Article featured image
It’s Craft Beer & Spirits Week at Food Republic, which has us taking a close look at the small producers of fine potables around the United States. We can’t write long about all of these producers. But we wanted to call out some of our favorites craft spirits makers — as decided on by our editors and regular spirits writers — for the next time you are sitting at the bar or standing in your neighborhood bottle shop in need of inspiration.

It’s Craft Beer & Spirits Week at Food Republic, which has us taking a close look at the small producers of fine potables. We can’t go long with all of these producers, like we previously did with Atsby vermouth and Tito’s Vodka. But we wanted to call out some of our favorite American craft spirits makers — as decided on by the Food Republic editors and regular spirits writers — for the next time you are sitting at the bar, or standing in your favorite neighborhood bottle shop, in need of some inspiration.

By Alia Akkam, Richard Martin and Matt Rodbard

Atelier Vie 
Jedd Haas founded his New Orleans craft distillery to “address the need for a greater variety of locally produced distilled spirits.” The company first earned notice with Toulouse Red, a red absinthe that is pot distilled with herbs and infused with additional herbs to create the lush red color. More recently, Atelier Vie earned a gold medal from the American Craft Distillers Association for its Euphrosine Gin #9.

Balcones Distilling
Whisky from Waco? Yup, and this fast-emerging brand’s range of single malts is attracting more and more fans as word spreads far beyond the Lone Star State. The company’s Texas Single Malt Whisky recently beat back even Scottish competitors to win Whisky Wizards’ 2014 World Whisky of the Year. Distiller Chip Tate has a hit on his hands, it seems.

Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits
San Diego’s Ballast Point started out brewing beer, but their efforts making spirits have attracted even more notice. Their colorful line includes Fugu Vodka, Old Grove Gin, Three Sheets Rum and a limited-edition single malt whiskey that won bronze in the American Craft Distillers Association’s 2014 craft spirits awards.

Bone Spirits
The Texas craft spirits scene is thriving (thanks, Tito’s Handmade Vodka) and this Smithville distillery attests to its creativity. Smiths, a triple-distilled vodka, is made from local grains and purified water; Moody June Gin is lush with hand-picked botanicals; and Fitch’s Goat Corn Whiskey and Moonshine celebrate fresh-milled corn.

Breckenridge Distillery
Breckenridge may be known as one of Colorado’s winter sport meccas, but this distillery is fast becoming an après-ski favorite. Visitors can get in on the action at the 4,000-square-foot space, watching staff mash, ferment and distill products like high-rye bourbon and vodka made from snowmelt water.

Brooklyn Gin
This small-batch producer makes a beautiful gin with hand-cracked juniper berries and fresh citrus peels, which allows for a distinct lavender finish. Though the name hints at an urban pedigree, the pot stills are located 50 miles north of New York City at the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery.

Cacao Prieto
Single-origin chocolate bars and pistachio and apricot bonbons are among the products made by Cacao Prieto. But the Red Hook, Brooklyn–based company from Daniel Prieto Preston, scion of a family who has farmed organic cacao in the Dominican Republic for more than a century, doubles as a distillery. There is Don Rafael Cacao rum and Don Estaban Cacao liqueur, but the star is Widow Jane Straight bourbon whiskey. Made with limestone-rich water from the Widow Jane mine in Rosendale, New York, it’s rife with spice and caramel.

Caledonia Spirits
Caledonia Spirits is found on the banks of the Lamoille River, in the charming farming town of Hardwick, Vermont. Here, founder and organic beekeeper Tom Hardie’s love for nectar spawned the birth of delicate spirits like Barr Hill Gin, made with raw natural honey, and Barr Hill Vodka — which integrates a cold fermented version. The not-so-boozy elderberry-honey cordial makes for a distinctive digestif.

CH Distillery
Opened last fall on Chicago’s burgeoning Randolph restaurant corridor, CH Distillery is a sort of gastro-pub with a pretty major spirits operation attached to it — you can see it right through the big glass dividing wall. The company is an ambitious upstart that already produces a high-quality vodka, two gin variations, limoncello, rum and now a bourbon, all available in sleek-looking bottles or mixed into cocktails at the restaurant. Given the frantic growth of CH’s line since we visited the distillery this past winter, we’re guessing that you’ll be hearing more about these spirits in the year ahead no matter where you live.

Charbay Distillery
This Napa Valley pioneer, run by the Karakasevic family, has been around since 1983 — alembic pot still brandy is how they first found their groove. They make everything from vodka flavored with tree-ripened fruits — the blood orange is a stunner — to rum made with Hawaiian sugarcane and Tahitian vanilla beans. There’s also a scene-stealing whiskey collection that cleverly embraces hops. Try the R5, distilled from Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA.

