Wild Buck Whiskey: Small Batch, Big Flavor

Hernando County is home to a new product, Wild Buck Whiskey. Owners Natalie and Kevin Goff have received some nice exposure since their whiskey, handmade in small batches hit the shelves at locations around the county. Wild Buck Whiskey is already nationally recognized. They recently won a bronze medal in the rye whiskey category from the American Distilling Institute, competing against 457 other whiskeys.

Some prominent Tampa establishments including Berns Steakhouse are using Wild Buck Whiskey straight and in some of their signature creations. Wild Buck Whiskey is quickly becoming available statewide at several high end bars and restaurants including Haven in Tampa, Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, and Ritz Carlton in Sarasota. The prestigious golf resort, Trump National Doral Miami has also contacted them to use the product.

However success has not come easy for the Goffs. They purchased their 80 acre property in the middle of the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management area in 2002. There was significant work done in cleaning up the property before they built their home and several outbuildings. More substantial than work they completed on the property, are the taxes and fees demanded of such a business. They are subject to $4000/year in permitting fees through the State of Florida. They’ve had to pay this fee for the three years prior to getting their product on the shelf. Additionally, they must pay a federal excise tax of $13.50 per proof gallon every other week which must be covered by bonds that are paid annually. In addition to the state sales tax that they pay quarterly, they are subject to state Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco charges. Each large oak barrel they use to age their whiskey costs $300 and can only be used once per regulations.

But the Goffs have boldly hurdled these obstacles and have produced quite an exquisite product. Being a whiskey novice, I compared Wild Buck Whiskey to Jack Daniels and Jefferson. I preferred Wild Buck Whiskey since it is very smooth and slightly dry while preserving a bold flavor.

Wild Buck Whiskey is very much a product of the Goff’s perseverance and ingenuity. Kevin, a contractor, built all the structures on the property including his home, office, barn and distillery. Usually the equipment used by distilleries costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and are made for large scale operations. Kevin designed and built his operation to fit their needs. Everything Kevin built or had custom made are subject to strict federal regulations. All equipment must be stainless steel or copper as well as a specific gauges of metal. Natalie, a realtor, has used her business skills to navigate them through the litany of state and federal regulations.

With a keen eye on conservation, they repurpose their mash, the leftover rye, and feed it to their cows. Natalie says the cows are always excited when they hear the sounds of distillation, eager to get their mash. They use harvested rainwater in the mashing process that is filtered twice through UV and reverse osmosis.

They grow some of their own rye to use in their whiskey, but the majority comes from Melton Seed, a local Brooksville farm.

When asked about how they originally got into the whiskey business, Natalie explained that her father was Irish with the last name of McCracken. When he first came out to see the property he commented that it could be great place for making whiskey. Kevin and Natalie both enjoyed whiskey but never thought about actually making it until her father had mentioned it; and even then it took some years before it started to sink in. They had considered growing olives, they used the property as a hunting camp briefly, but neither worked out. For some time they hosted horseback riders, but liability insurance was steep.

Gradually the whiskey making idea which had always been in the back of their minds made its way to the forefront. They read many books on the subject including a manual from 1946 with notes on the whiskey making process given to them by Natalie’s father. He also provided advice on temperatures used in his distilling process.

Their hard work and ingenuity is beginning to pay off mostly in the form of public recognition as profits are still low (lower than even their distributor). However, with the amount of dedication and adaptability they have shown, there is no doubt they will succeed. Glen Lakes Liquors reports to sell 5 to 6 bottles a week, which is pretty good for a small batch distillery.

You can purchase Wild Buck Whiskey locally at Beer Frog Liquor, 14249 Powell Road Spring Hill, FL 34601 352-593-5995; Glen Lakes Liquors, 9605 Commercial Way Brooksville, FL 34613 (352) 610-4493 and Weeki Wachee Liquors 6286 Commercial Way Weeki Wachee, FL 34613 (352) 597-2648.

Wild Buck Whiskey can be special ordered through ABC Fine Wine and Spirits.

You can also order through their website at http://www.wildbuckwhiskey.com/

Due to regulations they can only sell 2 bottles per person, per year at their distillery. They are looking into offering tours, but currently cannot offer them due to zoning regulations.
To contact Wild Buck Whiskey call 352-592-9622.

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