25 Top Craft Distillery Tours in the U.S. Slideshow
June 14, 2013
Craft and artisan distilling is booming; where to taste and experience the new wave of spirits
25. Woodinville Distillery, Woodinville, Wash.
Rural Woodinville’s country-folk vibe is genuine, offering free tours and tastings demonstrating the distillation of local grain and corn for Peabody Jones vodka, aged in small barrels to better absorb the flavor of the wood, and its diverse whiskey line. Lucky-as-lushes neighbor pigs get the leftover mash.
Other Spirits: Mashbill No. 9 Bourbon, 100 Percent Rye Whiskey
24. Watershed Distilling, Columbus, Ohio
You play trivia on the tour and later, Hammarschlagen, an easier-said-than-done hammering game. Watershed, named for distillers Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo’s watershed aha-we-gotta-start-a-microdistillery moment, boast that their Four Peel Gin infuses eight scrumptious botanicals and the lowest legal limit of juniper to eliminate gin’s usual Christmas tree aftertaste.
Other Spirits: Vodka, Bourbon Barrel Gin, Bourbon.
23. Thuthilltown Spirits, Gardiner N.Y.
If music soothes the savage breast, it’s no surprise that a rhythmic bass-vibe, called sonic aging, speeds maturation of barreled whiskey. New Age-y distiller Gable Erenzo heats the place with re-circulated hot waste-water from the stills and sources local grains for his Manhattan Rye and Heart of The Hudson Vodka.
Other Spirits: Hudson Single Malt Whiskey, Basement Bitters, Cassis Liqueur, Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey, Hudson 4-Grain Bourbon, Roggen’s Rum, Indigenous Vodka, Half Moon Orchard Gin, New York Corn Whiskey.
22. Troy and Sons, Ashville, N.C.
To create moonshine, female distiller and owner Troy Ball coaxed closely guarded recipes from neighboring families and state archives. Her tour brazenly demonstrates distilling nearly extinct heirloom "Crooked Creek Corn" and Blue Ridge mountain water. Epicurean Bootleg Bacon will debut next year, courtesy of their mash-fed mule-footed hogs.
Other Spirits: T&S Oak Reserve, Blonde Whiskey.
21. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Denver
Go on the free everyman-tour if you want. True whiskey aficionados man-up and take the Top Shelf Tour. For $1,000, you and 29 of your friends get the VIP treatment, exploring the stills and the secret homemade wash, sampling the grains and Stranahan’s limited editions.
Spirit: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.
20. Stillhouse Distilling Culpeper, Va.
"Prohibition-era moonshine runners souped-up their cars to outrun the law," farmer-turned-distiller Chuck Miller tells his tour group. He produces his grandpappy’s circa-1930 "Original Moonshine" with homegrown corn, homemade malt, and propagates his own yeast. Then it’s distilled four times in Gramps’ original copper pot still. The result is uber-smooth, clearwater hooch with whiffs of fresh-snapped cornhusk.
Spirit: Original Moonshine.
19. St. George Spirits, Alameda, Calif.
America’s first micro-distillery resides in a refurbished naval-airplane hangar on an island in San Francisco Bay. Its one-hour Basic Training Tour demonstrates their Scottish whiskey method of aging each batch in different barrels, and the infusion of locally sourced flowers and citrus into their award-winning Hangar Vodka.
Other Spirits: Absinthe, Gins, Bourbon, Whiskey, Rum, Eaux De Vie. St. George Single Malt Whiskey.
18. Seattle Craft Distillery Tours, Seattle
Rather than choosing among Seattle’s many tantalizing craft distilleries, consult the experts. The "Speakeasy on Wheels" is a 10-passenger Mercedes-Benz Sprinter guided by local celebrity mixologists providing connoisseur tours and tastings at three select distilleries. Along the way, handcrafted cocktails and artisan snacks are served while tour leaders divulge insider scoop about Seattle’s colorful spirits history.
