It's 7 a.m. and Chris Maggiolo's day is about to begin. Maggiolo is the Production Manager at SILO Distillery in
which produces distinct small batch spirits made from as many local products as
they can find. Chris grew up in Harrisonburg, Windsor VT Virginia,
received his Master in Gastronomy from Boston
University in Boston
MA, and currently lives in Brownsville, VT.
When I visited on June 23, Maggiolo was celebrating his one year
anniversary at SILO.
The Farm to Bottle process begins with the delivery of corn from the Grembowicz Farm (http://grembowiczfarm.com/ ) in North Clarendon Vt. Jeff Grembowicz, who's father sold the family dairy in 2005, expanded the farm into fields of grain: corn, rye, wheat and soybeans. He typically will deliver five tons of corn to SILO on "grain day." Grembowicz started out grinding corn for pellet stoves but when that peaked, he went looking for another place to sell his grains-he found SILO. "These local relationships are the saving grace for our farm" says Grembowicz. "Right now I'm working exclusively with SILO, but I have spoken to two other distilleries."
The bags of grain are stacked and stored until the corn is ground on site. The Hammer Mill grinds the corn kernels and the milled grains are sent up an auger into a large tank called the Mash Tun, where it is cooked with local water creating the “mash” an oatmeal like mixture. Two enzymes are slowly added over six hours to break down the starches to sugars, then yeast is added to initiate the fermentation process.
After moving the fermenting mash from the Mash Tun to an insulated Fermentation tank, the mash will sit for roughly 5-7 days while the yeast does its work, breaking down the sugars from the grains into carbon-dioxide and alcohol. This process, known as fermentation, is the first step in making any spirits, and the only step where alcohol is actually made. When about 99% of the sugars have been consumed by the yeast, the mixture is now referred to as a “wash." The “wash” has an alcohol content of approximately 10%. In order to turn this wash into a spirit of one kind or another, the art of distillation is necessary.
Part of the "Farm to Bottle to Farm" process is sending the spent mash, which now has no alcohol content, to area farms. Two such farms are Cavendish Gamebirds in
Springfield, Vt. (http://www.vermontquail.com/)
and Springmore Farm in (http://www.springmorefarm.com/) where
the spent mash is used for feed and composting. Baltimore
The "wash" is moved from the Fermentation Tank to the Pot Still beginning the alcohol stripping process. A “stripping run” is just that, the mixture is heated indirectly with steam, causing the ethanol to become a vapor that moves from the helmet of the still, along the “spirit pipe” and back into a condensation column where it is cooled and becomes a liquid once. That gas is in effect the "spirit" of ethanol. The product of a stripping run is a very floral and cloudy liquid, called a “low wine”, because of its relatively low alcohol content, about 30-40 %. After a few stripping runs the "low wine" is sent back into the pot for the "finish run."
The "finish run", or final distillation process, begins with the "low wine" being pumped back into the freshly cleaned pot still. SILO uses a custom made pot and column still, made from copper and stainless steel, produced by German still manufacturers CARL. (http://www.brewing-distilling.com/page2/ccarl-stills.html .) The “low wines” are run through the pot and column, and after a single run, a finished spirit is collected. This is then proofed down with local water, and purified by reverse osmosis to a final 80 proof that will bottled and labeled in house. The short column is used to make whiskey and the longer column is used to make vodka. The longer column removes move flavors to create a clean vodka.
SILO’s parent company, American Crafted Spirits, was founded in 2011 by 8th generation Vermonters and began production in 2013. SILO products include
Vodkas: SILO Vodka, SILO Cucumber Vodka. SILO Elderberry Vodka, SILO Lavender Vodka , SILO Lemon Vodka. SILO Gin, SILO Reserve Gin, SILO Moonshine, SILO Aged Whisky, and SILO Bourbon.
All distilled spirits are clear. Whiskeys and Bourbons get their color and flavors from the barrels they are aged in. SILO uses barrels from a family cooperage in
Minnesota, called Black Swan Cooperage (http://www.blackswanbarrels.com/). SILO's Bourbon and Whiskey profiles are due
to Black Swan’s patented Honey-Comb technique which allows the spirit more
contact with the natural sugars in the charred American oak barrel. It takes
about nine days from grain to bottle for vodka and whiskey about 8-10 months
because of the oak barrel aging process.
SILO also uses as many local botanicals for their infused spirits as possible. Plants like northern hardy lavender, lemon verbena, juniper berries for their Gin, and local apples.
SILO’s next release is a limited edition wheat whiskey named Aisling (ASH-ling). Aisling is a young whiskey distilled from wheat mash and aged with charred ash wood staves. 100% sourced from
This summer and fall SILO will collaborate with two well-known
brands Harpoon Brewery and Lake Champlain Chocolates. First up is SILO
Solstice, a spirit distilled from UFO White Beer, with notes of orange peel,
coriander and wheat. A bright and refreshing spirit, it evokes dreams of summer
days spent in the swimming holes of Vermont.
In the fall, SILO will release SILO Cacao Vodka, a vodka infused with cacao shells from Lake Champlain Chocolates’ Blue Bandana Line. Once the cacao beans arrive in
the shells are winnowed, or separated, to extract the nibs of the beans. The
cacao nibs are used to produce their signature chocolates, but they have little
use for the shell of the bean. The shells are sent over to SILO where they are
infused into their 100% Vermont-grown corn vodka. SILO Cacao’s smooth, yet
complex, flavor is best enjoyed on a brisk day, with company, near your
In addition to partnering with farms and botanical gardens around
Vermont and New England, SILO also practices water conservation. They
use a 1500 galloon closed system water supply for the mash and cooling of the
tanks, pot and columns.
For the future Maggiolo would like to create a Single Malt Whiskey, "I've been in touch with a Maltster in Monkton (
Vermont) and I hope we can work
SILO is open daily and tours and tastings can easily be arranged.