As you approach the small teal building that stands out among an otherwise undeveloped stretch of Southwest Third Place in Cape Coral, there’s nothing to suggest that this once-upon-a-time auto service center today houses one of the most highly awarded rum brands (craft or corporate) in the world. And yet, it does. Inspired by a bad glass of rum, fueled by a passion for quality and born of an entrepreneurial spirit of excellence and adventure, JoAnn Elardo and her husband Bob have turned the rum world upside down with the creation of Wicked Dolphin—a craft distiller of currently 10 artisan rums that, in less than five years, has been awarded numerous international (and national) awards, and grown to see its delightful flavors and colorful labels in more than 3,000 distribution points in Florida alone. That’s quite a distance these two have traveled from their years owning one of the largest independent footwear distributors in central Europe. But in 2008, they sold that business and decided to relocate from New York to Southwest Florida. Then, one fateful evening, JoAnn was attempting to enjoy a cocktail when she noticed that the rum was, in fact, distasteful. “I looked at the bottle and saw that it was produced in Canada,” she recalls. “That’s when I thought: why aren’t we making a Florida rum?” It was a good question, considering that almost 50% of all sugar produced in the United States germinates from Florida soil. So JoAnn set out on what was to become a four-year journey of learning all she could about the business of distilling, and what it would take to become a craft distiller of distinctively quality rum.
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