Fancy bottles of small-batch spirits from Europe will never go out of style, but there’s plenty of high-quality boutique liquor now being produced right here in the United States. There are 202 craft distilleries across the country, according to Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute. That’s up from just 60 a decade ago. What’s helping to drive this trend is America’s growing obsession with eating and (now) drinking “locally.” While these artisan distillers may not have national-distribution, they have the freedom to experiment and even tweak recipes batch by batch. Many also offer tours and tastings. Let us introduce you to some our favorite craft distilleries.
For a micro-distiller Corsair already has a major coup under its belt—its citrus-driven Artisan Gin snagged a gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The distillery also makes a whole range of products, including Vanilla Bean Vodka, red hibiscus-infused absinthe and Pumpkin Spice Moonshine.
What to buy: Corsair Artisan Gin, $30
France may have a stronghold on cognac, but don’t tell that to the Californian Germain-Robin. Its deep, rich brandies are primarily distilled from wine-quality, West Coast grapes like Pinot Noir. And while the spirits can’t be called cognac technically, they’ve become a favorite of critics and bartenders.
What to buy: Fine Alambic Brandy, $48
High West is the first distillery to open in this famously dry state since the 1870s. (It also has the distinction of being the only ski-in distillery and restaurant in the world.) The brand makes three rye whiskies and two vodkas, one from oats and another bursting with Utah-grown peach flavor.
What to buy: Rendezvous Rye, $50
You could just about fill a liquor cabinet with what House Spirits produces. The Oregon based distillery makes a Russian-style rye vodka, whiskey, a line of limited-edition spirits and Krogstad Aquavit that has both star anise and caraway seed accents. Aviation Gin, flavored with seven botanicals, including juniper, cardamom and sarsaparilla, is the best-seller. Try all the company’s spirits at its Portland tasting room.
What to buy: Krogstad Aquavit, $24
Philadelphia Distilling is developing a national reputation for its Bluecoat Gin, which is quintuple-distilled and subtly flavored with organic juniper berries and American citrus peels. The distillery also makes Penn 1681 Rye Vodka and Vieux Carre Absinthe.
What to buy: Bluecoat American Dry Gin, $26
Stranahan’s produces just one product: a high-proof, twice-distilled whiskey made with mostly Colorado-grown barley and pure Rocky Mountain water. Talk about craft. The distillery (“the first and only micro-distillery” in the state) fills just 12 barrels a week. Stop by for a tour and a taste if you’re in Denver.
What to buy: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, $60
At New York’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition, local ingredients are at the heart of the recipes. New York corn is used exclusively to make the Hudson Baby Bourbon and the Corn Whiskey and fresh-pressed cider from nearby farms is used for the Spirit of the Hudson Vodka. The popular distillery also makes a host of other spirits.
What to buy: Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey, $49