By Marisa Marsey

Heading to Derby Day, my fancy races to mint juleps and the bourbon that braces them. (Of course, my fancy races to bourbon many a day, anyway). A good bet for those juleps – if you want to stay true to Virginia while toasting Kentucky – is Filibuster, founded in Northern Virginia a decade ago by Siddharth Dilawri.

An Indian immigrant, Dilawri couldn’t land a tech job when he first arrived in America, so he took one at a liquor store. Even after finding his footing in IT, the spirits moved him. He met with experts at Four Roses and other industry powerhouses who helped get him on track to becoming a distiller. He named his operation Filibuster because of its locale in the long shadow of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the long-winded conversations whiskey fuels.

And Filibuster is, indeed, something to talk about. The first barrel he distilled in 2014 won a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Today he produces a variety of bourbons (as well as gin), sourcing his corn, rye and barley from Shenandoah Valley farms and racking up more double golds.

“We love Filibuster,” declares Sandy Schmidtmann of Simple Eats on Shore Drive in Virginia Beach, known for keeping it local. “We’ve been carrying it for a while and customers keep asking for it.” While most order it on the rocks for dinner, it’s also prominent in cocktails including the Gold Rush, composed of Filibuster’s Boondoggler whiskey laced with honey lemon syrup.

A kind of rye-bourbon hybrid, Boondoggler, blended in five different casks (New American white oak, red and white French oak, and Fino and Pedro Ximenez sherry) lends itself to four seasons of cocktails. Last summer, Whiskey Kitchen, also in Virginia Beach (tagline: “Locally Brewed, Grown and Owned”), fashioned a fresh peach old fashioned with it. And when sweater-weather returns, what could be more fitting than the coincidentally-called Filibuster, a drink that riffs on a whiskey sour by swapping maple syrup for simple syrup, featuring – you got it – Filibuster bourbon.