Steve McCarthy’s Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Oregon creates lively eau de vies.

Clear Creek Distillery
Steve McCarthy had an affinity for European spirits like Poire William eau de vie, and considering the bounty of fruit in his family’s orchard, he decided to open Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Oregon. Recently acquired by Hood River Distillers, Clear Creek is an ode to both fresh Oregonian fruit and Alsatian and Swiss distilling techniques that yield eau de vie in lively flavors like Douglas Fir, Mirabelle plum and a sold-out Framboise. Apple brandy and local Pinot Noir grappa are also part of the mix.

Copper Fox Distillery
Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky, with its honeyed and orange notes, is the star of this Sperryville-Virginia-based distillery which malts its own barley and flavors it with apple and cherry wood smoke. Other gems include a rye whiskey heavy on the smoked malt and a gin that incorporates ever-shifting botanicals from the distillery garden.

Corsair Distillery
Everybody knows that corn, rye, and wheat make some mighty fine whiskey. But at Corsair Artisan Distillery, they don’t limit themselves to just the common grains. Based in Nashville,  Corsair was started in 2007 by Darek Bell, along with his wife Amy Lee and childhood friend Andrew Webber. In addition to their regular production runs of award-winning liquors: gin, vanilla bean vodka, red absinthe, Corsair also takes advantage of their small batch stills to create experimental and seasonal concoctions like Citra Double IPA. That’s right: a whiskey made with hops usually found in beer.

Death’s Door Spirits
Twenty-two-square-mile Washington Island sits all lonely out there in the open waters of northern Lake Michigan. In 2005, the brothers and island residents Tom and Ken Koyen started growing organic winter wheat, which was originally intended for flour but ultimately formed the base of a vodka, gin and whiskey company that has a cult fan base, and which also gives back to local sustainability causes.

Delaware Phoenix Distillery
New York’s first absinthe distiller, Cheryl Lins, uses quality herbs and wormwood hand harvested by small family herbalists up in the Western Catskills. Beyond her Walton Waters absinthe, though, Lins also makes a slew of whiskies under the Delaware Phoenix name, including the eau-de-vie-like un-aged Rye Dog.

Few Spirits
The once-dry Chicago suburb of Evanston now flows with booze thanks to lawyer-turned-master distiller Paul Hletko of Few Spirits. Hletko has a way with small-batch spirits, like bourbons aged in charred oak barrels, spicy rye and a citrusy, whiskey-based American gin.

Germain-Robin Distillery
This Mendocino, California distillery is famous for producing one of the finest brandies in the world, with a limited production of 3,000 cases per year. They also make an absinthe that has been a personal project of assistant distiller Crispin Cain for years. Seek it out.

High West Distillery
High West is Utah’s first legal distillery to open since 1870, located in Park City some 7,000 feet above sea level. Whiskey is the name of the game and the pot still a nice selection of aged and un-aged products. Seek out the rye and double rye, as well as a product called Campfire — which is described as “the world’s only, and possibly first, blend of Scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys.” They also sell a 90-day barrel aged Manhattan, which is worth a trip to the distillery’s general store alone.

Hillrock Estate Distillery
When legendary master distiller Dave Pickerell (best known for his 14 years in Kentucky at Makers Mark) presides over your whiskey, you know it’s going to be good. At this Ancram, New York distillery, home to owner Jeff Baker’s family farm, Pickerell makes a rich Solera-aged bourbon finished off in 20-year-old Oloroso sherry casks. The ambitious Hudson Valley estate also grows its own grains — those rolling fields in the background are filled with barley — and malts on site.

House Spirits Distillery
Former brewer Christian Krogstad founded House Spirits in 2005, opening in Corvallis, Oregon before moving to the heart of what is now considered distillery row in Southeast Portland. Nearly a dozen sprits are available, including the award-winning Aviation Gin, Krogstad Aquavit, a Stumptown coffee liqueur and a number of small-batch whiskeys, including an un-aged product that actually tastes good.

The experimental Brooklyn-based Industry City Distillery makes their vodka with beet sugar. 

Industry City Distillery
Five friends, who also work together at design firm City Foundry, launched this experimental distillery in August 2012. It’s located in a desolate section of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which is hardly a hotbed for spirits production. But the “vodka” (by name only) the crew turns out is something special. It’s made from beet sugar, which offers more floral notes than your basic vodka.

