A few months ago, Marc and I attended our first Pecha Kucha Orlando event featuring about a dozen speakers with topics ranging from mermaid camp to the importance of failure. All the presenters were really great but the one that particularly struck a chord with me was John Rife, the founder and owner of the much-anticipated East End Market. From his soapbox, Rife eloquently encouraged the audience to spend their money with local purveyors and on things made locally. I was inspired.
Thanks to a bevy of Orlando-area entrepreneurs—from food trucks to cheese makers—the concept of keeping our dollars in our town is becoming less of a theory and much more of a way of life. You can now buy local ice cream, honey, beer, bacon, and now… craft vodka, rum, and whiskey made by Winter Park Distilling Company.
Founded by Paul Twyford (in above photo by Scott Cook) and partner Andrew Asher, WP Distilling officially opened its small batch operation in January 2011. In the 1,200 square-foot facility just east of Lee Road, Twyford painstakingly produces three products—Genius Vodka, Dog Island Rum and Bear Gully Whiskey—all of which give a nod to the Winter Park history and places.
“I took some time to travel out west to Seattle and northern California and there were all these craft distilleries,” says Twyford, a Winter Park native. “I had heard of craft beer but I had never heard of craft distilling. So, I started to do research to determine if it would work here.” He read every book, talked to other distillers, and garnered some unofficial mentoring. In the end, he found an unexpected new career path. “I am actually passionate about this. This is what I am supposed to be doing with my life. I think everything I have done up until now has prepared me for this.”
Besides a handful of local ABC liquor stores as well as all Publix liquor stores across Florida, spirits from WP Distilling can be found shaken and stirred into shot glasses and cocktails at some of the area’s best bars, including: