The number of craft breweries across America has been growing steadily for decades now, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that craft distilleries took root. In 2003, less than 70 companies were operating. Now, the country boasts more than 700, with 1,000 expected in the very near future. With a whiskey history dating back to the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, it’s no surprise that Philadelphia is a pioneer of this new resurgence of distilleries. For whiskeys, rums, bourbons, vodkas and moonshine that really make a splash, check out these top Philly whiskey whisperers.
Cooper River Distillers
34 N. 4th St.
Camden, NJ 08102
Cooper River Distilleries, Camden’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, is a newbie to Philly’s food and beverage scene. The fledgling company started production of its first product, Petty’s Island Rum, in the spring of 2014. Looking toward the future, founder and chief distiller James Yoakum plans to expand his line to a variety of rums, rye whiskeys, bourbons and brandies. To get your hands on the distillery’s craft spirits, take a tour of the place, attend one of its special events or purchase a bottle at one of the local South Jersey shops found on the firm’s online map.
Mountain Laurel Spirits
925 Canal St., Building #4
Bristol, PA 19007
Named in honor of the founder’s father, Dad’s Hat was launched in 2010 by Herman Mihalich who grew up living in an apartment over his parents’ tavern. Carrying the tradition of serving up fantastic spirits to appreciative patrons, Mihalich came up with Dad’s Hat’s feature product – Pennsylvania rye whiskey. The distillery’s recipe takes quality local ingredients, a grain bill of five percent rye malt, 15 percent barley malt and 80 percent rye, and ferments the blend in aged oak barrels with charred interiors. It’s that charring that makes all the difference in rye’s flavor and color. See for yourself. Take a tour of Dad’s Hat to get a behind-the-scenes view of the process, a tasting and opportunity to buy the company’s rye whiskey, vermouth and white rye.
31 Appletree Lane
Pipersville, PA 18947
Sean Tracy’s passion for whiskey and wood gave birth to Hewn Spirits. Aptly named, the micro-distillery opened in March 2014 to rave reviews. Zagat ranked the company’s New Moon Moonshine “the only ‘great’ moonshine we’ve encountered” and Red Barn Rye Whiskey “one of the most complex brown spirits we’ve had the opportunity to taste.” That’s because the Bucks County distillery bucks traditional whiskey-crafting methods. Tracy distills his spirits in a 130-gallon copper still before aging it in white oak barrels for one to four months. He then adds charred staves from his antique wood collection into the whiskey and performs a second aging in stainless steel vats. Moonshine, rum and rye and single malt whiskey is currently available, with gin and bourbon coming for the holidays. Check out Hewn’s website for tasting room hours and tour scheduling.
Related: Top Whiskey Bars In Philadelphia
Manatawny Still Works
320 Circle of Progress Drive #104
Pottstown, PA 19464
Manatawny is named for a nearby creek that literally means, “The place we meet to drink.” You get the picture. With a massive, state-of-the art, quarter-million-dollar still made in Italy, tours and an inviting house bar that attracts large crowds every Friday night, Manatawny is an up-and-coming force among the Commonwealth’s distilleries. In fact, the company was named 2014 Best Worth-the-Wait Newcomer by Best of the Main Line & Suburbs. J. Potts Whiskey, T. Rutter Rum and Three Bitches Wheat Vodka are headliner spirits with new spirits aging in the barrel as we speak.
12285 McNulty Road #105
Philadelphia, PA 19154
A giant among the state’s whiskey makers, Philadelphia Distilling is Pennsylvania’s first craft distillery since Prohibition. Spirits highlight citrus herbs and botanicals steeped in a slow process. Philadelphia Distilling takes pride in highlighting the history and process of whiskey making and opens the establishment to guests to take distillery and tasting tours each Saturday. The company’s tasting tours are some of the most fun and informative in the region, with free sandwiches, pretzels and cheese and crackers to accompany samplings of Bluecoat Gin, XXX Shine Whiskey, Vieux Carre Absinthe and two types of vodka.
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Susan DeFeo has been a professional writer since 1997. She served as a community events columnist for New Jersey’s “Cape May County Herald” for more than a decade. A writer for numerous online publications, Susan has covered health, fitness, beauty and travel, all subjects that are near and dear to her as a married mother of seven children. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.