Fremont Mischief: Gin, Whiskey, Vodka
Sound Spirits: Vodka, Gin, Aquavit
Letterpress Distilling: Limoncello
Glass Distillery: Vodka
Sodo Spirits: Soju
2 Bar Spirits: Moonshine, Vodka
Rain City Spirits: Vodka, Coffee Liqueur
17. RoughStock Distillery, Bozeman, Mont.
Distiller Bryan Shultz was determined to produce a grain-dominated whiskey so folks truly taste Montana agriculture, while infusing enough kick to salute local cowboy culture. The tour travels from grain to glass, presenting Montana mountain water, local wheat, barley, and sweet-corn that go into its un-aged Sweet Corn Whiskey.
Other Spirits: Montana Spring Wheat Whiskey, Montana Straight Rye Whiskey, Montana Black Label Whiskey, Montana Pure Malt Whiskey.
16. Rocktown Distillery, Little Rock, Ark.
Who knew handcrafted artisan bourbon — not Bubba’s Barbecue — would put Arkansas on the global food map? Rock Town’s young bourbon whiskey won Best American Bourbon in London’s World Whiskies awards. Their "Distilling 101" tour brandishes the locally sourced red-wheat, corn, and barley used in producing whiskeys like Arkansas Lightning and Apple Pie Lightning.
Other Spirits: Brandon’s Vodka and Gin, Young Bourbon, Hickory Smoked Whiskey, and Riverboat Rum.
15. Privateer Rum Distillery, Ipswich, Mass.
Folks say rum runs through the blood of Andrew Cabot, a sixth-generation descendent of his namesake, the American Revolutionary, privateer, and rum distiller. Cabot's Silver Reserve White concoction is a complex rum, suitable for sipping, bearing no molasses and emitting luscious tropical banana and lime notes.
Other Spirits: Privateer True American Amber Rum.
14. Ole Smoky Distillery, Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Although this hooch house is a hoot with its own Dollywood-like entertainment center, they cook up very serious moonshine. You’ll smell it even before beginning the tour… grains fermenting into distiller Joe Baker’s family’s generational 160-proof recipe. Afterward, sample White Lightnin’ and Ole Smoky’s scrumptious modern-day fruit infusions.
Other Products: Original Moonshine, Moonshine Cherries, Apple Pie Moonshine, Peach Moonshine, Blackberry Moonshine.
13. Kings County Distillery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Locavore lightning-seekers needn’t leave the urban landscape to score homemade hooch. Distiller Colin Spoelman created an authentic New York variety of his native-Kentucky moonshine and bourbon, showcased and sampled in Brooklyn’s century-old Paymaster Building. Check out the onsite "Boozeum," chronicling Brooklyn’s embittered Whiskey War.
Spirits: Moonshine, Bourbon
12. High West Distillery, Park City, Utah
Ignore the kitschy "ski-in gastro-distillery" hype. The whiskies produced here are first-rate, including cinnamon and honey-infused double rye, un-aged varieties, and their almost-famous Campfire, a unique blend of Scotch, bourbon, and rye. After the free tour and tasting, hang in the saloon where mixologists create cocktail-alchemy.
Other Spirits: Rendezvous Rye, Rocky Mountain Rye.
11. Great Lakes Distillery, Milwaukee
Tours are free at Guy Rehorst’s sustainable-minded distillery that incorporates homegrown herbs and local ingredients into their Citrus and Honey Vodka and just about everything else. He recycles his wheat and has launched a federally endorsed Bottle Conservation Program. Just $5 buys a tour and a tasting flight.
Other Spirits: Rehorst Gin, Roaring Dan’s Rum, Kinnickinnic Whiskey, Amerique 1912 Absinthe Verte & Rouge.
10. Garrison Brothers Distillery, Hye, Texas
The "Sit and Sip Tour," ironically, is a guided, hands-on walking tour of bourbon distilling. Visitors chitchat with the working distillers, snag nibbles of the steaming corn mash from the "cooks," and sip coveted White Dog Whiskey straight from the still. Post-tour tastings are included.
Other Products: Texas Straight Bourbon, Cowboy Bourbon, The Young Gun.
9. FEW Spirits, Evanston, Ill.
Call it innate moxie; master distiller Paul Hletko, grandson of the founders of Pilsner Urquell, distills his American Gin (created from homemade hops) and premium whiskeys in a former chop-shop in Evanston, the birthplace of Prohibition. The $10 tours include three pours (the state limit).
Other Spirits: American Gin, Rye, Bourbon, White Whiskey, limited special batches.
