We recently sat down with the folks from Filibuster Distillery to talk about how they approach making whiskey in Virginia. Located in the beautiful setting of Mauretown in Shenandoah Valley, the facility is about an hour drive from Washington DC on route 66 W / 81S. Though they are not open to the public, their products are easily found in the marketplace. Check out their below story, as told by them firsthand, to learn more about how their experience with owning and operating a specialty spirits retail store led them to establishing Filibuster.
BE HEARD!Filibuster was founded in Washington D.C., just a few blocks from Capitol Hill. Our innovative approach to blending and finishing is an homage to the freedom of expression that makes the great land we call home special. Because of this, let’s just say spirited conversation is in our blood and we’re not afraid to speak up.
With decades of experience in specialty spirits retail, we’ve tasted and sold almost everything from super-aged single malt to wet-behind-the-ears American craft. With all that knowledge, it seemed a shame not to throw our own hat into the ring. However, we knew that building a distillery is hard work and weren’t interested in selling white whiskey.
So we took inspiration from the traditions of Scotland and the pioneering spirit of the United States, and launched a creative finishing and blending program. Guided by Sid Dilawri, our Master Blender, we’ve leveraged our longstanding connections to source the very best aged spirit we can find, and give it a new voice by finishing in one-of-a-kind casks: California wine, sherrys, you name it. Each batch is blended solely by Sid and is limited to a finite number of bottles.
Filibuster rye whiskey, bourbon whiskey and boondoggler whiskey are aged first in American white oak barrels, and then finished in French oak barrels. The bourbon is being aged for up to six years before being placed in chardonnay or sherry casks for an additional length of time for added complexity and depth. Sid refers to this process as the “dual-cask method.”
The topic of ageing whiskey/whisky is somewhat controversial. Simply stated, there are different approaches to how it’s done. Some producers use chips, staves or smaller casks to accelerate the maturation process. This is not to route Sid elects. Using 225-228 liter casks, spirits go through extended ageing under his supervision. Due to their unique production method, each batch will vary slightly in taste profile, similar to a wine from vintage to vintage.
Alongside our standard releases, we sometimes offer limited edition, cask-proof blends of exceptional quality. For instance, we recently had a 117-proof release of PX and fino sherry-finished bourbon. Their shelf life is about as short as a junior congressman’s in election season; the last release sold out in just three months, so snatch one up while you can!
Since our founding in 2013, we’ve grown leaps and bounds. In 2014, Filibuster bought a 12,000-square foot former apple-packing warehouse in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The warehouse came complete with its own deep limestone water well, which helped it become our very own distillery. This year, we’re installing a brand-new 14-foot continuous still, which will be perfect for making bourbon in six 1,000 gallon fermenters, and one 2,000-gallon cooker. We can’t wait to share with everyone the whiskey we’re distilling in our new warehouse– when it’s appropriately aged, of course.
Now distributed in 20 states (soon to be 24) and destined for imminent international release, Filibuster is standing up and taking the floor. Join the Filibuster movement!
Filibuster Tasting Notes
Filibuster “Dual Cask” Bourbon: Aged in American oak casks and finished in white wine-seasoned French oak barrels, this honey-hued whiskey has rich, powerful aromas of apricots and butterscotch. On the palate, surprising floral accents transition into honey and rounded stone-fruit notes, with a bit of a tannic pucker on the finish. This bourbon is a blend of older and younger barrels – 4-6 years being typical. Once they batch, they then “Dual Cask” age for 60-90 days in a combination of red and white wine-seasoned barrels prior to bottling to add aromatic complexity, and a soft, supple finish.
• Aroma: Red fruit and black fruit notes (cherry, black cherry and plum) are evident in a well-integrated nose of vanilla, spice and caramel.
• Taste: Caramel, vanilla, and cocoa carry through from entry to exit, with a flash of heat on the end. Spicy notes of tobacco and toasted oak notes linger.
• Finish: Elegant, slightly dry, and very long.
Filibuster “Dual Cask” Rye: A little aeration time coaxes out a mellow vanilla scent. As with its bourbon counterpart, this rye is aged in American oak casks, and then finished in white wine-seasoned French oak barrels. The result is a soft feel and honeyed fruit notes spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. The advantages of the “Dual Cask” aging method are really noticeable with rye. They utilize the soft, post-fermentation components of white wine to impart aroma and texture. When these two-to-three-year-old French oak barrels are emptied, they are prepared for the “Dual Cask” aging period. The result is a rich, round, velvety smooth rye whiskey with none of the harsh “grassy” character that sometimes can detract from the enjoyment of rye.
• Aroma: Cinnamon bark, oak spice and tropical fruit play off of more classic caramel and vanilla aromas.
• Taste: Very rich and soft texture; spice, caramel, honey and hints of rye toast.
• Finish: Warm and creamy with notes of baked apple; very long finish.
Filibuster “The Boondoggler” Whiskey: The Boondoggler is a wholly different approach to blending. They use various mash bill elements, including corn, barley and rye, and a wide selection of barrels to achieve a complex and flavorful whiskey like nothing else available. Their proprietary aging method includes time in new American white oak, red and white wine-seasoned French oak, and Fino & Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The Boondoggler is neither bourbon nor a rye in the traditional sense, but combines elements of both for a one of a kind taste experience.
• Aroma: Complex. Aromas of dried fruit (raisin, currant), cherry, caramel, light vanilla and warm toast.
• Taste: Simple and sweet; high rye notes of grain spice, cereal, and baking chocolate.
• Finish: Balanced and warm; finishes quickly.
Filibuster “Triple Cask” Whiskey: This limited release is Filibuster’s tribute to Spanish sherry cask. It is aged straight five years in new white American oak, and then conditioned up to two years in two distinct sherry oaks, including Fino and Pedro Ximenez. The finish is smooth yet lengthy. Bottled at cask strength only.
• Aroma: Warm spices mixed with smooth chocolate-covered raisins, honeycomb and caramel toffee.
• Taste: Deliciously sweet sherry-flavored sultanas, orange segments, walnuts and butterscotch combine to create complex warm spices.
• Finish: Long and satisfying finish with spiced orange and chocolate-covered hazelnuts.
Filibuster “Dual Cask” Gin: For this gin, Filibuster seeks the smoothness and mouth feel that oak aging imparts, but in a crisp, clean, New World style. To accomplish this, they do a secondary barrel infusion of hand-harvested holy basil, lemon verbena and rosemary grown locally in Shenandoah County. The interplay of floral aromatics and herbal flavors with the richness of “Dual Cask” aging makes this gin unique in the marketplace.
• Aroma: Pronounced citrus (lemon oil and lime) complement classic juniper/pine aromas with a fresh, herbaceous complexity (rosemary and, basil).
• Taste: Round, full, soft texture. Lemon and juniper with a subtle spice on the finish.
• Finish: Clean and lingering.
Photo credit: Jay Paul