Exploring America's Whiskey Distilleries

First, the Big Ol' Boys.

Scroll down, or    for some of America's newest distillers.

Once upon a time there were many, many little whiskey distilleries in America.
Then along came National Prohibition in 1920.
It was supposed to last forever. It only lasted for 14 years, but that was enough.
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933 all of those brands were owned by just a handful of big spirits merchants. So were the distilleries themselves. The merchants began closing them down, and filling all those bottles with whiskey they were making in the few remaining plants. By the time we began to explore America's spirits in the mid-'90s, there were just fifteen operating distilleries, one in Virginia, one in Indiana, two in Tennessee, and all the rest of them in Kentucky. We've visited most of them; here they are:

 It all began with a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park...

And now for the New Kids on the Block.

"Why, you can't make likker! What'sa matter with you?
That's illegal! That's moonshinin'!  And yo're a-gonna git in trouble with the LAW!!"

In the last decade of the previous millennium a few brave pioneers began to question that idea. Obtaining licensing and financial backing that they were told would never be available for a small, startup distilling operation, they managed to break through the red tape and the political processes needed.

By the year 2000 there were 24 legally licensed craft/artisan distillers (whiskey and other spirits); by 2011 that number had grown to nearly 300. There is no way that we can, or would want to, visit every one of these. American Distilling Institute founder and president Bill Owens is already in the process of doing just that. When he's finished he intends to publish a book.

Good luck, Bill; by that time there'll be another two hundred new ones!

So here are just a few that we've visited, or plan to, because we feel they illustrate something important about how the fruits of America's new distillers relate to American history. These distilleries range from tiny operations where the only way you can purchase a bottle is onsite to fairly widely-known names whose products can be found in retail stores and often online. One requirement (which we did not have of the Big Boy distillers) is that they offer tours to the public.


By the way, you can find great (and usually more current) information about these brands and more at the WHISKEY ID website, http://whiskeyid.com . A great idea when you spot that rare dusty bottle on the shelf of a liquor store in a town you know darn well you'll never return to, so this is your only chance to buy it or them.

Looking for more about American Spirits?  Google  
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