100 greatest distilleries to visit

100 greatest distilleries to visit

Our team of writers around the world give you the distilleries you should visit

Places | 02 Dec 2011 | Issue 100

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There are plenty of distilleries across the world to make a pilgrimage to, but for our 100th edition we decided to give you the 100 distilleries that we think every whisky lover must visit. The reason the writers have chosen the places is down to the history, production quirks, location and quality of the tour. Even if they are hard to get into, we wanted to give you the idea of why they are special, and why you should make the effort.

Writer's key

Rob AllansonRA
Dave BroomDB
Mark GillespieMG
Davin de KergommeauxDdeK
Martine NouetMN
Neil RidleyNR
Gavin D. SmithGDS
Liza WeisstuchLW
Neil WilsonNW


Bakery Hill

A distillery started out of the passion of David Baker, a former biochemist. The distillery generally releases single casks and bottles at cask strength. The first spirit was produced in 2000 with the first single malt whisky available in 2003. Higher temperatures, a much drier climate than Scotland and smaller casks all contribute to the way the spirit matures and gathers flavours from the wood.

Lark distillery

Rich barley fields, pure water, peat bogs and a decent climate, you wonder why it took so long for someone took on the challenge to make whisky again. Distillery Bill Lark has now become a living legend in the whisky world, producing his first spirit on an antique copper still.


The Belgian owl

Etienne Bouillon’s tiny distillery in the village of Grace-Hollogne near Liege in the midst of rich barley-growing country. Using 100 year old
(formerly) mobile stills he crafts gentle balanced sweet whiskies, the first made in this whisky-mad country. There are plans afoot to move to larger premises.



This most welcoming of distilleries, will have you swear you are in the Scottish Highlands. Tour, taste, dine in the restaurant, sleep in the inn, dance at the ceilidh, and drink 20 Year Old Glen Breton Canadian single malt at the bar. Plan to stay at least one night.

Hiram Walker Distillery

Hiram Walker left Detroit for Canada to escape anti-alcohol sentiments. When Prohibition arrived, other, more nefarious businessmen visited Walker’s distillery. The plant is off limits, but at the Canadian Club Brand Centre you will enter Walker’s speakeasy just as Al Capone and the Purple Gang did.

Kittling Ridge

A full service tour of The-Little-Engine-That-Could distillery. The most unique pot stills you’ve seen, stacks of fragrant barrels, hybrid whisky/wine fermenters, and a state of the art bottling plant, in the winery that makes Forty Creek, one of Canada’s best-loved whiskies. DdeK


Tyler Schramm studied whisky making in Scotland but until his organic single malt is ready he is living off the avails of potato vodka. Enjoy a sample, a tour and don’t forget to remind him that in Canada we drink rye (hint, hint). A Green Party fave.

Shelter Point

Canada’s newest malt whisky distillery is designed for visitors. It has a water feature! Scottish stills and processes, home-grown barley malt, and a third-generation Scottish distiller named Mike Nicholson, foretell of greatness to come. Three hours from Victoria so set out early or stay nearby.


English Whisky Co.

St.George’s Distillery, home to the English Whisky Co. became operational in November 2006 producing its first spirit soon after. The distillery, brainchild of James Nelstrop and son Andrew, has copper stills and distilling equipment being from Forsyths of Rothes. The compact and bijoux distillery became England’s first registered whisky distilling company in more than 100 years.



Founded in 2002 at the brewery of the same name in Lahti, this traditional pot still distillery is certainly flying the flag for Finland with its well made and distinctive whisky. In 2008 the distillery launched a 5 Years Old but now has moved up to 8 Years old, worth watching.



Slightly bizarrely located in an industrial estate in Baarle-Nassau, Patrick van Zuidam’s distillery is a university for spirit lovers. Established in 2002 by his father it makes genever, corenwijn, liqueurs and whisky - single malt (peated and unpeated) and rye. A questioning mind makes van Zuidam one of Europe’s greatest distillers.



The reason to visit here is to try and get your head round the tropical aging issue. The whisky undergoes maturation in oak casks for more than three years in the tropical climate of Bangalore, 3000 feet above sea level. The location gives an intense and speedy maturation.



The sole whiskey distillery operating in Northern Ireland, Bushmills is ideally located - close to the Giant’s Causeway; has historical interest -whiskey has been made in this area since 1608; is fascinating in terms of production - a complex triple distillation. Huge - and welcoming.


Closed in 1957 and thankfully restored to its former glory in 2007, Kilbeggan is perhaps best summed up as a working museum of Irish distillation. The site of the oldest producing whisky distillery in the world now houses a pair of stills, one dating back to the 1830s.

Old Midleton

Now the most important historical distilling site in Ireland, Old Mideton stands beside Irish Distillers’ modern Midelton plant and offers excellent visitor facilities, along with the chance to see just how vast the scale of distilling was when the big copper pots were ‘live’ in days gone by.



Japan’s newest distillery is situated close to the town where owner Ichiro Akuto’s family started making sake almost 500 years ago. Compact it may be but there’s fascinating experiments taking place here in wood (Japanese oak is used in maturation and for the washbacks), distillation and, next year, floor malting using local peat. By appointment only.


An idyllic location in a densely forested nature reserve high in the Japanese Alps means that Hakushu’s sheer size isn’t immediately apparent. For a time this was the world’s largest malt distillery. Two still-houses (one unused) with a myriad of different sizes and shapes, an excellent museum, birdsong and cool mountain air.


Japan’s forgotten distillery is another Alpine plant, located outside Shinshyu. It opened in 1984, but closed a decade later. Most thought it would remain silent. This year however its stills started running once more. There is life on Mars!There’s also a brewery on the same site.


Approximately one hour from Sendai, nestled into a mountain valley watered by two rivers, the second distillery built by Nikka sprawls across a massive site which contains a malt distillery, a grain distillery, a (sadly disused) kiln and low-slung warehouses.


Japanese whisky started here, beside the railway tracks between Kyoto and Osaka on a beautifully landscaped site which also houses a Shinto shrine and an early tea house. Stills of different shapes help produce a complex range of different makes. Superb visitor facilities.


This small fishing port in Hokkaido was where Masataka Taketsuru relocated to, as he felt it was the place which most closely replicated the environment of Scotland. Little has changed - the stills remain coal-fired, Taketsuru’s jacket still hangs in the wardrobe. An excellent museum tells his remarkable story.



A classic late Victorian distillery, easily accessible in Perthshire, and keen to make an impression on visitors. Home to ‘Dewar’s World of Whisky,’ one of the most innovative distillery visitor facilities in Scotland. Opened in 2000, this is a state-of-the-art visitor and retail centre, based in the former distillery maltings.


As big-hitting sherry monsters go, Aberlour is certainly up there with the fiercest and visiting the distillery is a must for anyone wanting to sample the legendary A’bunadh batches. An informative distillery tour awaits and if you’re peckish, the Walkers Shortbread factory is only a stone’s throw away.

Abhainn Dearg

The only distillery in the Outer Hebrides, and one of the most remote in Scotland, but this only adds to its delights. Stunning scenery, a pair of the most outrageously designed ‘witch’s hat’ stills and the enthusiasm of owner Marko Tayburn all make it one for the ‘must visit’ list.


The Kiln Café is as much as attraction as the distillery visit. Warm welcome and great food (the crab chowder is a hit). Don’t miss your Ardbeg on the rocks, just climb a few steps by the shore and enjoy the view, sitting on the grass. On a breezy day, your dram reaches perfection.


The only, and possibly the last distillery in Scotland to practice traditional Lowland triple-distillation in its proper form. Once it’s explained to you, ask the guide how it compares with the way Springbank distils. That should exercise the grey cells a bit more!


Has a justifiable claim to being one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries (1790) and is now enjoying a renaissance having languished for many years under the previous owners. The attractive vintage bottlings from the 60s onwards have helped re-establish Balblair as a Northern Highland malt to look out for.


Glenfiddich’s slightly younger sibling, also still in the private family ownership of William Grant & Sons Ltd. By contrast with the ‘mass appeal’ of Glenfiddich, Balvenie offers small-scale, in-depth tours for the connoisseur, featuring working floor maltings, a cooperage in action and an array of fine drams to sample.

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis used to produce grain whisky as well but now it’s main claim to exclusivity is its use of brewer’s yeast, the only distillery
in Scotland to do so. Another possible Munro and malt destination as well with Britain’s highest mountain looming behind. This was also one of the infamous Jo Hobbs distilleries.


For most of its existence BenRiach was a ‘workhorse’ distillery, producing whisky for blending in the shadow of ‘big brother’ Longmorn. Now owned by Billy Walker and associates, BenRiach has become a by-word for a plethora of varying and inventive releases, including heavily-peated Speyside whisky and even a triple-distilled Speysider.


Scotland most southerly distillery is also the only distillery in Scotland to have had two periods of Irish ownership, first with Belfast-based Dunville & Co and now with Raymond Armstrong. If you want to learn how to make whisky, enrol for the Bladnoch whisky school


The visitor centre reception room offers one of the most spectacular views over Loch Indaal. Perfect place to explore the aromatic profile
of that flowery, peaty and briny Ileach. Next to the distillery, the swimming-pool has been erected in an old warehouse. A whiff of community life.


Visitors to Diageo’s modern Clynelish distillery in Sutherland should take the tour option to see its predecessor, the ‘original’ Clynelish, subsequently renamed Brora. This has become a cult ‘lost’ single malt and the distillery is a little stone-built gem, with its silent pair of stills poignantly in situ.


2011 is a key word for this resurrected distillery with the release of Laddie 10, the first 100 per cent distilled spirit after the reopening of the distillery. Bruichladdich has its own bottling plant and the biggest numbers of employees (around 50). Aquamarine is the colour. Enjoy it inside and outside.


It takes a bit of time and a good driver to reach “Bunna” but it is worth the effort. If the dull grey walls are not inviting, the dram is... and the stunning view over the Paps of Jura as well as Mull in the distance. Watch out for the odd otter playing in the water... and for the obnoxious midges.

Caol Ila

A stunning view from the still house on the Paps of Jura which can be magical if you are lucky enough to catch a rainbow over the sound of Islay. Huge bold stills produce a complex oily new make. The distillery is currently being refurbished.


Despite its huge success, Cardhu is often unfairly overlooked as a quality single malt by certain malthounds, partly as it forms the centrepiece of practically every bottle of Johnnie Walker. But expect to be dazzled by just how picturesque the spiritual home of this iconic, world-beating blend actually is.


Nestled away from prying eyes down in Ballindalloch, Cragganmore’s brilliance lies partly in the fact that the distillery still relies on its cast iron outdoor wormtubs, giving the spirit its wonderfully weighty character. A classic case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ if ever there was one.


Hidden away on a farm in Fife, and only to be visited by prior arrangement. A little gem of a distillery, run with passion by the Cuthbert family, as and when their agricultural commitments permit. One pair of stills, good casks, no hurry to get the whisky to market. Ideal!


The stillhouse is unique in that it comprises four pairs of wash/spirit couplings. The former have flat tops and vertical condensers outside while latter have cold-water jackets for reflux and horizontal condensers, again outside. Unconventional?Absolutely, but it adds to the Dalmore mystique and keeps those auction prices sky-high.


Located inside a massive old cotton mill which once employed 1,200 people, this Highland distillery is (strangely) not frequently visited by the whisky hound, yet it ticks the boxes for a number of reasons - its green credentials, its bodega-style warehouses - and the secret gin plant.


Size most definitely isn’t everything and despite its relatively diminutive stature, Edradour can lay claim to receiving over 100,000 visitors a year. Independently owned for the past 15 years by the Signatory group the character of the spirit produced here has been significantly enhanced by several differing wood finishes.


William Grant’s Girvan complex retains a very low profile, yet actually contains a multitude of treasures for the aficionado. A grain distillery sits alongside Ailsa Bay, one of the biggest malt distilleries in Scotland in terms of capacity, while the
bijou Hendricks gin distillery is a quirky delight.


A handsome Aberdeenshire distillery that exudes tradition, boasts fine visitor facilities, and is finally seeing the profile of its classic, sherried malts raised after too many years playing second fiddle to lesser brands. Now in the same energetic ownership as BenRiach, and benefitting from an expansionist release policy.


The Grant family have exhibited a fiercely independent spirit, since purchasing Glenfarclas 175 years ago and the current incumbents, father and son John and George Grant show no signs of easing off yet. The fantastic Family Cask Series and direct fired stills, make this a must see when visiting Speyside.


Situated in Dufftown, Glenfiddich is one of the most visited distilleries in Scotland, and deservedly so. For one thing standard tour admission is free, and despite the numbers of people taking advantage of this, tours are frequent and well-organised. Excellent restaurant facilities and some of the classiest lavatories
in Scotland!


Made a welcome and somewhat unexpected return from its 20 year-plus slumber in 2008, and is now working hard to make up for lost time. Releases of pre-closure stock have shown that this distillery certainly deserved to live. Tours are available and you can even buy your own ‘octave’ cask.


One of the most beautifully situated distilleries in Scotland because its footprint has been constrained by its location in a linn-topped glen where you can sample a dram as you watch the waters cascade into the pool below. Not that much has changed here over the years.

Glen Grant

Please allow enough time to visit the distillery, enjoy an “Illy” coffee in the tea-room and stroll along in the beautiful garden designed by Major Grant. You will identify the floral and light character of the dram while admiring the majestic trees and breathing in the subtle fragrance of the roses. Absolutely enchanting.


Convenient for Edinburgh, Glenkinchie offers a typically professional and well-informed Diageo distillery tour. Additionally, the former maltings now house the Museum of Malt Whisky Production, which boats a fascinating range of distilling plant and memorabilia. Don’t miss the splendid scale model distillery built for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition!


A trip to Speyside wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the most iconic distillery in the region. The heritage on display at The Glenlivet is awe-inspiring, as is the brand new still house. Stick around and you might be lucky to get a crafty dram from the Sma’ Still too.


Scotland’s favourite malt is produced in the tallest stills in Scotland (Bunnahabhain might disagree) at just over 5m, based on a London gin-still design. The distillery fills its casks twice only, matures everything on site and owns woodlands in the Ozark mountains to maintain the best possible wood quality.


Fancy a Munro and a malt?Hillwalkers can bag Ben Chonzie
(931m/3056ft), and take a circular route down past Loch Turret to the distillery for some refreshment and a recharge. The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret is also well worth experiencing.

Highland Park

One of the world’s great, individualistic single malts by any standards, and a ‘five-star’ distillery experience to match the dram. Traditional floor maltings using local Orkney peat, a first rate visitor centre and the manifold delights of the Orkney Islands all around. Scotland’s northernmost distillery and undoubtedly worth the pilgrimage.


The hub of a fragile community in the remote island which inspired George Orwell, Isle of Jura distillery has retained the legends and the memory of the celtic spirit. I especially like the cosy atmosphere of the shop. And always gape at the palm trees on the opposite hotel grounds.


If the future of that farm-distillery was uncertain when it opened five years ago, today, it thrives with enthusiasm and energy. The last releases unveil an excellent dram which “tastes” older than its age. The shop is tantalising and the small restaurant Cullen skink soup an always welcome warmer up.


There is an air of history floating around. Maybe blown by the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle overlooking the bay. I swear I can hear a lonely piper when I sit by the pier, a glass of Lagavulin Distillers’Edition in hand. Georgie Crawford, the distillery manager, is a great character.


You must go and plant your flag on your square foot piece of land if you are a friend of Laphroaig. Pristine distillery, entertaining visit, captivating fragrances and friendly atmosphere. Don’t forget to buy Laphroaig cheese.


A lot of experimentation went on here as there were two distilleries in the past, the old one with worm tubs, the current one with shell and tube condensers so copper interaction within the two systems was studied closely. The spirit stills are also bigger than the wash – the result is a perfumed spirit much in demand with blenders.

Loch Lomond

Scotland’s most independent distillery in more ways than one. Family-owned and outwith the SWA ‘club’, Loch Lomond produces Scotland’s only Single Blended Scotch whisky, made solely of malt and grain whiskies distilled on site. It also produces Scotland’s only all-malt spirit from a Coffey still.


How does one of the most well known distilleries in the world become even more popular? Simple. Build a unique sensory experience at the visitors centre, where one can smell, taste and feel exactly what makes the place tick. Coupled with some of the smallest stills in Speyside, a visit is truly essential.


The beast of Dufftown and the first of Speyside whisky capitals’ legal sites. Although only open by appointment only, whisky fiends should make every effort to get in here. The still-house is a must-see -try and work out how its partial triple distillation makes one of the meatiest of single malts.


Such is the significance of this West Coast distillery that what once was a small fishing village has now grown into a thriving town, with the distillery sitting right at its heart. Often viewed as the quintessential starting point for a memorable Island distillery adventure.


The northernmost mainland distillery in Scotland, Pulteney’s setting in downtown Wick lacks glamour, but once inside, the experience is superb. Friendly staff, a bottle-your-own from the cask option, and a spirit still with no real head and swan neck, allegedly sawn down to size to fit the stillhouse!


Productive from 2009, not open to the public, but worth seeing in order to glimpse the future of Scotch whisky. The non-traditional distillery architecture may not be to everyone’s taste, but Roseisle is large, environmentally super-efficient, stylistically versatile, and vital to the Johnnie Walker blend’s global dominance.


A distillery by a graveyard covered with the famous angels’ shares black fungus is quite an unusual sight but so atmospheric. The distillery is not opened to visitors but you can walk along the burn and capture the essence of that “Laird of Speyside”. Don’t forget to take a dram on your ride.

Royal Lochnagar

When one’s nearest neighbours happen to go by the name ‘Windsor’, you know you’re in esteemed company and the Royal Lochnagar distillery has long since played host to visiting royalty on their
way to Balmoral. A distillery of beauty and tradition.


Fated always to be described as ‘Orkney’s second distillery,’ Scapa has gone from part-time status to a revitalised whisky-making enterprise in recent years, and its single malt is deservedly gaining a higher profile. Don’t go to Highland Park without getting a glimpse inside Scapa.


Up there among the classic distilleries of Scotland for its heritage, idiosyncratic way of making whisky and the sheer quality of its output. Springbank operates floor maltings at one end of the process and bottles on site at the other. A rare Campbeltown survivor and still in family ownership.


The oldest licensed distillery in The Highlands and, arguably the most picturesque, Strathisla is everything you would hope a traditional distilling operation would look like. The waterwheel and original wooden-roofed still house are highlights, alongside the homage to Chivas Regal, in which Strathisla is the prominently featured malt.


Worth it alone simply for the memorable trip to Skye. More stillhouse idiosyncracies here with u-bends in the wash still lyne arms and purifier pipes which actually help to produce a heavier spirit thanks to the external wooden worm tubs. Weird, but it works.


Where’s the mashtun? There ain’t one. Instead Teaninich utilises more efficient brewing industry technology by employing a filter press which passes the mash through a number of cloth plates to extract the draff and leave the wort. Repeat three times and you’re ready to ferment.


One of Scotland’s least ‘pretty’ distilleries, certainly don’t expect an Edradour. But the wild, Inverness-shire setting is superb, Tomatin remains a true distilling ‘community’ and the welcome there is warm. Sadly the stillhouse is no longer crammed with 23 stills, as it was back in the 1970s.

