Meet Local Shaker Philip McDaniel & The St. Augustine Distillery
If you are a northeast Florida local, you have surely heard of the St. Augustine Distillery Co. If you are lucky enough to have tasted these locally made spirits, you can count yourself in amongst the thousands of international fans. The accolades are far too numerous to mention, but include International praise from “Best of Class” and “Florida Whiskey of the Year” to “Best Whiskey Distillery Tour in North America”.
The spirits alone are certainly enough to have you singing the praises of the St. Augustine Distillery Co., but their successes go far beyond that. The building that houses both the distillery and the Ice Plant Bar and Restaurant, sat abandoned and run down for YEARS before becoming home to these now St. Augustine staples. Not only did the distillery work to rehab such a beautiful building, but continues to support the community through Habitat for Humanity projects and locally sourced products that go into the distillation process - everything from the grains to the bourbon barrels!
Team FlipperSplash was fortunate enough to hold the finale to our Summer Social Series at the St. Augustine Distillery. (You can host an event there, too!) We packed the house and enjoyed a VIP tour of the facility, complete with spirit sampling. We also had the opportunity to get to know Philip McDaniel, the CEO and Co-Founder, in his element. We are always excited to get up close and personal with our Brands and were thrilled when Philip agreed to be featured on the blog! Check out what Philip had to say about how he began this journey and found success with the St. Augustine Distillery.
FlipperSplash: Are you a native Floridian? If not, what brought you here?
Philip McDaniel: Not a native, but pretty close! I moved to Florida when I was 15. Graduated Vero Beach High School in 1975. New England educated. Moved back to Miami in ‘82 to be with family and moved to St. Augustine in 1994.
FS: When was the St. Augustine Distillery established?
PM: Company was established in 2011 - opened distillery to public in March of 2014.
FS: What or when was your “aha moment” when you decided to open a distillery?
PM: After visiting Portland, OR in the Spring of 2011. Saw what was happening there and realized, "holy sh%&", there was tremendous opportunity here in Florida to pioneer a new industry.
FS: Do you have a favorite St. Augustine Distillery Spirit?
PM: Any of our bourbons … (I second that!)
FS: When you get overwhelmed as a founder, what keeps you motivated?
PM: Our customers and employees. My favorite thing is watch their enthusiasm and passion when they hear (tell) the story of the journey we are taking together, making the first world-class bourbon in and from Florida.
FS: Do you have a favorite activity to do with friends or family when they visit you here in Florida?
PM: Cooking, making cocktails and playing board games.
FS: If you could travel anywhere this year, where would you go?
PM: Scotland. It's where my ancestors come from and the home of whiskey.
FS: You're having a dinner party this weekend and can invite a famous guest, who would that be?
PM: Jamie Oliver.... as long as we could cook together.
FS: What is your go-to cocktail?
PM: Old Fashioned with a special combination of our bourbons
FS: What is one piece of advice that you have for someone that is just starting out as a founder of a company?
PM: Surround yourself with people and customers who share your vision and passion for what it is that you want to do.
FS: Tell us something that most people don't know about you?
PM: When inspired, [I enjoy] writing songs and poetry about people I love.
As someone who has visited the St. Augustine Distillery more times than I can count, I can assure you it is an experience unlike any other. From the smiling faces always there to greet you to the incredible historic building that has been brought back to life to the intricate process and extreme passion that goes into each bottle of spirits, it’s something that shouldn’t be missed. Even more so, as a resident of Historic Lincolnville, I am honored to have such a wonderful company take root in my neighborhood. The true sense of community that Philip and his team have established is truly unmatched. If you’re lucky, you might even score an autograph from Philip himself on your next distillery visit. While he says that his autograph adds no extra value to your bottle of spirits, we beg to differ. ;-)