Here at WhiskeyBon we adore whiskey as I’m sure you do too.
One of the biggest components of any great whiskey is the distillery from which it came.
We all know the big boys like the JD’s, Jim Beam’s and Buffalo Trace’s of the world, and they are awesome, there is no denying that. But there are literally hundreds of distilleries across the world and those that don’t sit around reading about whiskey like we do have probably never heard of half of them.
This is our list of who we think are the most awesome distilleries around at the moment, we picked them based on factors such as uniqueness, interesting back stories, coolness, output and just generally being awesome. Check them out and let us know what you think.
Alchemy is one of the most recent distilleries to hit America by storm. In 2010, its founding duo, Amy and Steve, decided to try their hand at brewing. By December 2015, they had launched Alchemy, built their first distillery, and successfully brewed their first batch of whiskey using 100% local wheat; it’s called Clear Whiskey. Alchemy works exclusively with local farmers to ensure they’re getting fresh, locally-produced grains for an authentic, small-town brew. In March 2017, the duo brewed their first batch of Bourbon, and by May 2017 had started welcoming visitors to the distillery once a month.
Founded in 2006, the High West Distillery is the work of husband and wife duo, David and Jane Perkins. In 2007, the pair moved to Park City in Utah, where they began distilling traditional whiskey from a 50-gallon still and Saloon in a former livery stable and garage. However, what started small has now become one of America’s more accomplished independent distilleries. High West now has four locations, including their distillery in Wanship, Utah, which is where tours take place. In 2011, Whisky Advocate, America’s leading whiskey magazine, named High West its “Whiskey Pioneer of the Year.”
It was during a trip to Scotland (UK) that Copper Fox’s brewer, Rick Wasmund, found the courage to launch his own distillery, having experienced some of the ‘best whisky in the world’, and in 2003 he did just that. What makes Copper Fox so unique is that it uses fruit wood peat to create its whisky, which gives its spirits a recognisable smoky quality that varies depending on the recipe of fruit woods it uses during the maturation process. The distillery has two locations: its original one in Sperryville and a smaller location in Williamsburg, Virginia – year-round tours and tastings are available at both.
While fishing in a Pacific Northwest river, friends Don Poffenroth and Kent Fleischmann discussed their mutual love of hand-crafted spirits and, before they knew it, Dry Fly Distilling was born. To create its small-batch whisky, vodka, gin, and bourbon drinks, dry Fly source most of their ingredients from local farms in Eastern Washington. It controls the entire distilling process from start to finish for a truly hand-crafted finish with a hint of local, artisanal appeal. At its Washington distillery, Dry Fly has an enormous, classic-meets-contemporary tasting room where you can enjoy a taste of the Northwest.
True to the Tommyrotters’ Club of the early 20th century, which saw rebellious artisans break away from the Arts and Crafts Movement “for creation’s sake”, Tommyrotter Distillery has broken away from the mainstream to craft small-batch spirits in Buffalo, New York. The distillery’s quirky, colourful bottles house whisky, gin, and vodka, and every bottle is filled, and every label positioned, by hand. This is a distillery that takes ‘handcrafted’ seriously. As well as its everyday products, Tommyrotter creates limited-releases under its ‘Masterwork Collection’, limited to just 300-400 cases per brew.
940 Calle Amanecer, Suite K, San Clemente, CA 92673, USA
Ryan and Lesli Winter are the founders of Drift Distillery. They use wheat from their parents’ farm in Kansas to create an array of traditional vodka, wheat whiskey, and gin products, which are brewed in their San Clemente, California distillery. The on-site tasting room is open for sessions year-round and housed inside a 100-year-old converted barn, boasting the distillery’s affinity for one-of-a-kind, which is emphasised in its devotion to limited-run spirits. Drift regularly appears in OC Weekly and other local publications; as a newcomer, it’s a distillery to keep an eye on over the next few years at least.
Witherspoon Distillery brews in the heart of ‘Old Town Lewisville’ in Texas and uses traditional brewing methods, including barrel ageing, to create limited-run whisky. Its product line includes straight bourbon whisky, single malt, unaged 125-proof whisky, bourbon cream, and even cocktails – the first of its cocktails is the Old Fashioned. Aside from its range of ‘special edition’ whiskies, all Witherspoon’s products are crafted using locally-sourced ingredients. The distillery houses an on-site bar with live music events throughout the year and offers one-hour-long tours and tastings several times a week.
Ben Milam Whisky is named after the ‘soldier, revolutionary, and Texas hero’ of the same name who, in 1788, became a colonizer and brought Anglo settlers to Texas. He fought in the Texas-Mexico war of independence. The Ben Milam distillery was founded by Marsha Milam for those who ‘choose to live life on their own terms’. The distillery has three signature products, including Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey, 90.4-proof Rhy Whiskey, and Barrel Proof Straight Bourbon Whiskey. All of Ben Milam’s brews have won multiple awards and are available at fine liquor stores throughout Texas.
The master brewer at FEW Spirits overturned prohibition laws to become Evanston, Illinois’s first distiller of grain spirits within the city limits thanks to the Temperance Movement. The distillery creates small-batched gin and whisky and takes the term ‘handcrafted’ seriously – it handles the entire process right up until distribution. FEW use traditional techniques to create authentic, aged spirits. Its products are available in more than 100 stores across the United States, and available to purchase online. FEW also offers distillery tours and tastings, as well as private tours and regular public events.
Wigle Whiskey’s heritage dates way back to the 1790s when Phillip Wigle defended American Whiskey production. He triggered the Whiskey Rebellion and was sentenced to hang by George Washington for treason. Taking this story, in 2010, whiskey lovers Meredith and Alex looked to launch a family-run distillery in whiskey’s true home, Pittsburgh, and by 2011, they were well on their way. Today, Wigle Whiskey is the only whiskey distillery in the region and was the first distillery in the City of Pittsburgh since Prohibition. Wigle creates a variety of traditional and infused whiskey products.
Did you know that, at one time, more whiskey was produced in Pennsylvania than in Kentucky? New Liberty Distillery has taken the state’s love of whiskey, especially Rhy Whiskey, and crafted a range of spicy, lean, and assertive spirits to go up against softer, rounder, and sweeter bourbon. The distillery takes some of the Pennsylvanian classics and puts its own spin on them. All brewing takes place at New Liberty’s distillery just minutes from the city centre. The distillery has a tasting room and bar, where the in-house mixologist, Sam, creates an array of craft cocktails using New Liberty’s brews.
Stoll & Wolfe Distillery, formerly Bomberger Distillery, is one of America’s oldest distilleries, dating back to 1753. It’s fronted by Dick Stoll, who was trained by renowned brewer, C Everett Beam. Under its new brand, the owners are on a mission to re-build Stoll & Wolfe. The distillery uses traditional techniques to create limited-run whiskeys, including its Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey (bottled at 90 proof) and blend of straight American whiskeys. Each run includes less than 1,500 bottles. At the distillery, based in Lititz, you can taste the current brew and enjoy a range of one-of-a-kind cocktails, too.
Organic farmer, Christian Myrah, founded the RockFilter Distillery and remains the head distiller. What makes RockFilter different from the rest is that all its spirits are entirely organic, crafting using smoked oats and rhy for a ‘bold’ flavour. Almost every ingredient in this distiller’s products are homegrown on Myrah’s farm and processed in Schech’s Mill, an 1870s mill powered by the rushing waters of Beaver Creek. RockFilter is a local creation powered by local people and, as a result, works in collaboration with several local businesses. You can visit the on-site cocktail room to taste its organic offering.
Yellow Rose Distilling
1224 N Post Oak Rd, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77055, USA
Like many distillers, Yellow Rose Distilling was born from a legend. It is said that, in 1836, at the battle of San Jacinto, the Yellow Rose of Texas ensured General Sam Houston’s victory. Being situated in the heart of Houston, Texas, Yellow Rose takes its name from the Yellow Rose of Texas and honours the age-old story. The distillery was launched in 2012 and was Houston’s first legal whiskey distillery. Its products are award-winning; the American Distilling Institute awarded the distillery’s Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon ‘Best in Class’ and it, along with other products, is now making its way in America.
In 2008, Washington changed its laws, allowing distilleries to get licensed. Three years later, the Heritage Distilling Co. was born. The distillery’s product range includes whiskey, vodka, flavoured vodka, gin, and brown sugar bourbon. It is one of the most decorated independent distilleries in America, having won numerous awards from the American Distilling Institute. In Spring 2018, the distillery will open an additional location in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, which will house a tasting room, store, and event space. Heritage Distilling is the official sponsor of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.
Staley Mill Farm and Distillery
Indian Creek Distillery, 7095 Staley Road, New Carlisle, OH 45344, USA
Joe and Missey Duer are sixth-generation farm owners whose family has been distilling in its Staley Mill, Ohio location for more than 200 years. In 2011, the husband-and-wife team reconstructed the still house where the whiskey is brewed. All the ingredients used in distilling process are homegrown on the family farm. Staley Mill’s most renowned product is its Elias Staley Unaged Rye Whiskey, which has an earthy temperament; however, it also has a range of smoother whiskeys, including the sweet Andy’s Old No.5 and Staley Rye Whiskey. The distillery is open for private tours upon request.
2931 First Avenue South, Suite B, Seattle, WA 98134, USA
Westland Distillery is renowned for its classic American single malt whiskeys. A product that was originally considered the domain of Scotland has been taken to America (the Pacific Northwest to be exact), where it is crafted with locally-sourced ingredients. The distinct qualities of Westland’s creations are that they are ‘sweet’ and ‘easy on the palette’ thanks to their ‘fruit and complex’ finish. The range includes award-winning smoked whiskeys, too. At Westland’s original Washington location, you can enjoy distillery tours, tastings, and a variety of small bites alongside a beverage or two.
Hood River Distillers are one of America’s largest distillers; it produces numerous household names. The distillery’s whisky brands include Trail’s End, Sinfire Cinnamon Whisky, McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt, and Double Mountain Hopped Whiskey. It also produces a variety of vodka, gin, and absinthe products, as well as boasts an entire portfolio of fruit-based spirits with their Clear Creek Distillery extension. It is Hood River’s enormous success that makes its Oregon tasting room in downtown Hood River an exciting place to be. In its tasting room, you can learn about the 80-year-old history of the distillery while sampling its entire portfolio of spirits in a cosy, contemporary ‘hotel bar’ setting.
Painted Stave Distilling was founded by Ron Gomes, Jr. and Mike Rasmussen in 2011. Housed in a 1940s-era movie theatre, this distillery isn’t your run-of-the-mill brewing setup; it has adopted the latest distilling technology to create a variety of spirits suited to the contemporary consumer. The founders started their business by releasing vodka and gin, while their whiskey matured. Currently, they have 3 straight whiskies (Corn, Bourbon, Rye) with a 24 month pot still whiskey soon to be released, 3 malt whiskies, 1 gin (lavender forward), 3 vodkas (wheat, and two flavored (scrapple, and a seasonal cranberry offering), 1 bier schnaps, and two liqueurs (contract distilled spiced honey, and a cherry bounce). Tours and tastings can be enjoyed in Delaware Thursday through Sunday.
Heaven Hill Distillery
Bourbon Heritage Center, 1311 Gilkey Run Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004, USA
Founded in 1935 as a family-run distillery, Heaven Hill is run by Denny Potter and Charlie Downs who, combined, have over a century’s worth of whiskey-making experience. As another of America’s leading whiskey makers, Heaven Hill own some of the country’s top hand-crafted whiskey brands, including Henry McKenna, Rittenhouse, Parker’s Heritage, Elijah Craig, and Evan Williams. It specialises in single malt whiskey and has won a variety of industry-leading awards. Heaven Hill is a 15-time ‘Best Whiskey’ and 12-time ‘Whiskey of the Year’ winner. It has also been named ‘Distiller of the Year’ four times.
Founded by Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee and located in the Hudson Valley, Tuthilltown Spirits Farm Distillery was New York’s first whiskey distillery since prohibition. Taking a leaf out of history’s book, in 2005, Tuthilltown Spirits brought the craft of small-batch distillery back to the Hudson Valley, basing itself in the 220-year-old Tuthilltown Gristmill. The distillery produces an extensive range of traditional American whiskeys, as well as vodka, gin, and liqueurs. Its products have won hundreds of awards, including bronze medals at the American Craft Spirits Awards and International Spirits competition.
Bluegrass Distillery is situated in the heart of Kentucky which, according to the distillery’s founders, is ‘where fast horses are bred, and the best whiskey is made.’ The distillery launched in 2013 and began selling its first aged whiskey in 2015. Bluegrass prides itself on creating hand-crafted brews using non-GMO and locally sourced Kentucky ingredients. Most of its products use a blue corn base for an ‘earthy, nutty’ flavour. At the distillery’s Kentucky location, you can experience distillery tours and tastings, which last around 30 minutes. Their tours are open to the whole family (all ages), too.
400 East Main Street #110, Bowling Green, KY 42101, USA
What started as a hobby turned major when childhood friends, Darek Bell and Andrew Webber, moved from homebrewing beer and wine in their garage to launching Corsair Distillery in 2008. The distillery, which brews a medley of spirits including gin, absinthe, rum, whiskey, and many more, has won hundreds of awards. Its products have been featured in the likes of Time Out New York, Whisky Magazine, and Saveur, to name a few. Corsair has three locations, including its original Kentucky distillery, plus two more in Nashville, Tennessee – tours and tastings are available at every location.
Cooperstown Distillery is the first and only distillery in Otsego County, New York. It uses almost entirely New York State-sourced grains and produces a variety of spirits, including whiskey, bourbon, gin, rum, and vodka. Its Cooper’s Legacy brew won double-gold in the Fifty Best Bourbon Competition 2018. The distillery is best known for its baseball-shaped decanters (a homage to the Baseball Hall of Fame), which give each brew a premium finish. At its Railroad Avenue location, you can tour the distillery and enjoy a sampling of Cooperstown’s award-winning spirits in the on-site tasting room.
Historic Featherbone Factory, 109 Generations Drive, Three Oaks, MI 49128, USA
Journeyman Distillery is an Organic Spirits Distillery, located in the EK Warren Historic Featherbone Factory, in Three Oaks, Michigan. The now aged building was originally a buggy whip and corsets factory; however, it has now been transformed, keeping original details intact, to suit the distilling process. All the distillery’s brews are crafted using artisanal methods. Despite its independent appeal, the range of spirits Journeyman create is extensive and has been extended beyond whiskey, now including gin, rum, brandy, and even liqueurs. The distillery is open daily for tours and tastings.
Five and 20 Spirits started out as a winemaker based in the Mazza Vineyards in the North East; however, after 40 years of winemaking, it turned its hand to whiskey and beer brewing. The distillery is situated in an 80-acre property in Westfield, New York, and is the first distillery its type in the Great Lakes region. Five and 20 crafts a variety of small-batch aged and unaged whiskeys, as well as liquors. Most of the distilleries ingredients are grown on-site, ensuring it has complete control over the distilling process. Tours and tastings are available at its Westfield location, which also houses a store.