Matt Malone makes Miami the home of the world’s best white rum

The founder of Miami’s first rum distillery has a specific interpretation of his product’s tagline: “The Spirit of Miami.” Ask Matt Malone to describe this spirit and he’ll give you four words: sexy, fun, delicious and the word “Miami” itself.

“[People all over the world] know it,” Malone says. “If you go to Russia or Italy or China, everyone knows Miami, so it’s its own thing.”

About 10 years ago, Malone attended his wife’s grandfather’s funeral in Puerto Rico and discovered the family had been making rum for more than 100 years. No one in the family wanted to continue the business, so he bought the assets. After splitting his time between the island and Miami, he decided to open a distillery in Wynwood in 2011 and set out to make nothing less than the best rum using locally sourced sugar cane juice and molasses. The result is Miami Club Rum, now produced in a larger facility at 6468 NW 77th Court.

Chasing perfection has paid off. At the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Miami Club Rum received the Gold Medal and Best White Rum in the World designations. This year, the rum was again named Best White Rum and also received a Double Gold designation.

“People think that I’m a little bit crazy about the quality and finish of the rum,” he says. “I consider it my personal art.”

This quality comes, in part, from a surprising source. Malone plays salsa, merengue and samba while the rum ages.

“There’s two components,” Malone says. “One is the mechanical vibration, which releases the flavor. The second component, which is less scientific, is the spirit of the music. We only play upbeat, very positive, high-energy music. In theory, the party’s already in the bottle.”

The rum has attracted celebrity attention as well. Cuban actor William Levy became a shareholder after a blind taste test. And later this year, Malone will release Miami Club Cuban coffee liqueur in collaboration with Luis Bustelo of Miami-based Café Bustelo fame.

In the meantime, Malone spreads the Miami lifestyle and drinks his rum with cranberry juice cocktail, lime juice and a peppermint leaf.

“We want people to feel sexy, like they’re having fun,” Malone says “It’s a Miami feeling that we’re after.” — keren moros