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Hernando couple seeks county okay to build distillery, make bourbon

WEEKI WACHEE — A Hernando County couple has such a unique idea for a sideline business that officials couldn't even find a category for it in the county's land-use rules.

Kevin and Natalie Goff of Glen Lakes want to grow rye on a portion of a 40-acre tract bordering on the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, then distill the liquid from the grain into first-class bourbon.

When they recently approached county planners to get a special exception use permit to begin the complex process of getting the business approved, they were told there was nothing in the county's land development regulations regarding micro-distilleries.

Planners talked to county attorneys and determined that the closest fit was rules pertaining to wineries.

Kevin Goff will develop the bourbon recipe. His wife is in charge of the permitting for the project. The county's approval is the first step in a long process that requires extensive applications to both the state and federal governments.

She is taking that in stride, however, because the challenge of developing an all-organic brand of whiskey and bourbon that would be sold locally is so exciting, she said.

"We're going to start small and have a really good organic project,'' Natalie Goff said. "We're so anxious to get everything in order.''

The couple plans to produce bourbon in a still that would produce approximately 30 gallons, or 500 bottles, per year "aged in oak barrels for a rich, deep flavor which can be enjoyed by discriminating bourbon connoisseurs,'' the Goffs wrote in their application.

They plan to get their commercial-grade, professionally made still "from a company in Kentucky with a long history of creating the best stills in the world,'' according to the application for their special exception permit from the county.

After distilling, the product would be stored in 5-gallon oak barrels in a locked room with concrete flooring for at least seven months.

Already, the Goffs are playing around with ideas for their product's name, marketing plans and even when to sell it — either at an early state in the aging process or later.

Their application will be heard by the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 13.

The couple plans to limit production to three days a week, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Natalie Goff said they will use rainwater in their production and plan to use the discarded mash as a supplemental food for their cattle and other livestock.

"They'll just love it,'' she said.

The rye chaff will also be used for feeding the livestock.

The couple describes in detail that the land where the distillery would be operated is on a private sand road at the end of Wild Buck Road, behind multiple locked gates with a security system, lighting and surveillance cameras.

Planners recommend that the facility not be open to the public, and the Goffs have said they would not sell the product from the site. Instead, they would use a supplier to distribute it to local stores.

Natalie Goff, a nurse, and her husband, who has experience in construction, plan to keep their day jobs, but they both hope their micro-distillery dream will come true, she said. They are acquainted with several other people who have gotten into the business and done well, and their stories have inspired them to try the venture.

"We're not striving so much for this to make a lot of money. We're doing it because we have an interest,'' she said, "and it just seems fun.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando couple seeks county okay to build distillery, make bourbon 02/01/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 8:05pm]
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