11 American Distillery Tours You Don't Want to Miss

Find new flavors by visiting these incredible distilleries from sea to shining sea.

December 10, 2019
By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Fred Minnick

Photo By: Ed Rode

Photo By: John Lair

Photo By: Magnus Lindqvist

Photo By: ASW Whiskey Exchange

Photo By: Black Dirt Distillery

Photo By: High West Distillery

What Makes a Great American Distillery?

Rugged, reliable and rebellious. American spirits carry a brash quality that is as fiercely independent as their country of origin. In the US, timeless classics like Kentucky bourbons and Tennessee whiskeys that began in the frontier era are slowly making room for newcomers with their own defiant twists on brandy, rum and vodka. This list of spirit makers merges the best of those two worlds — with bonus points for epic backdrops and unique tour features.

Kō Hana Rum, Hawaii

The rum makers at Hawaii's Kō Hana Rum treat sugar cane the way wine makers treat grapes. Their pure sugar cane rum made with native Hawaiian plants stands in stark contrast to most global rums that are made with molasses. Kō Hana's tasting tour begins with a glass of fresh cane juice and wanders through plots of sugar cane before ascending a platform with views of the Waianae Mountains and Pearl Harbor. The distillery is open seven days a week.

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Jack Daniel's, Tennessee

America's most famous distillery remains a can't-miss for whiskey fanatics. Each year, around 280,000 people make the trek to Lynchburg, Tennessee to visit the iconic barrelhouse at Jack Daniel's. Rest assured that, with that kind of traffic, the team members at Tennessee's most famous distillery have become masters at the art of the tour. Jack Daniel's offers four tours ranging from a brief history lesson to an exclusive tasting of spirits drawn from individual barrels.

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Maker's Mark, Kentucky

Settle in for a short tour of the Bluegrass State. Four hours north of Lynchburg, one of America's best-known bourbon brands serves up a gamut of tours in the tiny town of Loretto, Kentucky. At Maker's Mark, distillers are still refining a 170-year old recipe that changed forever when the company's founder swapped hot rye grains for a soft, sweet winter wheat. Distillery tours at Maker's Mark range from a general overview to in-depth cocktail crafting courses. And yes, you can dip the bottles.

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Bulleit Distilling Co., Kentucky

Bourbon fans searching for a glimpse into the future of spirit making need look no further than Bulleit Distilling Co. Bulleit's tours focus on tasting experiences and an interactive tour that explore the revival of Augustus Bulleit's high-rye whiskey recipe, thought lost for generations. The distillery is closed on Mondays.

Copper and Kings, Kentucky

Kentucky may be the bourbon capital of America, but that hasn't stopped the craft distillers at Copper and Kings from expanding on the state's under-the-radar brandy tradition. Spirit makers have been making brandy in the Bluegrass State since the 1700s, and Copper and Kings aims to leverage that legacy into a world-class brandy. Tours start in Louisville's Butchertown area and include a tour of the company's brandy maturation cellar or an introduction to absinthe.

American Spirit Whiskey, Georgia

Atlanta's American Spirit Whiskey is best known for its Charleston-born brand of un-aged whiskey. You might know this clear concotion by another name: moonshine. American Spirit serves up a smooth sipping variety of white whiskey that feels more akin to vodka than its relatives from Kentucky and Tennessee. Distillery tours run during public tasting hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Their whiskey exchange is open every day except Monday.

Westland Distillery, Washington

The nation's finest whiskey makers are no longer relegated to the South. Case in point: Seattle's Westland Distillery, an operation that's leading the charge to redefine what consumers think of American single malt whiskey. Most identify single malt whiskey with its most storied form, scotch. However, distillers like Westland are creating a spirit that has a unique, American character all its own using local ingredients and a variety of barrels. You can see the distillation process and taste the fruits of that labor Wednesday through Saturday.

Black Dirt Distillery, New York

You didn't think we'd leave the Northeast out of this, did you? New York's first micro-distillery, Black Dirt, was founded in 2012 and began winning awards almost immediately. Black Dirt Bourbon took home double gold at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and the company's Apple Jack brandy is now a hot commodity throughout the region. Distillery tours depart from the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery tasting room and include round trip transportation, a tasting and keeper glass.

High West Distillery, Utah

This Utah-based distillery is set in one of the most dramatic backdrops you'll find in the States — a 3,500-acre cattle ranch. Here, the craftsmen at High West blend and reimagine whiskey from other distilleries. It's an approach to spirit making that descends from a Scottish tradition of recipe trading among distillers, and the result is a breathtaking tasting room with some of the most unique flavors in the nation. Distillery tours and tastings at High West's Park City saloon are available Wednesday through Sunday.

Old Dominick Distillery, Tennessee

American vodka is enjoying a moment in the sun thanks to megapopular brands like Deep Eddy and Tito's. Those Texas-based companies do not offer distillery tours. However, Memphis-based Old Dominick Distillery does. Memphis sits on top of a 40 million- year-old aquifer that supplies the city with some of the cleanest water in the world. Clean water makes great vodka, and Old Dominick offers an inside look at the distillation process along with rooftop views of Mississippi River sunsets.

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Celebration Distillation, Louisiana

Rum may not be native to New Orleans, but the city's infamous love affair with boozy concoctions like hurricanes and hand grenades has made the Crescent City a hotspot of rum culture. Craft distillery Celebration Distillation opened in 1995, and it's been schooling spirit lovers on the bayou's love affair with the sweet drink ever since. Some tours come complete with shuttle service to and from the French Quarter, making this distillery one of the best places in America to see the spirit making process from start to finish.

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