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It is irresistibly tempting to compare distiller Paul Menta to Captain Jack Sparrow. There’s the long, dark hair, the slightly Depp-ish eyes, and yes, a shared love of rum and open sea (Menta’s a competitive kiteboarder). Menta’s business dealings, however, are a bit more…legitimate. The Florida-native opened the Key West Legal Rum Distillery last year, the first legal distillery in the Florida Keys, though rum has flowed through the islands for years.
But this is no bathtub rum. A chef by trade, Menta uses Florida sugar cane as his base—you can really taste it in his raw, unfiltered version—which he infuses with coconut, vanilla, and key lime to make flavored rums that are refreshingly bright (and not syrupy). Tours are fun and informative—the distillery, occupying a former saloon-turned-Coke-bottling-plant, doesn’t shy away from the shady side of the local rum trade. Visitors can examine mug shots of infamous local rum-runners, watch as prefiltered rum is drained into the still, and taste Menta’s five spirits. $8, including four tasters and a free shot glass.