A Naples native recently announced his plans to open a new rum distillery in Punta Gorda. Alex Voss, a 2008 Marketing and Advertising graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University, plans to see Alligator Bay Distillers start production by the fall of 2015. Voss also hopes to provide bus tours from Naples to Punta Gorda so that his friends and neighbors may take tours of the distillery and taste a unique new product without the hassle of finding a designated driver.
Voss learned the ways of rum distilling during his apprenticeship for the Haleakala Distillery in Maui. His responsibilities included pitching beer, starting the fermentation process, overseeing stills and proofing and mixing the secret recipes. After his apprenticeship ended, he returned to Florida inspired to take his new skills to the market.
A warehouse off of Pete’s River in Punta Gorda presented itself as an ideal location for Voss to set up shop. The idea for the name ‘Alligator Bay’ came to Voss as he attempted to familiarize himself with the warehouse’s surrounding area by looking at a map.
“All I knew about Punta Gorda was that it was hit by hurricane Charlie and many people were displaced,” Voss said. “So I was looking at a map and saw that Alligator Bay used to be a thing, but alligators didn’t actually live there because it was too salty. A neighbor from across the street of the warehouse said that he thinks a pirate coined the name in order to scare off other pirates and deter them from entering. And then the name just stuck.”
All of the tanks and machines used to create the rum in Alligator Bay Distillers have been designed by Voss himself and are in the process of being created. Voss has toured multiple distilleries both locally and throughout various cities which have led to him having a very specific idea of what he’d like the finished product to be.
“Our mission statement says we are a progressively sustainable operation,” Voss said. “We want solar panels and we want spirits produced by solar energy. I think that would be amazing. I’m also very sure that we want to use Florida agricultural products for our drinks. My main goal is to only use things from a farm that we know. I’m not sure how realistic that is, I’ve yet to find out, but I feel confident that we will be able to use a Florida product.”
As Voss works through the legalities of opening and maintaining a Limited Liability Company, he has found the financial and legal support he needs through his family and close friends. He remembered telling his mother about the idea to open a distillery in an email sometime in September of 2013.
They discussed the need to learn Florida’s state licensing laws and business procedures and before he knew it, his mother was donating the funds to Voss for the warehouse in Punta Gorda. Both Alex’s brother Benjamin and their friend, Adam Gross, are also playing active roles in the creation of Alligator Bay Distillers by giving legal advice and helping with business ideas.
“I tell my mom that I don’t know what to expect,” Voss said. “I hope within a year I’ll have my bottles on the shelf and people will be drinking my rum.”
Voss also envisions that Alligator Bay might have its own vodka and brandy as well as various styles of rum. Although it would require a drive, he also hopes to create a way for Naples residents to enjoy the distillery and its products.
“We will have tours and strong ties to Naples,” Voss said. “I’d like to see a program created through us that busses people from Naples to Punta Gorda for a tour of the distillery and then take them to downtown Punta Gorda before driving them back home. That way there would be no need to worry about drinking and driving. I want to bring the people that I love, and I love Naples.”
Once Voss gets the finishing touches completed for Alligator Bay Distillers, he plans to offer his product to local breweries and restaurants. He would also love to see the rum from distilleries he worked with on Maui such as Sammy Hagar and Haleakala come to Naples, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda.
“One goal is to promote what they’re making here and help out my friends,” Voss said. “They are my family and we should try to work together and promote each other because we are local and offer great products.”
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