Small-batch, artisanal spirits have made a big splash on the cocktail scene. Most of the micro-distilleries that produce these flavorful pours offer onsite tastings, but quite a few now give tours. Here are 10 stellar micro-distilleries around the nation that not only offer tasty products but serve up offer fun tours with great stories behind each bottle.
Watershed Distillery (Columbus, OH)
This distillery starts the list off with a bang, literally. On the facility tour ($10), you’ll hear the history of the company and learn how it distills its vodka, bourbon, and two gins before trying your luck at Hammerschlagen, a game where contestants compete to be the first to drive a nail into a block of wood. Register online here for the one hour and 15 minute tour.
Great Lakes Distillery (Milwaukee, WI)
Another Midwest favorite, Great Lakes Distillery shows visitors how it produces its whiskey, rye whiskey, absinthe, brandy, vodkas, gin, rum, and seasonal pumpkin spirits on tours ($7) that end with a tasting of your choice of six of their products. Can’t wait until the end? Order a cocktail from the tasting room before the tour begins. Online reservations are recommended for the tours.
St. George Spirits (Alameda, CA)
Located in a converted airplane hangar, St. George Spirits offers two options: a basic tasting and what the distillery calls "advanced training." A basic tasting ($15) allows you to choose six samples from the distillery's three gins, absinthe, bourbon, single malt whiskey, rum, fruit brandies, fruit liqueurs, and coffee liqueur. For $5 more, the advanced training includes a tour to enhance the tasting.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey (Denver)
One of the few free tours out of the ones we love, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey gives you a basic overview of their products on their one-hour tour, followed by a whiskey tasting. If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth, sign up for the monthly VIP Top Shelf Tour instead. Although it’s a hefty $50, you’ll get special tastings of un-aged whiskey and of the limited release Snowflake series, plus a gift bag of specialty merchandise.
Thuthilltown Spirits (Gardener, NY)
You’ll get a little history and geography on a tour at Thuthilltown Spirits. That’s because the Hudson Valley distillery is located at the landmark Tuthilltown Gristmill, and the apples and grains used to produce their vodka and whiskeys respectively come from within a 10-mile radius. Book the $15 option online for a tour and tasting combo ($10 for tour only and $12 for tasting only).
Garrison Brothers Distillery (Hye, TX)
This distillery proudly boasts that its bourbons are “Texas born from Texas corn,” and for $10, Garrison Brothers Distillery will proudly show you how it’s done -- and give a sample of their limited release, of course. Unfortunately, you’ll pay double on Saturday ($20), but show up on a horse any day of the week, and the tour is free.
Woodinville Distillery (Woodinville, WA)
If you really want to see the small-batch concept in action, take the Woodinville Distillery tour ($5 for tasting). The distillery uses micro-barrels to put nearly three times more wood in contact with the whiskey than a standard barrel. If you've got a sweet tooth, don’t miss their maple syrup and honey, aged in those same barrels.
Asheville Distilling Company (Ashville, NC)
The tours here are free and run only 15-20 minutes, but you’ll learn a lot about Asheville Distilling Company’s moonshines and blonde whiskey in that time, including how owner Troy Ball searched for the perfect strain of heirloom corn for her moonshine recipe. Samples are available only after a tour.
Kings County Distillery (Brooklyn, NY)
Operating out of the 115-year-old Paymaster Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, this distillery is open for open for tours ($8) and tastings every Saturday afternoon. After sipping some moonshine, bourbon, and chocolate whiskey, check out the distillery’s history display, lightheartedly dubbed the "Boozeum."
Rock Town Distillery (Little Rock, AR)
Arkansas’ first legal distillery since Prohibition walks you through the entire process of making whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and gin from grain to glass. The tours, which are $7 for 30 minutes and followed by a tasting, are offered here seven days a week. Times vary from day to day, though, so check online for more information.
Bonus: Want to learn about rum? Privateer Rum Distillery in Ipswich, Maine is finalizing plans to offer tours beginning sometime later this month.