If you’ve been browsing the vodka shelves at Total Wine, Crown Wine & Spirits or Ocean Wine & Spirits, you might have seen – or maybe even tried – a bottle of Victor George vodka, or VG. With VG now being served at more than 130 different locations, it’s become hard to miss. But what you might not know is that this version of the great Russian drink is from South Florida, partially backed by a famous rapper and made by a company that has big plans in Fort Lauderdale.
As Fort Lauderdale continues to expand and new businesses develop in the area, many landmark locations are being transformed, including the Sistrunk Corridor—a cultural hub rich in both history and heritage. In partnership with international rapper Flo Rida, businessman and entertainment industry veteran Victor G. Harvey – the VG on the bottle – has been developing 1012 Sistrunk Boulevard, with plans of it becoming home to Old Sistrunk Distillery. The 13,000-square-foot facility will feature a distillery, as well as a tasting room, restaurant, cigar bar, wine lounge and meeting space for distillery-based private and corporate events. Harvey says work on the facility will begin this year.
Harvey’s entire business background has been centered around entertainment, with spirits playing a major role. Having owned various nightclubs and hotels, he decided to get into the spirits industry by utilizing the relationships he had formed in the entertainment world. That meant calling up his friend of more than 12 years, Flo Rida. Both wanted to create a South Florida-based spirits company that would not only focus on vodka, but various lines of other spirits. Flo Rida won’t just be a celebrity endorser either – he’s also an equity partner.
“He definitely wants to be involved in terms of creating different types of spirits and where we’re going with the direction of the whole project,” Harvey says.
Old Sistrunk Distillery will manufacture several premium products, including South Florida’s largest craft vodka, Victor George Vodka (VG). Using a patented combination of filtration and oxidation that refines the spirits, VG promises libation lovers a good night that’s light on hangovers, headaches or burn the following morning. Harvey’s other goal: a silky taste from the first to last sip.
“One of the things that I knew I wanted to do was to create something that was easy on the palate from the entry to the exit, and that’s what I think we were able to do with VG,” he says.
Customers can expect a wide range of experiences while visiting the distillery.
“What makes us unique from a lot of distilleries in the country is that we’re not just going to have the distillery; we’ll also do tours and mixology classes where we teach people how to actually distill different types of spirits,” Harvey says.
He believes that having a one-stop shop for entertainment will instill a deeper sense of community in locals and help to unite businesses. “What we wanted to create was an entertainment zone, if you will, or a building that has synergy among all the different businesses that are in there, so that when people come their experience is one of many,” he says. With the amount of traffic anticipated from the distillery alone, Harvey hopes to expose and bring attention to some of the other businesses that are coming into the corridor as well.
Growing up in an area similar to Sistrunk, in Columbus, Ohio, Harvey saw enormous potential in Old Sistrunk Distillery’s location. While choosing a name for the distillery, Harvey wanted to make sure that they picked one that was reflective of both the community’s history and legacy. The distillery will, he says, be the first African-American-owned distillery in the state of Florida.
Similarly, VG Spirits is one of the few African-American-owned and managed liquor companies in the US—something that Harvey believes can help pave the way for others who want to succeed in the industry. “For me personally, it’s about opening doors of opportunity for other people so that they realize that this is an area that they can get into as well,” he says. “There are so many places that you can go with it, whether it’s wine or spirits. It’s just a door that has basically been closed and I think that for me, the most important thing is helping to open that door for other people.”
The distillery’s a project that Harvey’s been working on for a long time and for the most part, there haven’t been any major challenges during the developmental stages.
“It’s pretty much been going the way that we wanted it to go,” he says. “That doesn’t always mean that you don’t have hiccups or growing pains, like some stores running out of VG and things like that. But it’s all a good thing.”