Jack From Brooklyn
Jack Summers lost his production space in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook during the wrath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. But now the proprietor’s back, cranking out his only — and divine — specialty, hibiscus liqueur. An ode to the pervasive Caribbean drink, Sorel melds organic grain alcohol, pure cane sugar, Moroccan hibiscus, Brazilian clove and Indonesian nutmeg and cassia.

Kings County Distillery
Not only do they make a whiskey on the banks of the East River in Brooklyn, Kings County distillers Colin Spoelman and David Haskell wrote a guide to help others along their path, Guide To Urban Moonshining. A taste of their smooth-drinking bourbon suggests that they know of what they write, and a visit to their industrial distillery in Brooklyn’s rustic Navy Yard showcases a determination of spirit. Look for the medicinal bottles at a growing number of retailers carrying craft spirits.

Koval Distillery
The first distillery to open in Chicago since the mid-1800s, Koval launched in 2008 when founders Robert and Sonat Birnecker abandoned their academic careers in the name of historic Austrian distilling methods. Now they spend their days sourcing grains from local farmers, mashing and milling on the premises and making delightfully unusual offerings like single barrel whiskey from millet, rose hip liqueur and organic sunchoke brandy.

Leopold Brothers
The brothers Scott and Todd Leopold run this environmentally sustainable distillery in Denver, Colorado that has grown a cult following with Mile High tipplers and cocktail geeks around the country. Their Silver Tree American Small Batch Vodka is the highest ranked in the country, winning a gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco Spirits Competition. But what we’re really into is a range of fruit whiskies made with apple, peaches and blackberries.

Letherbee Distillers
This small batch distiller broke onto the Chicago scene in 2013 with an “original label gin” and a limited “autumnal” — a smart seasonal move meant to prolong gin’s usefulness into the chillier months (the duo behind the brand suggested swapping in an orange for the usual lime). Now, Letherbee’s also touting an absinth and even a malört, that unusual Swedish concoction that has a weird following in Chicago.

New York Distilling Company
Gin’s the thing at Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based New York Distilling Company, where co-founders Tom Potter and Allen Katz turn out their signature Dorothy Parker American, Perry’s Tot Navy Strength and Chief Gowanus New Netherland renditions. Anticipation is mounting, however, over the arrival of their forthcoming, in-the-midst-of-aging rye. Sample the spirits in the form of cocktails at the Shanty, their adjacent bar that doubles as one of the neighborhood’s most welcoming lairs.

North Shore Distillery
In Lake Bluff, a suburb of Chicago, Derek and Sonja Kassebaum make small-batch gins — the martini-perfect Distiller’s Gin No. 6 as well as the London dry style Distiller’s Gin No. 11 — and vodkas that include a vibrant chamomile-citrus version. There’s an aquavit and absinthe to boot, but the limited-edition releases are the most interesting, including such one-time-only finds as Ceylon Tea or Medjool Date gin.

Philadelphia Distilling
Pennsylvania’s first distillery since Prohibition, Philadelphia Distilling is best known for the flagship brand in its portfolio: Bluecoat, an American dry gin distilled with spicy, organic juniper berries. The company’s Vieux Carré absinthe Supérieure is popular, as are its bold XXX Shine corn whiskey and Penn 1681 Rye Vodka. But their most interesting creation yet is undoubtedly the Bay, their Chesapeake Bay spice-seasoned vodka that’s a compelling savory alternative to the surge of cloying cotton candy flavors on the market.

Ransom Spirits
Tad Seestedt started Ransom Spirits in 1997, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where some of the grains are grown on the farm and are milled, mashed and fermented in small batches. The distillery’s Old Tom Gin, a spot-on recreation of a circa-1800s recipe made in collaboration with David Wondrich, gets the most buzz, but there other treasures like a Gewurztraminer grappa and Henry DuYore’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey aged in French oak barrels.

St. George Spirits
Pioneering Northern California craft distillers St. George Spirits had already been in business 18 years when they launched their groundbreaking vodka, Hangar One. For the product that has taken home numerous awards, they source citrus and flowers from California growers. The company’s range of products also includes whiskey, eaux de vie and three styles of gin, including one made with

Templeton Rye in Iowa is spearheading the ongoing rye whiskey revolution.

Templeton Rye
Templeton Rye is a unique small-batch rye originally created by bootleggers during Prohibition — it was originally distilled in the center of Iowa and was snuck into Chicago on cattle cars. For fans of Boardwalk Empire, this is the stuff Al Capone serves at his brothel. In modern times, the recipe is much the same (made from an old farmhouse still), but with some marketing razzle dazzle and solid distribution (we’ve heard they are sitting on a lot of liquid), they’ve grown into a major player in the ever-growing rye game.

Read these stories from last year’s Craft Beer & Spirits Week on Food Republic: