The business of making booze is booming, and with travel season ahead of us, now’s the time to make a list of distilleries to check out. Across the country, and to the north, distilleries are opening their doors and giving visitors an inside look as to how gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, moonshine and the like are made. Not to mention many spirits are made in places you’d least expect (think: sake made in Canada). We found six distillery tours to add to your list, oncethe beauties andbucket-list distilleries are checked off.
You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find quality aquavit in Portland’s industrial Central Eastside neighborhood, but House Spirits’ award-winning Krogstad aquavit (in two varieties) proves that Scandinavian spirits have a place in the Pacific Northwest. The 12-year-old distillery also produces gin, malt whiskey and vodka in a newly expanded space in the city’s Distillery Row. Daily tours ($10) include a full tasting, and whiskey and distilling classes are available. This fall, look out for an outpost of House Spirits at PDX airport, making House Spirits the first distillery worldwide to operate its own brick-and-mortar tasting room at an airport, with the entire portfolio available for sample and purchase.
Sugar cane used to make at Kō Hana rum (image: Liza Poletti)
Using native Hawaiian sugar cane, which existed for hundreds of years before plantations and distilleries existed, Kō Hana has been around for five years as a farm and three years as a rum distillery (Manulele Distillers) on the island of Oahu in Kunia. For $18, visitors can tour Manulele and the sugar cane farm and learn about aquaponic farming, a technique that uses minimal water. Tasting tours ($25) start guests with sips of fresh-pressed cane juice and build up to rhum agricole of varying ages and types.
The First State’s notable craft brewery in Milton, Del., drew its fair share of beer lovers since opening in 1995 as Delaware’s first brewpub. Fast forward 20 years later, and 20 kinds of suds sold, and Dogfish Head distills spirits, including two varietals of gin and one vodka. The distillery tour is part of the (free) brewery tour and includes samples of beer, house spirits and beer-infused snacks, and guests are invited to fill up their growlers to go.
Sake production at Ontario Spring Water Sake Company
Closer than a trip to Japan and definitely the most unexpected place to find sake being made this side of the globe, Ontario’s Spring Water Sake Company is eastern North America’s first sake brewery. Visitors who take the weekend tour ($15) learn about the sake-making process, in which distillers use traditional Japanese recipes and methods with Canadian spring water, resulting in a new kind of unpasteurized, locally brewed sake. The five-year-old distillery produces izumi (Japanese for “spring water”) sake in a handful of varieties and consults with master sake brewer Yoshiko Takahashi from Japan.
Proving that there’s nothing New Yorkers can’t do, the County of Kings (Brooklyn) can also add urban moonshining to its repertoire. At six years old, Kings County Distillery is NYC’s oldest (legal) distillery—the city’s first since Prohibition—started by two guys fascinated with moonshine, one with bootlegging in his genes. Now housed in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, Kings County is smack in the middle of the city’s former distillery district. Tours are offered weekdays and Saturdays (soon to be daily), and the $8 fee includes a tasting of Kings’ moonshine, bourbon and chocolate whiskey.
Just 15 miles west of Aspen, Woody Creek is truly a hidden gem nestled in Basalt, Colo., using modern techniques that eliminate overprocessing and waste. A visit at Woody Creek includes a gratis tour of its organic potato farm and single-batch vodka distillery. (It also produces rye whiskey and gin.) The distillers use Colorado mountain water and potatoes with high-moisture content, so the liquid only has to be distilled once, versus up to eight times by other vodka producers. Not to mention the waste from Woody Creek’s raw products goes back into the farm for use as compost or to local ranches for livestock feed.