A risk taker’s speedy transition from motocross racer to rum entrepreneur
In a past life, Joe Villatico was a motocross racer. He spent his days pummeling through dirt tracks and flying over inclines, racing to the finish line.
Today, he takes similar risks as co-founder of Oak & Cane, an all-American rum created here in South Florida.
“In motocross you have to be very persistent, and you have to have a very good passion for what you do,” Villatico says. “Passion and persistence is really what drove me to go from an action sports world into a business.”
Born and reared in Massachusetts, the 32-year-old spent over a decade on a motorbike, breaking more than two dozen bones, including his neck and back. With his body becoming weary of the sport, he switched gears in 2006 and worked for Monster Energy Drink, one of his sponsors.
He worked in the beverage industry as a broker for five years, and it was here he met Cameron Grace. Together, they would brainstorm a way to become business owners and start their own line of spirits. Nixing the typical vodka and whiskey routes, they decided to present rum in a new way to consumers—instead of drowning it in mixers, they concocted one they could sip and enjoy on the rocks.
Make a Rum Old Fashioned with Oak & Cane! Recipe here.
Most rums we find on the shelves of our favorite stores are sourced entirely from the Caribbean. Villatico and Grace challenged themselves to make one with American ingredients. For the next year and a half, they explored sugarcane fields and orange farms and settled on sources in the Everglades. Their first batch was made in a barrel, and it was too smoky, reminiscent of a whiskey. Working with a distiller in Riviera Beach, they used a distilling process that was faster, producing the juice in just 12 months—the instant gratification“millenial” process, Villatico jokes.
It was after 22 rounds that they found the perfect formula, and Oak & Cane was born.
“We actually all knew really what we wanted, and when we tasted it for the first time, we all looked at each other and were like, ‘This is it,’” Villatico recalls. “I don’t know how to describe how we got to it, but we knew exactly what we wanted.”
In fewer than five years, Oak & Cane went from 3,000 cases of rum to a realistic goal of 10,000 by the end of the year. Customers can find Oak & Cane at Publix, Costco, Total Wine, ABC Liquors, Big Daddy’s and independent liquor stores.
“I see the brand on a national level, and hopefully under a portfolio of one of the giant liquor brands,” Villatico says.
We’ll drink to that.