Key West, Florida, once a haven for rum smugglers during the Prohibition era, is set to get its first legal distillery with the debut of , a new craft spirits company.The brainchild of chef and professional kiteboarder Paul Menta, Chef Distilled is located in a 2,500-square-foot former Coca-Cola bottling plant and plans to begin operations early next month. Menta says initial production will be around eight to 10 110-bottle batches a week.
Chef Distilled’s first offering will be a white rum called Legal Rum (around $22), which will initially be available in the South Florida market, handled by Opici Family Distributing. Menta hopes to start shipping to retail by November. “Legal Rum will be our bread and butter, because that’s what the distributor is concerned about and what everyone wants,” says Menta, adding that additional rum entries—including locally sourced flavor infusions and other specialties—will be available onsite at the distillery. Offshoots currently being considered include vanilla crème brûlée and Spanish lime infusions, and Menta is also planning on launching a “raw” rum bottled straight from the still, as well as a barrel-aged offering.
Chef Distilled’s launch follows the recent passage of a new law allowing Florida craft distilleries to sell directly to the public. The legislation, which went into effect this summer, limits sales to two bottles a year per consumer and defines a craft distiller as producing less than 75,000 gallons annually.