It’s Rum Week! At Bourbon & Barns, we know many people like to travel to the beautiful beaches of Florida for some summertime relaxation. So, there’s no better time than now to highlight some of the distilleries who produce that tropical distilled spirit known as rum. So . . . Welcome to Rum Week!
Today, we share an interview with Camden Ford of Timber Creek Distillery in Crestview, FL. Located about 30 miles from the beaches of the Ft. Walton/Destin area, Timber Creek makes a variety of rums as well as other spirits. Read below to learn more about Timber Creek or visit their website at www.timbercreekdistillery.com.
Bourbon & Barns: So let’s start at the beginning. I understand you were an engineer who had a successful career working with startups in Silicon Valley. Then you left that world to move to Destin, FL where you would eventually begin building a distillery in a barn on a 1,400-acre farm north of Destin. What compelled you to make such a huge life change?
Camden Ford, owner of Timber Creek Distillery: Silicon Valley is a marvelous place as it is very entrepreneurial, but it is so expensive to live out there. Both my wife and I had to work full-time in order to afford to live in a nice house in a nice location. As the kids got older, things just got so hectic. We were both stressed out and didn’t have much time to enjoy our kids growing up. . . As our lives got busier out in California, I convinced my wife that we could sell our house out there and move into our (vacation) house (in Destin) to slow down a bit and spend more time with the kids.
One of my neighbors out in California had sent me an article on Micro-distilling and thought that it would be a cool business for me to get into. I read the article and started doing some research. I was still researching several different business ideas at the time, but started to focus more and more on distilling. In many cases, it’s really important to time the market properly. To me, the timing of the craft spirits market seemed just right.
The distillery is my chance to start my own business that is local, uses local ingredients, and works with the local community and bring something new to the Panhandle.
BB: Timber Creek offers a variety of spirits, including rums, vodka, bourbons and ryes. Can you describe (in simple terms), the difference between these different types of spirits? What makes Timber Creek’s versions of these spirits unique?
CF: Whiskeys are anything made from grains and distilled at < 95% alcohol. Under the Whiskey Class, there are many Types, including Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Malt Whiskey, etc. Bourbon is essentially corn whiskey. The definition says that in order to be Bourbon, the whiskey must be made from a mash of at least 51% corn, must come out of the still at <80% alcohol, and must be aged in a charred new oak barrel. . . Rye whiskey is the same as Bourbon but must be made of at least 51% Rye. Rum, by definition must be made of Sugar Cane or products coming from Sugar Cane such as sugar or molasses. Vodka can be made from virtually any sugar source, although 99% of the world’s vodka is made from wheat. Our vodka is also made from north Florida Red Soft Winter Wheat.
We use as many local ingredients as we can. Here in north Florida, we have fantastic local corn, wheat, oats, and rye grains to use. We do have to bring in barley from up north, but everything else is local. For our rums, we use Louisiana A-grade molasses. Sugar cane from up here on the Gulf Coast is a bit different than the sugar cane down in South Florida. They call it Slow Growth cane as the temperatures are a bit cooler this far north and the cane grows a bit slower. This gives it a slightly different flavor.
BB: This is Rum Week at Bourbon & Barns, so we definitely want to know more about your rums. You have a clear rum, a dark rum and a coffee rum. Can you describe them for us?
CF: As I mentioned most rum distillers tend to use Blackstrap molasses that is much heavier. There are a few in the islands that make Rum Agricole which is rum made from raw sugarcane juice. Our rum uses A-grade molasses that is much lighter and much closer to the Agricole side in flavor and body.
In addition to our clear rum, we also have a dark rum. Our dark rum is barrel-aged a minimum of nine months in our used whiskey barrels and is really tasty. It’s great for mixing in drinks or just sipping.
Our Coffee Rum is really special. It took me six months of experimenting to figure out how to get the coffee flavor into the rum properly. The real key is to use fresh-roasted coffee beans.
Last, we have our Apple Pie Rum. This is a take on the Apple Pie Moonshine. . . We don’t add any sugar to any of our products. Our Apple Pie is certainly sweet, but it’s all from the apple juice concentrate. Our coffee tastes like a fantastic cup of black coffee and our apple pie tastes just like your grandmother’s apple pie.
BB: The Timber Creek Bourbon was the first bourbon produced in Florida. Did you know you were breaking new ground when started working on the bourbon?
CF: I wouldn’t call it breaking new ground as much as looking for a way to showcase the best Florida has to offer. Bourbon is certainly not new, but it is new to Florida . . . We are the first and only distillery to make Florida Whiskey . . . and to really showcase the local Florida grains, local limestone spring water, local aging in the Florida heat and humidity, and without filtering so you really get all of that flavor in every sip.
It just so happens that Northwest Florida has ideal conditions for making great whiskey and rum. . . We have lots of local corn, wheat, rye, and oats and we have fantastic local limestone spring water. We are certainly hot enough to age the whiskey relatively quickly.
BB: Last Christmas season, you offered the World’s First Bourbon Blending Kit. It included four single-grain bourbons – a Florida corn whiskey, a Florida wheat whiskey, a Florida black rye whiskey and an American single malt whiskey. Bourbon fans could blend these spirits together to create whatever flavor profile they wanted. How did you come up with this idea? Do you think you’ll do it again?
CF: Because our visitors had so much fun blending at the distillery, we thought it would be a great idea to let other Bourbon “nerds” have the same experience. We did a little research and discovered that no one had ever done this before. There is a company in England that has a similar kit for blending scotches, but no one has ever done a kit where you can blend different single grain whiskeys to create blended whiskeys and blended Bourbons. Ultimately, we want to help educate folks on the flavors of each grain and how blending them together can create flavor profiles that are greater than the sum of the parts.
BB: What is the future for Timber Creek Distillery?
CF: Here at Timber Creek, our goal is to continue to grow the business and continue to help educate consumers on why they should give craft spirits a chance. The property we distill at is amazing. We have 1,400 acres of rolling hills, 3 lakes, 2 streams, beautiful white sandy beaches, fantastic local grains and fruits and all the molasses we can handle right down the road.
We have already made some local muscadine brandy that is aging as we speak by working with a local winery. We would like to make other products that incorporate local fruits as well. We grow a lot of strawberries, blueberries, plums and peaches in the area as well as muscadines. In addition to our future brandies, we have also barreled a bunch of Single Malt Whiskey that we will be launching this fall. We also have a bunch of Oat whiskey we are aging. . . Lastly, we discovered that we have local Juniper trees with Juniper berries on our property, so we will be releasing a Florida Gin this summer.