Fishermen of the St. Augustine Distillery
This article originally appeared in First Coast Magazine. Article by Jim Alabiso and photo by Christina Kelso.
Head Distiller, Lucas Smith, and Distillers Daniel Joslin and Danny Rodriguez are part of the St. Augustine Distillery team that released Florida’s first bourbon since Prohibition this fall under the guidance of Dave Pickerell, the former distillery manager of Maker’s Mark. The distillers are a tight knit crew with a deep appreciation for the bounty of both the land and sea.
Sixteen years ago Joslin met Smith while working at a cafe on St. George Street. “After work, we would row all around the river till dark. We would catch fish, clean them, and have them for dinner,” Joslin says. The tradition continues as Distillers Smith, Joslin, and Rodriguez fish together on their off time. Fishing Moses Creek and Rattlesnake Islands in and around the Matanzas River, they like to catch snook because “it’s delicious and a nice fight,” Rodriguez says. They also catch redfish, black drum and flounder. “When we fish, we don’t talk about work. But we talk about fishing when we’re distilling. We enjoy nature and what we’re doing and spend a lot of time together,” says Rodriguez.
Whether on the water or in the distillery, the chemistry is similar. “We work hard as a team, and we always look out for one another,” Joslin says. “Respect and hard work are what we three are all about. We made daily goals and accomplished them. No one person could have done it all themselves.” Co-founded by Philip McDaniel and Mike Diaz, spirits of the St. Augustine Distillery have won numerous awards. Most recently, they became the Triple Gold Medal Winner in the 2016 MicroLiquor Awards for their Florida Double Cask Bourbon.
As for being part of history, the team feels privileged and honored. “It’s awesome. I never thought that in my life I would be doing this. I feel like with Lucas and Danny — we’re really close. Not just as a job, but as friends. We’re like brothers,” Rodriguez says.
“The most important things about fishing are patience and persistence. Both qualities are required to be an efficient distiller,” Head Distiller Lucas Smith says. “We were the first distillery in Northeast Florida to put bourbon in a barrel. It feels really good, and being a part of that was one of the main reasons I wanted this job. It was well received, and worth the hot, long days. The future, what’s been laid down in a barrel, is the most exciting part.”