutely adore the names of the flavors.
We tried Key West lemon lime first. This was one of my favorites. This flavor whisked my away to somewhere tropical. I could picture myself on a beach, sipping a drink with this vodka while I watch the waves crash against the surf.
Orlando Orange was my favorite. It was the smoothest of all the flavors I tried and it had a zesty orange finish. I wound up taking a bottle of this flavor home.
Florida Fire Ant was another flavor I really liked. It had a crazy spicy kick that I wouldn't have thought was possible from a vodka. I'm thinking I might have to pick up a bottle of this one soon.
The other flavor names? Miami Mango, Plant City Strawberry, Okeechobee Cherry, Gator Grape, Buccaneer Blueberry, Beach Bum Berry, and Weeki Wachee Watermelon.
Another thing great about CANE vodka? It's all gluten free. Another welcome surprise.
After sampling several flavors of vodka it was time to try out something else. Moonshine. The Moonshine, creatively named Sunshine Moonshine, is made from local Florida sugar and corn. It's a strong spirit, 109 proof, but has a perfect blend of taste and kick.
I was a bit nervous to try this moonshine because I've heard stores about how people make it at home and it tastes like rubbing alcohol. Nevertheless, I decided to take a sip.
Surprised yet again, the moonshine was nothing like I had pictured it. I tried Sunrise first - a combination of flavors such as baked apple pie, buttery vanilla, and a hot pepper kick at the end. In no way did this taste like rubbing alcohol. It was good, and something I would order.
Then it was on to High Noon: A blast of cinnamon inspired by a burning hot sun. Definitely spicy and delicious.
My favorite was next - Sunset. The flavors here are English toffee with a hint of Florida Oranges. This one was the most pleasing to my palette.
The last of the moonshine was Midnight. Blueberry blackberry, and a hint of anise. This was my least favorite since I'm not a fan of berry, however, many of my fellow bloggers liked this one.
Again, the bottles were beautifully labeled and pleasing to the eye. Each bottle has a different funny and witty blurb on the back describing the drink. I found this fun, and an added reason to love the drink.
Sounds like something you want to try? It should! You can visit the distillery on Fridays or Saturdays for a tasting. The tastings are free but you have to book a spot. You can find the dates available here
. This is an awesome way to learn about the process and to taste a few flavors.
You could also find CANE vodka at your local Publix. Don't see it? You can ask them to order it!
Want to learn more?
*As a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers I was given a bottle of CANE vodka to take home after our private tasting. All opinions are my own.