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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Wednesday, May 2, 2012 7 years ago

Rum man gulps another victory

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For an entrepreneur in the rum distilling business, acceptance from Publix liquor stores across Florida is a celebratory occasion.

For an entrepreneur in the rum distilling business, acceptance from Publix liquor stores across Florida is a celebratory occasion — akin to an independent toy maker allowed to sell his wares in Wal-Mart.

That's where Troy Roberts now finds himself, at least when it comes to Publix. The founder of Sarasota-based Drum Circle Distilling, Roberts recently received news that Publix liquor stores will sell Siesta Key Rum, the distillery's flagship product. “Publix has a lot of stores around the state,” Roberts tells Coffee Talk. “We've wanted to be in there for a while, but it was shut out to us.”

Publix, says Roberts, is picky about what it sells, so it looks at all aspects of a product, from brand to taste to labeling. In addition to Publix, Roberts says ABC Fine Wine & Spirits intends to expand its supply of Siesta Key Rum across Florida. ABC will now sell the rum in all of its tier-one stores, which are larger outlets that offer food and alcohol tastings.

A Sarasota native, Roberts left a career in software sales and Internet startups in 2007 to launch Drum Circle. He spent nearly $1 million of his own money to turn an industrial park warehouse into a rum production lab and factory.
The company's Siesta Key Spiced Rum won a Best in Class medal at the Miami Rum Renaissance earlier this month, another significant accomplishment.

The competition is one of the largest in the world, and the top medal is both a source of pride and buzz. On the former, Roberts says the festival was a David vs. Goliath moment for Drum Circle, which competed against industry giants. Says Roberts: “It's fun when a couple of guys at a folding table against the wall beat out the big guys with five-figure displays.”

Roberts says the notoriety, meanwhile, goes deeper than a $50,000 ad campaign. For instance, Roberts says a Miami alternative newspaper columnist called Siesta Key Rum “the tastiest rum in the world.”

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