When Prohibition took effect on Jan. 17, 1920, rum runners took to land and sea to smuggle liquor into the United States. Fast forward almost 100 years to a little outpost built on the site of a former Coke bottling facility, where “Chef Distiller” and longtime Key West resident Paul Menta opened the area’s first legal rum distillery—with a decidedly Floridian twist.
Foregoing the traditional molasses ingredient found in most rum, Menta’s recipes rely on natural, locally sourced demerara sugar, an alternative with fewer impurities. After the rum is fermented and distilled, it’s transported into American oak barrels that are baptized in the ocean water of the Keys. This unique process leaves a salt residue that opens the pores of the wood for better aging, adding a richer, smoother character to the rum. His Bad Bitch Spanish Marie specialty rum took home gold at the 2021 PR%F Awards and double gold at the World Wine & Spirits competition in New York.
At Key West Legal Rum, you can sample any of Menta’s dozen creations, and the cocktail curious can even tour the facility and sign up for a mojito class. (Menta and his team traveled to Cuba to get trained by the locals on how to craft the perfect mojito.) At Key West Legal Rum, natural and organic ingredients combine with a casual atmosphere to create an authentic, high-proof experience.