‘An American dream’: Filibuster Distillery holds grand opening

Basil I. Gooden, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry, speaks to a reporter inside the tasting room of Filibuster Distillery at 80 Maurertown Mill Road on Tuesday. The distillery held a grand opening of its tasting room featuring its bourbon, rye whiskey, blended whiskey and gin. Rich Cooley/Daily

MAURERTOWN – Oversized scissors sliced red ribbon outside Filibuster Distillery on Tuesday, unveiling the new tasting room to the public.

Owner Suman Dilawri has involved her family in every step of the process of opening the business since 2013. Sid Dilawri, 37, who helped with the planning and structuring of the business, called the opening “an American dream.”

“Everybody wants to own a business, a successful business,” Sid Dilawri said. “So far, we have been pretty good in our sales, so it’s kind of an American dream.”

The Dilawri family received a $30,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry and Agriculture to help expand the distillery. The grant requires that at least 30 percent of Filibuster Distillery’s ingredients come from local sources; the Dilawris, however, have committed to 100 percent locally sourced inputs.

Basil Gooden, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, said it wasn’t much of a challenge convincing Gov. Terry McAuliffe to approve the grant after the governor tried a sample of Filibuster whiskey.

Jay Winkfield, vice president and commercial loan officer for City National Bank, looks over one of Filibuster's distilled spirits inside its new tasting room in Maurertown on Tuesday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

“If you know anything about this governor, he really likes the craft beverage industry,” Gooden said.

In total, Sid Dilawri estimated that the family spent $1.7 million launching the distillery. While the distillery has already been producing whiskey, Tuesday marked the opening of the tasting room, a contained area within the distillery floor with wood finish, muted lighting and bottles of Filibuster whiskey lining the walls.

In February, McAuliffe announced that the craft beverage industry contributed $1.37 billion to Virginia’s economy over the past year. Gooden pointed out that millennials are “flocking” to local wineries, breweries and distilleries, augmenting the destination component of the craft beverage industry.

“These tourism-type businesses are also a major contributor to our local economy here in Shenandoah County, and what I love is that a business like this bridges both the economic development and the tourism side,” said Shenandoah County Director of Tourism and Marketing Jenna French. “Part of the vision that (the Dilawris) shared with me years ago, and have carried through to this day, is making this a destination for folks in D.C. to come out and see this beautiful valley in which we live.”

The governor’s office has also reported that the annual impact of agriculture in Virginia reaches $70 billion and provides upwards of 334,000 jobs.

“When a lot of people think about agriculture; you know, it’s not your granddad’s agriculture anymore,” Gooden said. “We’re focused on young folks, innovation, creativity. That’s what agriculture’s going to be about today and in the future here in Virginia.”

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