While produced in St. Michaels, Windon Distilling’s Lyon Rum has the attention of enthusiasts nationwide
Written by Joe Willey | Photography by Jill Jasuta
Drinking rum is like going on an adventure. Just saying the word conjures visions of wooden sailing ships, trade winds and the tropics. Rum is also a historic spirit made with a simple list of ingredients. In St. Michaels, a town known most for its maritime legacy, a decade-old distillery creates a revered version full of quality ingredients and the romance associated with this piratical libation.
Jaime Windon founded the Windon Distilling Company in 2012. Owning a distillery was admittedly only a fleeting idea. “I just thought it would be for one or two years,” she laughed. But Windon’s experience — she was a journalist, photographer and world traveler spending years in the hospitality industry — provided the perfect ingredients to distill into being a successful entrepreneur and enthusiastic rum expert.
But why rum? “Rum,” Windon said, “is the quintessential American spirit.” Lyon Rum sources its raw ingredients from Louisiana and uses molasses — a by-product of the sugar-making process — to be as sustainable as possible. There is also a rum (Sailors Reserve) aged in former bourbon whiskey American oak barrels. These are ways that Lyon Rum provides the most complex product, using ecologically responsible methods. “We do things the hard way,” she was quick to point out, “because it makes a better product.”
SPIRITED TEAM Head distiller Brett Steigerwaldt and owner Jaime Windon have Lyon Rum positioned for continued growth and opportunities.
Rum is versatile too. It is fun but also sophisticated and easily used in place of whiskey or other spirits in cocktails. Lyon Rum’s head distiller, Brett Steigerwaldt, has created offerings that show the varied character, color and taste available in this seemingly humble drink. The unique and complex flavors will contradict anyone who thinks rum is a one-dimensional drink lacking in body and substance.
Along with carefully distilled white, dark and unique rums aged in bourbon barrels, Windon and Steigerwaldt create liqueurs, featuring coffee, orange and other seasonal flavors. Lyon Rum is also proud to partner with local suppliers for ingredients. One recent collaboration was with Emily’s Produce in Cambridge to produce a blackberry rum. The enthusiastic team not only distilled the rum but also picked the succulent berries to use in the process.
RAISE A GLASS St. Michaels-based Windon Distilling was named 2021 Best Craft Rum Distillery in the annual USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.
The last two years saw its wholesale operation expand, and there have been awards, such as the coveted Best Craft Rum Distillery in the annual USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards in 2021. Lyon Rum is not simply an entrepreneurial experiment for Windon, though. Since most people do not know much about rum, there are myths and stereotypes that she and the staff work to dispel. Education and appreciation are key. But the goal at Lyon Rum is clear: The distillery, and those who spend their time and talents crafting such a stellar product, want to be true experts in the field.
Perhaps Lyon Rum started as a simple idea, but like the rum it produces, it has taken a group of rum lovers on an adventure. Through hard work and creativity, it is known for superb quality and has a welcome place in a creative community that loves the tang of salt water. Maybe, more importantly to Jaime Windon, it is a cane-to-glass distiller that bottles history every day. CS