"Palm Ridge Distillery" is located some few miles west of Umatilla, in central Florida. Precisely it is at 23100 SE Highway 42, Umatilla, FL. No signs outside this country farm property where are some cows breed that the owners sell for the meat market. Basically they produce 3 different varieties of whiskey: The “Palm Ridge Reserve" which recently got 97.5 points score on the venerable “Whiskey Bible” 2015 edition. The “Rye” label and finally a “white” pure version they call “Virgin”.
“Virgin” is ready to be sold immediately after the distilling process, meanwhile the “reserve” version require 8 to 9 months of rest in the casks and the “Rye” is also kept in casks for 7 to 8 months. Each barrel contains the equivalent of 24 whiskey bottles. Every day Dick and Marti Waters (the owners) produce manually about six gallons of pure natural whiskey just using a “one time” distilling process.
With this particular method the notes of cereals grains are more evident to the palate and taste great! The more you increase the number of distillations the less of you get in final flavor, up to a point that it results just alcohol such as the Vodka. This requires several hours of work so the production is limited in quantity and it’s an exceptional choice for quality.
Just like a micro brewery this small distillery has intentionally decided to remain at this size level, considering that everything is done manually just using the best knowledge, grains and process for reach an actual production rate of about six thousand bottles per year.
They actually distribute 3,400 bottles through stores like “ABC” or “Total Wine and More” and the rest of 2,600 bottles is sold directly at the distillery in a quantity not over two bottles per person, as by the low permission related to their license. They would love to find out for an European distributor who can allow them to duplicate their production not going over the quality standard of their whiskey.
Really a lot of magazines and whiskey experts have been here to taste the huge quality of these products. Considering the “Waters” family started in recent years its production, they already reached one of the highest rank and evaluation score in the nation’s scenario and awards winning certifications.
The place in itself worth the visit as it’s an amazing central Florida countryside spot where you can appreciate the value of a local product such as this one. Dick and Marti are wonderful and passionate guys who will share with you their love for these whiskey creations. A full explanation and guided your will end with a full tasting followed by some cookies and cakes. They will not ask you to buy the product because you will be the ones who will crave to get it. It’s honestly one of the best whiskey produced in all USA and it truly deserves a try.
The beauty is also to spend some time with them and see how they do everything manually and with a care that can be called only with the word “love”, yes their passion comes out from a true love to be simple people who trust about that genuine old style almost gone in other places dominated by the industrial and global market. They can’t afford expensive marketing so they use the “word mouth” method which takes more time to be developed but also it gives a better loyalty of their customers right after they got their own whiskey bottle at home.
I have been around USA and other countries worldwide and this one has been among the best tasting experience I ever had. It’s also a perfect week-end stop for those who want to discover the true central Florida away from the over crowded places. Travelscore Magazine assigned 20/20 score to the Palm Ridge Whiskey Distillery.
To buy, contact or to get there here is the link!
phone: (352) 455 -7232
PO Box 1070, Umatilla, Florida 32784
article and pictures by Luca Centoni