Crafting Spirits at List Distillery - A story behind every bottle at local distiller
May 22, 2017 09:22AM
Craft is where it’s at—craft cocktails, craft beer and craft spirits.
There are certain big-name producers that consumers flock to and probably always will, but more and more aficionados are embracing small-batch, local distillers who have a story behind every bottle.
Though hundreds of craft distillers have sprung up around the country, there’s no real definition of what constitutes “craft.”
In a category with no regulations, to call yourself “craft,” according to the American Craft Distillers Association, a company cannot produce more than 100,000 proof gallons a year; that’s about 600,000 750-ml bottles.
Southwest Florida’s newest distillery easily fits those parameters. List Distillery opened its doors to the public last July and has been on a roll ever since.
The story behind the local business and its Mr. Tom’s label begins in Austria with owners Thomas and Renate List. Renate is part of the Bauer family, best known for the genius behind the famous Jägermeister brand.
The spirits business is in her blood, but Thomas had to learn—not only from Renate, but also by working in a few distilleries after selling his European company and moving to Florida.
The List family now produces 17 flavors of rum, vodka, gin and whiskey from its 11,000-square-foot facility on Evans Avenue in Fort Myers. It’s the only distillery in the state that is certified organic, according to Thomas. Made from corn, the vodka is also gluten free and kosher, he adds. The liquors produced here go through charcoal filters seven times, creating a clean taste.
Another focus of production has been cutting calories and sugar, says Thomas, explaining, “A normal bottle could have 37 percent sugar. We try to get it down to 8 to 10 percent.” The List business model also depends heavily on sourcing local ingredients and seasonal produce for the flavored spirits. When these bottles are gone, they’re gone—until next season.
“I’m a gin lover,” says Thomas. “The gin for me is very smooth.” Its traditional flavor of juniper is not as aggressive as in some gins, a bit rounder and soft. The base of Mr. Tom’s Gin is six times distilled vodka, “so it’s already a very high-end product to start with,” says Thomas.
While Americans have been inundated with flavored vodkas, he says flavored gins have been getting the hype in Europe, so he jumped on the bandwagon. Calling the company’s Raspberry Mint Gin “almost a master work, distilled eight times, then blended with the raspberries,” Thomas suggests drinking it over ice or garnishing with a dark chocolate stick and frozen raspberries.
The Ginger Lime Gin has juniper at the start, a little spice from Chinese ginger in the mid-palate, and the lime adds a clean finish.
To make the comforting Apple Pie Rum, List Distillery used 600 pounds of golden delicious apples; a bit of cinnamon and orange peel round out the flavors.
Particularly pleased with the Habanero Honey Whiskey, Thomas says, “Here you have explosion of beautiful flavors, the smell honey.” Instructing me to let it sit on my tongue for a few more seconds, he says the enthusiasm, “The habanero comes in and gives a it a kick, not too much. The honey wipes it out, and it’s all back to normal.”
The Caffé Latte Liqueur is a best seller: creamy, with rum and a little espresso. It’s not as strong or heavy as many cream liqueurs on the market, presenting a lighter mouth feel while retaining the flavors. In honor of Renate’s heritage, there is the Herbal Liquor: a little lighter and not as sweet as its inspiration, Jägermeister.
Still to come are new flavors of gin and a line of dessert liqueur intended to appeal to women. List will also introduce barrel-aged whiskey next year. The 100 percent corn-based spirit was made at the distillery last year and then sent to Kentucky where it’s kept in barrels for two years.
The Lists love art, and it is evident in everything from the design of the Mr. Tom’s labels to the tasting room and even the distillery itself. The brand isn’t in many local bars, yet. You’ll notice it on the shelf by the clever label of a faceless man sporting a vintage top hat, eyeglass monocle and handlebar mustache.
Tours at List Distillery are offered by appointment, while the tasting room is open Monday through Saturday.
Written by Gina Birch, a regular contributor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.
3680 Evans Ave., Fort Myers