Rollins Craft Distillery
The Original Gulf Coast Premium Craft Distillery
Craft distilleries are popping up throughout the state of Florida, and with growth in the spirits market expected to exceed 33% within the next five years, there stands little question as to longevity. Millennials are making their mark returning us to the days before Prohibition shut down thousands of reputable and burgeoning distilleries, leaving the masses to consume spirits from illegal sources. During the last ten years, we have seen an uptick in licensed craft distilleries given changing laws and overall acceptance of the new “old” way. Today, the Gulf Coast is thrilled to call itself home to the first legal craft distillery in the Panhandle – Rollins Distillery.
Seated across the street from the Gulf Breeze Zoo on Gulf Breeze Parkway, we find Rollins Distillery – the passion project of the dynamic father-son team, Paul and Patrick Rollins. Incorporated in 2011, Rollins Distillery is the perfect example of equilibrium between opposing forces. Where Paul is intentional, Patrick is more free-spirited. Their synergy produces nationally awarded craft spirits. “I love working with my Dad. He is a very technical, structured thinker – he sees the trees. I am a creative, out-of-the-box thinker – I see the forest,” says Patrick. “Where I see the big picture, Dad sees how we can make it happen. We inspire each other to think differently.”
Having received his Master in Finance, Paul, a former Navy pilot with an advanced degree in chemistry from the Naval Academy, was looking for a venture that could survive recession while bringing industry back to the Panhandle. Patrick, with only one year remaining in architectural school, found considerable success in home-brewing. He approached his father about opening a brewpub – to which Paul recommended a distillery. After significant discussion, research, and Patrick returning to school where he earned a degree in marketing, Rollins Distillery released its first product – Esprit de Krewe Vodka – in January 2016. “We wanted a brand that was regionally recognized – Esprit de Krewe – the spirit of the crew. It is a play-on-words that evokes a sense of fun and festivity,” Patrick explains.
Initially established in a 1,500 square foot space that by law did not include a tasting room, Paul and Patrick focused on the lengthy and precise process of producing high-quality spirits using locally sourced ingredients, including 100% Florida molasses. Their goal was to uphold and enforce a good impression of craft spirits. “Our stills are essentially handmade, and everything we produce is from original distillation – nothing we bottle is purchased,” says Patrick. “Our vodka is very clean and pure.”
With craft spirits continuing to gain momentum in Florida, producers are feeling the effects of laws expanding their privileges. Rollins Distillery has since doubled its floor space with the addition of a tasting room. Although drop-ins are welcome, Paul and Patrick are able to create a more immersive experience for those scheduling tours in advance. Scheduled tours are more in-depth and provide guests with a greater appreciation for the art of distilling – a process one cannot rush.
Although it takes roughly a full year from distillation to bottle, their rums are not considered aged. “Rum has different compounds that, when first distilled, do not taste great. It takes time and oxidation to turn them into better-tasting rums,” states Patrick.
“There are three components to aging: time, contact with wood, and slow micro-oxidation. Barrels breathe – during the hot months, they absorb alcohol and respirate the “angel’s share” – in other words, the alcohol evaporates into the air, thus reducing the liquid volume. What enters the barrel is oxygen and atmosphere. Our concern is the atmosphere or environmental contaminants.” Patrick continues, “This is a situation where location is everything as barrels take on the characteristics of their environment. We are on HWY 98 with a lot of exhaust as well as neighboring businesses that produce scents as a byproduct of their industry. Those scents qualify as environmental contaminants. We very intentionally choose to abstain from barrel aging, at this time, based on environmental quality.”
Paul and Patrick are in the initial stages of perfecting their barrel-finishing technique, a method that takes roughly four to eight months to complete. During the process, rum is stored in a previously used barrel, where it extracts the flavor from an earlier batch. The goal is to accent the taste of the current batch with whatever was in the barrel prior.
Every big brand was once small. We have reached a point where consumers no longer want just craft spirits – they want an experience; they want a story. Millennials are bringing about the days of old-fashioned drinks, especially those made with premium craft spirits. They care about the ingredients that go into their products and the effect those ingredients have on their bodies. At this time, less than 33% of legal-aged drinkers are millennials; however, this group is purchasing more than 32% of all spirits – and they are buying the good stuff. There is something special about rolling up your sleeves and getting back to basics.
Rollins Distillery products are available in their tasting room, local liquor stores, and higher-end restaurants along the Gulf Coast. Ask for Esprit de Krewe (A-Spree-day-Krewe) by name. It may be difficult to say; however, it is worth the effort.
5680 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Unit D10
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563
American Distilling Institute – Bronze – 2016, 2018, 2019
American Distilling Institute – Silver – 2016, 2017, 2018
American Distilling Institute – Gold – 2019
American Distilling Institute – Best in Category – 2016
Los Angeles International Spirits Competition – Silver – 2017
NY 50 Best – Gold – 2017
USA Spirits Ratings – Silver – 2019
Esprit de Krewe Vodka
Esprit de Krewe Rock N’ Rum
Esprit de Krewe Golden Rum
Krewe Exclusive Limited Production Spirits