Guys, this distillery spotlight is long overdue. NJoy distillery was one of our earliest stops in our blog, and they produce a unique and very enjoyable bottle of whiskey. They were in the midst of renovating their distillery and we lost contact for a while. However, it’s their time to shine in the spotlight, and rightfully so!
Nat and Kev started N Joy distillery in the heart of the Weeki Wachee wildlife preserve. When we went, it was a scenic drive through a maze of plant and wildlife that was quite unlike anything we’ve ever experienced on our trips. Our choice of travel vehicle wasn’t exactly “ideal” as this drive is one down dirt roads and through rolling wilderness hearkening back to the days of moonshine distilleries hiding deep in relatively untraveled territory.
The final stretch of sugar sand road led up to the gate that encapsulates the property on which NJoy was founded. There we had our first meeting with two incredible individuals who followed a passion for a naturalistic lifestyle. One of living off the land. One of raising animals and growing wheat and sugarcane in a unique environment, and then turning it into whiskey and rum to share with the rest of us.
Nat and Kevin achieved what many of us daydream about. Recapturing the self sufficiency of the American frontier. A complete detox from the “bigger is better” race that has so many companies striving to visually impress their customers with flashy technology and polished architecture.
They have truly embraced the ruralism of traditional whiskey distillation in a way that closely echoes how it would have been made over a century ago, when land was still unclaimed and distillation was at the mercy of nature. Their distillery is equipped with free roaming animals outside the fields and adorably rugged and picturesque distillery dogs that help deal with the coyotes.
However, they are quite humble about their operation here. Our time with them was spent walking through fields of wheat and sugar cane which is all farmed on site, and crouching down and running our fingers through the dirt as they explained the unique properties the air and sand in the middle of the preserve lend their “Wild Buck” whiskey and their “Mermaid” rum.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Weeki Wachee, it is somewhat of an attraction in Florida. It’s heavily protected ecosystems include countryside, forests, preserves, rivers filled with matinees, and a direct pass into the Gulf of Mexico, making it a truly unique and diverse place to be. It’s also Florida’s home of the mermaid. So much so that it’s on almost all advertising for the city. There have been “mermaid” entertainment shows that have been drawing crowds since 1947. Hence the names “wild buck” whiskey and “mermaid” rum.
The whiskey itself is as unique as the distillery. There is something about this whiskey. Whether it’s the natural salt content of the earth being so close to the Gulf or something else entirely, this whiskey isn’t quite like anything we’ve ever experienced. It’s truly old school in a great sense of the word. It’s a 100% rye whiskey, and every last piece of milled rye wheat comes directly from the fields less than 20 yards away from the old fashioned copper still and re-purposed barn they distill their spirits in.
Where many whiskey drinkers identify rye with a spicy heat, something about this whiskey is completely different. It drinks smooth at 100 proof, and you can taste the literal definition of the word “earthiness.” It knows what it is. It’s unapologetic in its directness. And, it is absolutely worth a try if you’re looking for something incredibly unique.
Thanks again to Nat and Kevin for letting us tour their distillery and for being so passionate about what they produce.
Greg Sinadinos started his spirits journey writing a whiskey periodical for Fine Tobacco NYC Magazine. He began answering review requests under a social media page he named “Whiskey Culture,” which quickly merged with Greg’s passion for connecting with others and his interest in history.
Today, Greg travels the country not just looking for great whiskey, but also exploring the history and individuals that the whiskey community is founded upon. He has authored “Whiskey History From Around The World” and is the host of “The Rickhouse” web series.