Wicked Dolphin Distillery: Rum with a Florida Flavor
By Vanessa Caceres
The rums, distilled nine times, are made with Florida-grown ingredients. That includes sugarcane, honey, and molasses made in the Sunshine State.
“The sugarcane is grown just 45 miles away. We know the guys who made it,” said assistant distiller Matt Loiselle, as he led a group of visitors on a distillery tour.
Open since 2012, Wicked Dolphin uses strawberries and blueberries fresh from Florida, and crafts a rum made with mangoes from nearby Pine Island, famous for its tropical fruit.
Wicked Dolphin offers six premium flavors, including its best-selling coconut rum and its spiced rum made with oranges, cinnamon, and nutmeg. There are also barbecue sauces, hot sauces, and dark chocolates made with their rum.
Each batch of spiced rum is made with 200 pounds of Florida-grown oranges. (Byh the way, the distillery is always looking for volunteers to help with the arduous task of orange peeling. “We pay in rum and pizza,” Loiselle said. The distillery also looks for volunteers to help with bottling every few weeks.)
Wicked Dolphin also has reserve rum that’s aged in barrels once used for bourbon, including its three-year-aged Gold Reserve. The aging, high humidity and recycled barrels add flavored-whiskey notes to the Gold Reserve, as its website describes.
The distillery also has its 100-proof “rumshine” flavors (think of moonshine for comparison) with strawberry, blueberry, and apple pie flavors.
A distillery tour (it’s free, by the way) starts with a brief explanation of Wicked Dolphin’s products and a refreshing rum punch to lift your spirits. Loiselle explains the cooking, fermenting, and distilling process, including the time that batches of rum spend in a copper still from Louisville, Kentucky, nicknamed Harriett. The distillery has grown large enough to produce 15,000 pounds of rum every three months, Loiselle said.
Loiselle shows visitors the barrels where the rum is aged (the barrels help add to the rum’s color) before leading everyone to the coveted bar. Visitors learn how to properly inhale the smell of the spirits before taking a small sip, instead of just barreling it down like a shot. Tour attendees discuss their preferences for the pineapple rum versus the coconut, spiced rum, and rumshine.
Visitors also can peruse wares including liquor bottles, Wicked Dolphin T-shirts, and miniature-sized rum barrels they can buy and take home.
The distillery boasts several awards, including several from the American Distilling Institute.
“My wife and I have kept a residence in Fort Myers for the past six years, and we make a point of going in to Wicked Dolphin whenever we're in town, not only for the samples but to buy their coconut variety,” said Jeremy Gorelick.
Gorelick and his wife are part of what Loiselle calls “repeat offenders,” or the locals who make up 30 percent of Wicked Dolphin’s visitors who return regularly for a lesson on rum-making or, more likely, just to load up on more rum. The other 70 percent are tourists.
Charles McCool of Reston, Va., visited Wicked Dolphin recently and said his favorite was the maple barrel, followed by the spiced. “I love that they call some flavors rumshine, a take on moonshine. I remember sampling strawberry, apple pie, and blueberry,” he said.
And just what should you prepare at home with your purchase of Wicked Dolphin rum? Ask staff members, and they’ll wax poetic for you about the possibilities.
On a Sunday morning, coconut rum mixed with orange juice and cranberry juice goes down like a smooth, flavor-complimenting punch, said one staff member. Then there’s the spiced rum and root beer that tasks like a root beer float. There’s also mango rum and lemonade. You can find plenty more mixed drink recipes on Wicked Dolphin’s website, and on the back of some of the bottle packaging.
When you go…
Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery
131 SW 3rd Pl., Cape Coral, FL 33991
Dress comfortably for a tour. The distillery and barrel room can get warm, but the tasting room and gift shop areas are refreshingly air-conditioned. Each tour is about 45 to 60 minutes, and yes, those under 21 can come along—they just can’t participate in rum tastings.
If you can’t make it to Wicked Dolphin for a tour, look for it at a number of Florida liquor stores or check their website to find out where to buy it.