There are few things more exciting for us than getting to see our favorite spirits being produced—and meeting the people responsible for making them. It doesn’t hurt that these visits, of course, generally end with a delicious tasting.
But some distilleries go above and beyond the standard tour and gift shop, and offer experiences that all liquor lovers need to enjoy at least once during their lifetimes. From a two-century-old presidential whiskey brand brought back to life to a facility in one of the remotest parts of Scotland, these ten distilleries deserve a spot on your bucket list. Naturally, we’d suggest you try to get to as many of them as you possibly can.
And while you’re planning your trip (or day-dreaming about taking one), you should also check out our list of 15 Bars to Visit Before you Die for some more inspiration.
(Have you been to any of these distilleries? Are there any others that we should check out? Leave a comment below!)
For decades, this Kentucky bourbon stalwart didn’t offer a tour of its distillery. Fortunately, that changed last fall when it opened its new visitor center, the American Stillhouse, which is actually a replica of the brand’s original 1940s-era facility. The tour, of course, includes the history of the Beam family and the production of its flagship whiskey, as well as info on its small-batch brands like Knob Creek, Booker’s and Basil Hayden’s. And be sure to check out the new Fred’s Smokehouse restaurant, which serves whiskey-infused barbecue and is named for seventh-generation master distiller Fred Noe, a great-grandson of Jim Beam himself.
Jim Beam American Stillhouse
526 Happy Hollow Road
Tel: 502 543 2221
There’s more to this bourbon than just being the official spirit of the Kentucky Derby. Woodford Reserve’s distillery building dates back to 1838 and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. You’ll learn all the basics about making the whiskey on the Bourbon Discovery Tour, or you can take the Corn to Cork Tour that explores the “sensory” aspects of producing bourbon. Love architecture? Then book the two-hour National Landmark Tour, which explores the evolution of the facility. For a truly in-depth and unique experience, enroll in the brand’s one-day Bourbon Academy, which is led by master distiller Chris Morris.
Woodford Reserve Distillery
7855 McCracken Pike
Tel: 859 879 1812
Love American history? Well, Plymouth’s Black Friars Distillery played a special role in the founding of the United States. The site, which was originally a monastery built in the 1400s, was where the Pilgrims actually spent their last night before boarding the Mayflower for the New World. The brand offers three types of tours, including a £40, two-hour Master Distiller’s Private Tour. After you’re done looking around, have a bite at the Barbican Kitchen brasserie and a delicious gin-based drink in the cozy Refectory Cocktail Lounge.
Black Friars Distillery
60 Southside Street
Plymouth, England, UK
Tel: 44 1752 665 292
We’re going to be honest: Getting to Bowmore isn’t easy—but it’s worth the trip. The distillery is located on the island of Islay, which is off the west coast of Scotland. You’ll need to take a ferry there from the mainland, across often very choppy seas. But at least you can stay a while. The acclaimed single malt Scotch Bowmore not only offers the obligatory tours but also six cottages on-site that you can book year-round.
Bowmore, Scotland, UK
Tel: 44 1496 810 671
George Washington might just be our all-time favorite president. Not only was he a Revolutionary War hero, but after leaving office, he also opened a distillery at his Virginia estate, Mount Vernon, which produced up to 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year. After an archeological excavation and with the help of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the distillery was rebuilt in 2005 exactly as it would have looked in the 18th century. But the facility isn’t just for show; the stills actually work, and distillers produce whiskey there the old-fashioned way, using Washington’s original mashbill.
George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill
5514 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Tel: 703 780 2000
Scotch lovers prize this single malt’s bold and smoky notes. And a dram is just the thing to warm you up on a raw fall or winter day. You’ll understand its flavor profile once you visit its remote 200-year-old distillery on the Isle of Skye. Talisker has a remarkably beautiful location, right on the water with breathtaking views of the Cuillin mountain range. Don’t forget to stop by the shop, which offers exclusive bottlings like a Special Release 35-year-old.
Skye, Scotland, UK
Tel: 44 1478 614 308
What’s better than a distillery? A distillery with a great bar. The New York Distilling Co., co-founded by Liquor.com advisory board member Allen Katz, is one of these rare hybrids. (For others, check out this travel guide.) The Brooklyn facility boasts the sleek Shanty, which offers drinkers a menu of delicious concoctions like the Cannibal Corpse Reviver No. 2. A huge window in the bar showcases the distillery, where Katz and his team make Dorothy Parker, Perry’s Tot and Chief Gowanus gins, along with a rye whiskey that should be released next year.
New York Distilling Company
79 Richardson Street
New York, NY
Tel: 718 412 0874
While Jamaica and Puerto Rico may be famous for producing rum, the tropical island of Martinique has a long history of distilling rhum agricole—a special version of the spirit complete with its own rules and techniques. A great place to learn all about the liquor is at Habitation Clément. Not only will you get to tour the more-than-century-old distillery, but you’ll also have a chance to check out the family’s home and grounds, which have been turned into a botanical garden. There are also three different galleries that you can tour featuring the work of local artists.
97240 Le François
Tel: 596 5 96 54 62 07
If you’ve been to Islay, the Highlands and even Skye, you need to make the pilgrimage to Highland Park, which is at the tip-top of Scotland in the Orkney Islands. The wind is so strong there that it’s said the trees grow sideways. While these conditions may produce an amazing whisky, it does make getting there a bit tough: Don’t be surprised if your flight can’t land! But the distillery makes it worth your while, offering everything from a basic tour to the Magnus Eunson Tour (named for its founder) that includes a tasting of a 40-year-old expression.
Highland Park Distillery
Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Tel: 44 1856 874 619
Don’t forget your lift pass when you visit High West’s ski-in distillery in Park City, Utah. Located at the bottom of the aptly named Quittin’ Time ski run, the small-batch distillery at an altitude of 7,000 feet offers tours of the facility that, of course, include samples. You’ll also want to save some time for its saloon, which serves fancy Western fare like elk with chanterelle mushrooms, and offers an impressive selection of classic cocktails and whiskies from around the world. We recommend trying High West’s barrel-aged (and bottled) Manhattan and Boulevardier.
High West Distillery & Saloon
703 Park Avenue
Park City, UT
Tel: 435 649 8300
Mixing your cocktail