South Africa


Situated in a micro-brewery in the Pretoria suburb of Silverton, Drayman’s is the first - and so far only - High Veldt whisky distillery and at 1,219 metres above sea level might be the highest in the world. Moritz Kallmeyer uses hand-built stills, a solera system and French oak wine barrels to craft his whiskies.

James Sedgwick Distillery

Home to one of South Africa’s great success stories, Bain’s grain whisky, Sedgwick is a slice of whisky heaven nestled in the African countryside. Master distiller Andy Watts is only the sixth manager in the distillery’s 125 year history. Under his watchful eye the production facilities were recently upgraded and a new tasting room was created.



Part of Beam Global’s empire, the Distilerio Molino del Arco, run by Distilerias Y Crianza del Whisky is something of an everyman distillery. The site, situated near the town of Segovia, is made up of a single malt and grain distilleries, maltings, blending rooms, vodka and gin distilling, a bottling plant and a packaging operation.



Swedish oak, alderwood, juniper and spruce twigs as part of experimenting with whisky, what’s not to like about this distillery. Mackmyra has captured the whisky cognoscenti with its clean spirit and Swedish take on whisky. Built in a landmark declared area, a trip to see what’s going on is recommended.



Join the million plus visitors a year who make the pilgrimage to this neo-Classical visitor centre and Taiwan’s only single malt distillery. The recipe for classic Kavalan is complex and contains different types of casks-fresh Bourbon, fresh sherry and refill casks rendering the spirit a multilayer of fruity and floral notes.


Brown-Forman Cooperage

A rare close-up look at the production of whisky barrels at one of the few cooperages open for tours. You’ll feel the heat as gas fires char the inside of each barrel and get some sawdust in your hair. Tours must be arranged through Mint Julep Tours in Louisville.

Buffalo Trace

Great historical tours here, along with a beautiful setting on the banks of the Kentucky River. Visit in mid-October as the leaves turn crimson and orange, and bring your camera. You might even meet legendary distiller Elmer T. Lee on his weekly visit to pick casks for the Bourbon that carries his name.

Charbay Winery & Distillery

Napa Valley’s Karakasevic family has been distilling spirits for 13 generations, and distills a unique whiskey using fully-brewed beer, hops and all. You can see how they make it and taste their wines, but California law bans them from offering samples of their whiskies at the Still House Shop. Still (pun intended), a great way to break up a Napa Valley cork-dork trip!

Four Roses

The best distilleries are off the beaten track, and reaching the end of Bonds Mill Road reveals a unique Mission-style distillery that will please both whiskey and architecture fans. However, you won’t see the warehouses here…they’re about 90 minutes away near Bardstown. Good tour and special bottlings available.

George Dickel

Dickel lives in the shadow of Jack Daniel’s fame, but the little distillery in Cascade Hollow has a unique charm all its own, along with whisky (yes, they use the Scottish spelling) that doesn’t need to live in the shadows of others. Southern hospitality is the mantra here, with free tours and a relaxed atmosphere.

Heaven Hill

The barrel-shaped tasting room is the highlight here, along with a great lesson on the history of Bourbon. You won’t see the stills, but look across the road and you’ll see the ruins of the Heaven Hill Distillery left after the 1996 fire. Heritage Center shop has exclusive bottles available.

Jack Daniel

Jack fans treat Lynchburg with the same reverence that Elvis fans treat Graceland. Make the pilgrimage at least once, ask for extra sauce on your barbecue, and don’t ask what “grits” are at breakfast. The Distillery’s White Rabbit Bottle Shop is the only place in dry Moore County where you can actually buy a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.

Koval Distillery

Organic whiskey...check. Kosher whiskey...check. Single-grain whiskies from grains like spelt, millet, and oats, as well as corn, rye, barley and wheat... check. First legal distillery in Chicago since Prohibition, with a unique style that will appeal to craft distilling fans.

Maker’s Mark

Hard to get to, but well worth the visit. Beautiful surroundings and an excellent tour end with the opportunity to dip your own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the traditional red wax. Visit in December for unique holiday tours.

