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Cacao Vodka - SILO Distillery and Lake Champlain Chocolates

September 14, 2016

Bean-to-Bar is the motto for Blue Bandana, Lake Champlain Chocolate's award-winning line of single-origin craft chocolate bars. Now, with the release of their Cacao Vodka, SILO Distillery is giving bean-to-bar a double meaning. SILO's Cacao Vodka takes the winnowed shells - shells, with the nibs (used for chocolate making) removed - from Blue Bandana's cacao beans and steeps them in their signature, locally-sourced corn vodka for a smooth, complex spirit with premium cacao notes - far from the cloyingly sweet chocolate vodkas on the market. Eric Lampman, the chocolate maker and founder of Blue Bandana, works with single-sourced cacao beans and the shells he provides SILO will vary by origin. Right now, the Cacao Vodka is steeped with shells from Madagascar but the next batch may be from somewhere like Guatemala or Tanzania and provide a very subtle flavor difference -- an exciting prospect for the supertasters out there!  

SILO's Head Distiller Chris Maggiolo is constantly searching for his next creation for SILO and when invention meets collaboration, he's always game. Chris studied Gastronomy through the Masters Program at Boston University providing him with an interesting perspective to approaching flavored spirits. Chris explains how he came to partner with Blue Bandana for his Cacao Vodka, "While attending the Association for the Study of Food and Society conference at the University of Vermont a few years ago, I participated in an offsite tasting with Eric Lampman at Blue Bandana/LCC. I'd worked with other bean-to-bar chocolate makers before, but it put Blue Bandana on my radar and I love what they're making and how they're doing itChocolate came to mind while thinking of cold weather vodkas, but "chocolate vodka" has a fabricated, almost fake, connotation. I thought about the chocolate making process and it occurred to me that the cacao shell likely retained a good amount of flavor. LCC simply composted the shells, which are left over from their chocolate making processes. I shot Eric a message, and he was thrilled to offer the cacao shells in pursuit of a value-added product. Vermont's agricultural economy, whether it's produced domestically or brought in via direct trade practices, is thriving and it's incredibly exciting to communicate with other innovative producers in order to offer spirits steeped in collaboration.

Deciding which spirits to release to the marketplace and which need more development is an arduous task for many distillers but SILO has a tried and true method for market research: their tasting room. Lucky visitors to the SILO Distillery in Windsor may be asked for notes on a newly developed spirit, and their response directly informs Chris' decision to move forward towards a release. SILO's Lavender Vodka was the first spirit to go through this research and development, and their Cucumber Vodka (meant to be a spring or summer release) had such a strong response when they tested it on Christmas Eve, that they released it that winter! The Cacao Vodka was put to the same test, and the response was unanimous - they had nailed it! 

The distillery and tasting room are a must-do if you are ever visiting Windsor - they are right next door to Harpoon Brewery as well, inspiring another local collaboration with their Solstice Spirit, distilled directly from UFO White Beer that they simply roll across the parking lot to make! If you are in the Burlington area, there are two upcoming events to celebrate the release of SILO's Cacao Vodka.

  • A free, open to the public release party for SILO Cacao Vodka on Friday, September 16th from 6-8:30pm at Hotel Vermont in Burlington. Music from Brett Hughes to follow. 

  • Lake Champlain Chocolates + SILO Cacao in-store tasting on Saturday, September 24th from 2-5pm at their Factory Store on Pine Street in Burlington!

Thank you to Flavor Plate for donating their time and effort to the design and co-development of our website.