I’m a big fan of bourbon, so when I found out there was a rum distillery aging it’s rum in charred oak barrels to get that bourbon finish, I had to try it out. Luckily, I was going to Florida for spring break and found myself in Cape Coral, home of Wicked Dolphin.
The distillery has free tours that can be booked online for every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday night, and Saturday with free rum tastings during the hour-long tour. Our guide’s name was Paul and he started us off with a “Wicked Punch” cocktail using their coconut rum; they use natural and locally sourced ingredients such as coconut water and sugar – Florida is the nation’s largest producer of cane sugar.
Another local ingredient they really capitalize on: oranges. The Florida Spiced uses the orange peels and infuses them with honey and other spices to produce their signature, gold-toned rum. If you are wondering what happens to the rest of the orange, worry not because the distillery does not believe in being wasteful.
RumShine is made with different fresh fruits like oranges, strawberries, and blueberries. The 100 proof spirit is made with small batches of its aged rum to make a 50% ABV drink – the fruit alone requires a shoulder or wall to lean on.
We moved on to my attraction and their award winning: Florida Silver. The silver rum is aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels; the barrels are only used once for each process and then shipped on to the next artisan. This is because the flavor acquired from the barrel cannot be obtained a second time, but the barrel still has some use, so they might be shipped to a craft brewer looking to produce a beer with a hint of bourbon and rum.
The silver rum is what started it all, JoAnn Elardo was working in retail when she decided to retire and move to Florida. After a couple of weeks, she was bored and found herself trying to enter a market that she knew very little about. Elardo recruited her nephew Dan Termeni, so he quit his job in New York and moved to Florida; together they learned everything they needed to make rum and Wicked Dolphin was born in 2012.
The small batches produced in copper stills were so popular that JoAnn decided to enter the 2013 Rum Renaissance Festival, the world’s largest rum expo for producers held in Miami. There was no sign to identify their rum, just a tiny table sitting next to the Bacardi tent. After all the participants enter their most popular rum, a blind tasting is done and judging takes place, JoAnn walked away with the Rum XP Gold award for best in class. Wicked Dolphin has won awards each year since and took home their second gold award at the 2015 Rum Renaissance Festival.
After they talked up the rum, I had 2 questions for Paul: Where did the name Wicked Dolphin come from and when can we try the rest of the rums…
JoAnn noticed her dog barking late one night, but couldn’t find a reason. Her husband decided to investigate, so the following day, he readied a cooler full of beer and hung out while the sun set. It wasn’t long before a dolphin came around and began taunting their dog – mystery solved.
After Paul told us the story, he led us away from the barrel room and into the storefront so we could sample the apple pie RumShine as well as the other rums. After trying each out, I decided to come home with their Florida Silver and one not available for tasting, the Brewer’s Series Double Barrel. If and when you try it, be sure to serve it neat to fully appreciate the hops and oak finish.