Stillhouse Distillery

Chuck Miller claims the title of ‘America’s First Craft Distiller’. He’s been making moonshine legally for 25 years using his grandfather’s bootleg corn whiskey recipe, and you’ll see the entire process from his corn field to the bottling hall. Look for the old ‘shine truck’ with the bullet holes in the windshield.

Woodford Reserve

Possibly the most picturesque distillery in the U.S. You’ll pass thoroughbred horse farms on the country road leading to the distillery, and the setting is idyllic. 130 year old stone rickhouses and a classic, yet accessible distillery building make this a must-see for any whisky lover.

US Craft Distilleries

Anchor Brewers & Distillers

Fritz Maytag is a godfather of the American craft distilling movement. This distillery in the middle of San Francisco is where it all began. He’s blazed a trail into the future by reaching into the past for lost distilling traditions. Whiskey made with 100 per cent malted rye and a junipero are just a few notable creations.

Clear Creek Distillery

Oregon has become a craft distilling capital, but the gorgeous Clear Creek Distillery, established 1985, was around long before the rest. Pioneering owner Steve McCarthy started distilling to make use of fruit from his family’s orchards. Now,
in addition to making an unconventional peated American malt, he produces grappa, fruit brandies and liqueurs.

Corsair Artisan Distillery

This distillery in Bowling Green, Kentucky sits in the shadow of giants, but Darek Bell’s business is nevertheless attention-getting. He coined the term “alt whiskey,” and wrote a book of the same name. His experiments with different grain distillations and techniques have yielded a gallery of intriguing whiskies.

George Washington Distillery

In 1797, ex-president George Washington built a distillery on his Mount Vernon estate. He made rye and brandy. In 2006, the Distilled Spirits Council of the US unveiled a reconstruction of that distillery with a working still on the original site. Now there’s a way to witness the earliest roots of the American whiskey tradition.

High West Distillery & Saloon

No ski trip to Utah is complete without a visit to this singular ski-in gastro-distillery. David Perkins makes a variety of whiskeys, and his Rocky Mountain facility is equipped with a 250 gallon copper pot still. The best way to enjoy them is over a hearty dinner at the distillery’s cosy, rustic Old West-styled saloon.

Privateer Rum Distillery

Once upon a time, Massachusetts had major ports and countless rum distilleries. Andrew Cabot, a sixth generation descendent of a pioneer and rum distiller, is reviving that tradition in a modest facility in the seaside town of Ipswich. There’s a heavy measure of history in his light, vaguely savory rum.

Saint George Spirits

The San Francisco skyline looks especially breathtaking when you behold it from the tasting room at this sleek distillery in a repurposed 65,000 square foot Navy hangar. Lance Winter’s distinctive single malt whiskey boasts pronounced chocolate notes. True to California sensibility, fresh, local ingredients are essential, and Winters doesn’t shy from wacky experimentation.

Stanahan’s Colorado Whiskey Distillery

Colorado was once the domain of cowboys and miners. That rich legacy of Americana inspired Jess Graber to make whiskey and age it in new charred American barrels in Denver, the “mile-high” city. He collaborated with local craft distillers and in March 2004, he started distilling. In 2009, he relocated to a larger space.

Templeton Rye

Located in a small town in Iowa, this is a barebones distillery, but it’s a far superior facility to the basement where owner Scott Bush’s great-grandfather used to make rye for Al Capone during Prohibition. The main room doubles as a photo gallery, featuring pictures of locals who lived through Prohibition and have stories to prove it.

Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery

With a gaze trained on local grains, this distillery is located in a landmark gristmill in New York’s bucolic Hudson Valley. It opened in 2001 and was the first in the state to legally produce whiskey since Prohibition. For a modern twist, they employ sonic maturation, a process that uses bass vibrations to affect the wood.



The main draw here is the unique still, invented exclusively by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the ground-breaking Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. The mix of copper pot and column still creates a spirit of high strength and delicate purity. The company was launched in 2000. Whisky had been distilled in Wales for hundreds of years, but the industry died out in 1894, until now.
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