17 Independent Craft Distillers You Need To Know

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 did yesterday with Atsby vermouth. 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.

1. 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 and a number of small-batch whiskeys, including an un-aged product that actually tastes good. housespirits.com

2. St. George Spirits

Pioneering Northern California craft distillers St. George Sprits 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 rye. stgeorgespirits.com

3. Industry City

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. drinkicd.com

4. Bittermens Bitters and Spirits

New Orleans-based bitters company famous for a range of tinctures (grape fruit bitters, habanero shrub) and more experimental selections. They were once involved with Amor y Amargo, a tiny cocktail bar and bitters tasting room in New York City's East Village, where many of their products can still be found. Note: Though not craft distillers, we're including them here for their overall awesomeness. bittermens.com

5. Letherbee

This small batch distiller broke onto the Chicago scene last year 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 (more on that later this week). letherbee.com

6. Templeton Rye

Templeton Rye is a unique small-batch rye originally created by bootleggers during Prohibition — it's 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 as 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. templetonrye.com

7. 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. leopoldbros.com

8. Death's Door

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 vodka and gin company that has grown widely in acclaim over the years. deathsdoorspirits.com

9. 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. highwest.com

10. Hum

Hum is the brainchild of Chicago mixologist Adam Seger and made by infusing North Shore Distillery rum with four key botanicals: hibiscus, ginger, cardamom and kaffir lime. It's made to be mixed with tonic or soda, or to be sipped straight. The product has found some traction outside of the Windy City, and is available in several states and in London. humspirits.com

11. Brooklyn Gin

This super tiny 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. brooklyngin.com

12. Germain-Robin

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. craftdistillers.com

13. Corsair

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 their autumn favorite, Pumpkin Spice Moonshine. corsairartisan.com

14. Clear Creek

This nearly 30-year-old distillery earned its vaunted status with its European-style eaux de vie, especially a pear brandy that put Oregon's fruit and terroir to good use. Clear Creek now has a stellar lineup of eaux de vie, grappa and even a small batch single-malt whiskey that's in the Islay style, but totally Oregonian. clearcreekdistillery.com

15. Atelier Vie

Jedd Haas founded his New Orleans craft distillery to "address the need for a greater variety of locally produced distilled spirits." The result is Toulouse Red, which was just released in December to mark the anniversary of the end of Prohibition. The red absinthe is pot distilled with herbs and infused with additional herbs to create the lush red color — very unique for a product that tastes similar to traditional absinthe. ateliervie.com

16. Few

Evanston, Illinois is home of Few, an upstart craft distillery that incorporates 11 botanicals (including hops grown in the owner's backyard) into an award-winning gin. It's not a London-style gin, but one with more pepper and citrus than the trademark juniper. The company also makes a white whiskey, which owner Paul Hletko describes as clean. fewspirits.com

17. Balcones

An old welding shop has been transformed into Balcones, the producers of a range of Texas single-malt whisky. And the liquid is legit. Last December it defeated nine brands, including famous Scottish houses like the Balvenie and the Macallan, in a blind panel of British spirits experts. balconesdistilling.com

Do you have a favorite craft distiller you don't see on this list? Shout 'em out in the comments. We'll cover more masters of the small batch as Food Republic's Craft Spirits & Beer Week continues.