Despite running around his busy distillery most of his waking hours, flip-flops remain Ben’s footwear of choice. In fact, he wears them with shorts all year round. Such is the Life of Reilley, a company and philosophy rooted in a carefree and comfortable existence.
Ben and Shioban Reilley took a big leap of faith launching the distillery, Madison County’s first since Prohibition.
A former vintner, Ben had never piloted a still. But, his passion for enjoying and making craft beverages pushed him into business producing vodkas that now quickly disappear for distribution after bottling.
In the same way the “little things” make the Reilley way of life worth living, it’s the attention to detail that makes Reilley’s vodka worth drinking. The exclusively New York-grown ingredients give Ben’s spirits a solid, subtle flavor intended to inspire relaxation.
Ben: “I was the director of operations for a local winery for 4 years, and quite honestly, my wife and I sat down after 4 years and we said, “If you’re going to work 80 hours a week for somebody, it might as well be for yourself.” We saw a hole in the marketplace for a local, micro-craft distillery. We said, “You know what? Beverage chemistry is beverage chemistry.” Again, so we sat down and Life of Reilley was born. It was kind of an antiquated term, it basically means the carefree, comfortable life- which as you can see in my flip flops and my shorts- it says right on our bottle, the definition of the life of Reilley is a carefree, comfortable existence.”
“For us, it’s riding down to Cazenovia Lake with the top down on the Jeep, swimming in the lake all day and having campfire with friends, and just having an awesome time. At the same time, being cognizant of where your stuff comes from, enjoying the sunset and enjoying the small things in life, so that’s how Life of Reilley was born. For us, it’s the story I like to tell is craft spirits are where wine was 20-25 years ago, and craft beer was 10-15 years ago. Now people are turning their attention to the back of the bar. They’re saying, “Okay, I want to know where my wine comes from. I want to know where my beer comes from. Now I want to know where my spirits come from.” We’re kind of riding that crest of popularity. I find it just to be a natural extension of people wanting to know where their stuff is, supporting local and know that they’re supporting local farmers and families.”
“I think that’s what people don’t really understand when it comes to craft beverages. Aren’t you worried about 1911, aren’t you worried about Adirondack? No, I’d like to have my tasting room right next to them! All we’re looking to do is grow the New York pie, and get more people into New York products. In terms of Central New York, I think we’re on the forefront. I’ve always thought we were on the forefront of people trying to understand where their stuff comes from, and then reinvesting back into the community. There is something so cool happening in the Utica/Central New York area that my theory on that is Utica and the Mohawk Valley got such a poor rep for such a long time, that so many young people finally just bubbled up and said, “I’m not going anywhere, I’m going to start building something cool right in my backyard.”
“We use 100 percent New York flaked corn, comes from the Finger Lakes, mostly Skinny Atlas, Auburn, Geneva area. We get it sourced here, it comes by 18-wheeler. 30-foot auger comes swinging out and gets pumped right into those bags over there. Are disco lemonade is raspberry vodka, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and we use about 20-25 mint leaves that we soak overnight. That’ll be our disco lemonade product. After that, the sky’s the limit when it comes to pre-mixed cocktails. We’re taking our business in a completely different direction. We’ve poured it for people and they’ve absolutely loved it.”