Friday, June 10, 2011

Florida Caribbean Distillery:Florida's Giant Spirits Center

From the top of the fermentation tank you can see the size of the plant
     The Florida Caribbean Distillery,Winery, and Brewery is one of the most complicated operations of it's kind in the world.     These people do it all, distill, bottle, blend, flavor, brew beer, and make wine.     That is just touching the surface of what this operation can do.    If you want them to make you a "bottle, a bucket, a barrel, or a tanker truck load", they will be glad to work with you.    
      They have been responsible for the bottling of many very popular brands of rums for many years, as well as the flavoring of the rums they produce in the Caribbean.     They produce their own spirits as well that they distribute through their "Ron Carlos Brands" of rums and other varieties of liquors a well.     They are also a huge producer of wine based liquors to fill the needs of the "beer and wine" licensed bars and stores.     They produce the "Ice" beverages and "Mike's Hard Lemonade" for a multitude of brands.     This is one of those company's that have arms that reach into the spirit business wide and far.   

     Down to the nuts and bolts of the rum, you know the spirit that we all have a little bit of interest in.     They receive the bulk of the molasses from South and Central Florida sugar refiners, you can see this arrive by the tanker load all day long.     This molasses is processed through and combined with the proper yeast for the product that is being produced and the computer system that controls the entire process takes over and monitors and controls the rest of the process right down to the cleaning of the fermentation tank after the mash is sent to the distilling section of the operation.
     The computer system through all of it's sensors, servos, and operator really in the brains and the brawn of the fermentation, distillation, and the storage of the spirits.    Once the mash is fermented it is sent through a system of stainless steel pipes and pumps to storage tanks and then on to the still for the separation of the alcohol form the dregs.     The computer also controls the still and it's entire operation, from temperature control to the flow out of the still down to the storage units.    This is a good point to talk about the vast amount of waste materials that are left when the process of removing the alcohol is completed.     In the past we have seen operations that just pump the waste into the ocean and other places, but Florida Caribbean actually turns this into cattle feed and other useful products.    This is a very "Green" operation especially considering the enormous size and  volume of the waste materials.    Great to see an operation of this size so forward thinks to turn waste into profit.

     At this point the lab people take over sampling the batch and running analytical and sensory test on the batch to make sure that it matches the standards which they have to compare each run to.     When the standards of the lab have been met, they will send the batch to the bottling plant  where they are final filtered, flavored, bottled and packed for shipping.

Empty bottles headed to the filling machine
      The bottling operation is absolutely amazing, the can bottle 2 to 3 thousand plus bottles an hour when in full operation, that is a bunch of booze!    This nearly automated operation is a wonder to watch in operation.     The bottles go whizzing by you as you stand there and the fill just as quickly.     The bottles are whisked to the capping machine and then off to the labeler and into the batching area where they are boxed, palleted and sent to the warehouse for shipping.

Caps on headed for the labeling machine

Bottles being filled with a favorite rum

     This plant is a wonder of automation that is interlaced with good people that fill the gaps between what the computers can control and what people can do a better job of.    This a perfect marriage that leads to huge production numbers as good quality products.    The "green operation" in a highly efficient plant is something that really makes this one of the outstanding operations that I have had the opportunity to visit.     
     By the way there is a new Spiced Rum coming from  Auburndale.     "Black Robert" is a well balanced and fine tasting rum that has a great potential in the cocktail market and I'm looking forward ti it's introduction in the very near future.     I also have to thank the people of the Florida Caribbean Distillery for their hospitality and taking the time to show us around the plant.     ;o)