8. Dry Fly Distilling, Spokane Wash.
Tour, schmour. Wannabe distillers attend Dry Fly’s one-week hands-on workshop to learn the business. You’ll participate in grain-to-glass production of vodka, gin, and one-of-a-kind spirits like Triticale Whiskey. Also included are business plan writing, equipment selection, marketing, sales, and distribution. What — you were in it for the bottomless booze?
Other Spirits: Dry Fly Gin, Dry Fly Vodka, Washington Wheat Whiskey, Bourbon 101.
7. Death’s Door Distilling, Middleton, Wis.
Founder Brian Ellison began growing wheat for local bakers on Washington Island to reignite their nearly extinct agriculture community, then started distilling it. Today, the island’s red winter wheat and wild juniper infuse flavor into Death’s Door Gin. The newfangled distillery features state-of-the-art pressure-controlled rooms and stunning woodwork by a local artist.
Other Spirits: Death's Door Vodka, Deaths Door White Whiskey.
6. Corsair Distillery, Nashville, Tenn.
In the world of artisan-crafted spirits, few have experimented with as many processes and flavor infusions as Corsair. For example, their Triple Smoke Whiskey is made with barley smoked with cherrywood, peat, and beechwood. The tour takes you past grain barrels filled with chocolate-rye, quinoa, and even oatmeal. After, visitors receive a sample flight of five spirits.
Other Spirits: Gin-Head Style Gin, Vanilla Bean Vodka, Red Absinthe, Spiced Rum, Wry Mon Unaged Rye Whiskey, Rasputin Hopped Whiskey, 100 Percent Aged Rye, Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, Barrel-Aged Gin.
5. Copper Fox Distillery, Sperryville, Va.
Distiller Rick Wasmund, who hand-malts barley for traditional Single Malt Whiskey and Copper Fox Rye, urges visitors to taste the un-fermented rye and stick their head in the distilling vat and fermenting tanks. Virginia’s antiquated laws don’t permit tastings, but everything, including the new Single Malt Gin, is for sale.
Other Spirits: Wasmund’s Single Malt Spirit, Wasmund’s Rye Spirit, Charred Barrels, Aging and Distilling Kits, including the new Single Malt Gin, is for sale.
4. Copper Run Distillery, Walnut Shade, Mo.
The Ozarks’ first legal post-Prohibition moonshine operation now produces heavenly Gold Rum and Spirit Whiskey. Owner/distiller Jim Blansit, who uses only Missouri corn, wheat, and molasses, employs distilling-techniques dating back 5,000 years. Today, folks slurp down moonshine cocktails while rocking out to local musicians in the Tasting Room.
Other Spirits: Copper Run Moonshine.
3. Breckinridge Distillery Breckinridge, Colo.
Skip the tour; do the Bottling Party, where you’ll fill bottles with bourbon whiskey direct from the still, hand-label them, and hammer in corks. Dinner’s included, as is a tour, demonstrating the production of Breckinridge’s mineral-rich, mountain-water distilled vodka and bourbon. Best of all, you leave with a bottle.
Other Spirits: Vodka, Bitters, Spiced Rum, infusions, and limited-production spirits.
2. Bendistillery, Bend, Ore.
Triathlete-distiller Jim Bendis’ inspiration for his multiple-award-winning Crater Lake Gin came while trotting through Oregon’s 6-million-acre juniper forest. To ensure that clear, crisp flavor, he obsessively filters it 10 times through crushed volcanic rock, mimicking Oregon’s famous volcanic-rock-purified waterways. Tours and tastings on his fabulously-fragrant 24-acre farm are free.
Other Spirits: Crater Lake Vodka, Crater Lake Pepper Vodka, Crater Lake Hazelnut Expresso Vodka, Crater Lake Sweet Ginger Vodka, Crater Lake Reserve Vodka.
1. Balcones Distilling, Waco, Texas
Using handmade stills to formulate his widely acclaimed blue-corn whiskey, owner/distiller Chip Tate (who has worked as a baker and a nuclear physicist) infuses culinary and scientific sensibilities into his whiskey line, and Balcones Rumble, a spirit blend made with Texas wildflower-honey, mission figs, and turbinadosugar.
Other Spirits: Texas Single Malt Whiskey, True Blue, Brimstone, Baby Blue, True Blue 100.