Valley News Correspondent
Silo Distillery began operating in Windsor’s Artisans Park in May of 2013. It was started by Peter Jillson and Anne Marie Delaney. Silo — a name chosen as grain silos are ubiquitous symbols of farms in New England and the Midwest — makes several unique spirits that highlight Vermont-grown ingredients.
Delaney recently offered some insights into Silo’s origin and its operation.
Question: How did Silo begin and why did you choose Vermont?
Answer: We decided to come to Vermont because Peter, an eighth generation Vermonter, wanted to do something that involved what was grown here in Vermont.
Q: So Silo uses Vermont ingredients?
A: Yes. We buy all our grain from a farm in North Clarendon where they grow corn, wheat and rye for us and deliver it in 50 lb. bags. We do everything here. We are also one of the few distilleries that make their own spirits and it has worked out really well.
Q: What are some of the spirits that Silo makes?
A: Silo makes vodka from 100% gluten-free non-GMO corn. We distill the vodka and infuse it with fresh-peeled cucumbers from Vermont when they are available and a vodka infused with lavender flowers from a farm in Derby, Vt. We also distill a gin we call Windsor gin, adding juniper berries and angelica root with a gentle infusion of cucumber and we make a cider using Vermont apples.
Q: Which of your spirits is the best selling?
A: The lavender vodka is the favorite vodka but the one we sell the most of is the maple whiskey. People associate maple syrup with Vermont so consistently that is our biggest selling spirit.
Q: Do you have plans to introduce any new spirits?
A: We are always learning and thinking about what else we can do so we are always experimenting. When strawberries come in (in Vermont) we get them locally and we make a lovely strawberry vodka. When raspberries come in in the fall we make raspberry vodka. So we are constantly doing seasonal vodkas. We also have done a whiskey from wheat called Aisling that is aged with ash wood and we make a bourbon whiskey we got a double gold medal for.
Q: What are some of the challenges to the distilling process to consistently produce a high quality spirit?
A: It really is the ingredients. The grain is consistently good and the water is from Windsor and it has a spring source. We bought the distilling equipment from Germany in 2010 and at the time it was the best distilling equipment available. We also have controls and alarms that go off if something goes wrong during the process.
Q: Can you explain how someone learns to be a distiller?
A: To learn the nuances and fine detail it takes a few years. Understanding the equipment and how each component works in concert requires practice. The secret of producing a quality spirit lies in making the correct head, hearts and tail cuts. Initially bitter tasting and pungent it becomes dry to the touch with a clean aroma. Then you know you have produced the best of the best. Peter is the distiller and has that now to a fine, fine point.