The South’s Best Distilleries
Take a trip to one of these Southern distilleries for a behind-the-scenes look at a spirited tradition
Rock Town (Little Rock, Arkansas)
The Natural State’s first craft distillery uses only Arkansas-grown grains to refine award-winning Bourbon Whiskeys like Single Barrel Reserve and Rock Town Straight. Sample these—and other spirits—in the welcoming downtown Little Rock facility or join a “Bottling Party” where libation-loving volunteers can lend a hand while drinking specialty cocktails.
1216 East 6th Street; rocktowndistillery.com
Willett (Bardstown, Kentucky)
This premium distillery, family owned and operated since 1936, is nestled outside quaint Bardstown—the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” The property boasts a restored distillery and a new visitors center and tasting room, where Willett offers sips of rare-release Single Barrel Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys.
1869 Loretto Road; kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com
Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)
Still bottled using a recipe more than 200 years old, this international bestseller continues to be a bar staple by virtue of its light caramel and woodsy char notes. The distillery and American Stillhouse visitors center receives more than a half-million guests every year to enjoy a guided tour of the production process. The more extensive “Behind the Beam” tour includes meeting master distiller Fred Noe (a seventh-generation Bean family member), a bourbon-themed meal at the Knob Creek House, and a commemorative etched bottle.
526 Happy Hollow Road; jimbeam.com
Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)
Like an amusement park for spirited adults, Buffalo Trace is the proud parent of 18 sip-worthy brands (read: Pappy Van Winkle, Old Charter, Sazerac Rye). Pick one of the four extensive—and complimentary—tours. The Trace Tour spotlights the bottle packaging process, while the more advanced Hard Hat Tour showcases fermentation and distillation, and includes a walk-through of the E.H. Taylor, Jr. microstill where award-winning special batches are crafted.
113 Great Buffalo Trace; buffalotracedistillery.com
Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)
With 60 years of experience, Jimmy Russell—Kentucky’s distinguished and longest-tenured active master distiller—oversees Wild Turkey’s iconic bourbon varieties. If you visit the distillery at the top of Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg to sip on its 81-proof Wild Turkey Bourbon, the Kentucky Spirit, or Russell's Reserve, you just might catch a glimpse of the legendary craftsman at work.
1417 Versailles Road; wildturkeybourbon.com
Stitzel-Weller Distillery (Shively, Kentucky)
Continuing a tradition established by his great-great-grandfather more than 150 years ago, Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr., and his family craft superior high-rye bourbons that are spicy yet smooth thanks to Kentucky limestone-filtered water and charred American oak barrels. Get a sample at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, just five miles from downtown Louisville along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
3896 Fitzgerald Road; bulleitexperience.com
Woodford Reserve (Versailles, Kentucky)
This superbly smooth, small-batch bourbon is crafted on Kentucky’s oldest distilling site. Woodford still uses copper pot stills and a triple distillation process. Learn about Woodford’s legendary history and flavor sources through the one-hour Distillery Tour, or take a closer look at crafting top-shelf spirits on the “Corn to Cork” tour.
7855 McCracken Pike; woodfordreserve.com
Bayou Rum (Lacassine, Louisiana)
This Cajun Country-crafted spirit is handmade “the Louisiana way,” which is shorthand for cane sugar being distilled in copper pot stills and resting in American oak barrels, using what Bayou Rum calls an “authentic ‘sugar house’ recipe.” Escape the Louisiana heat, no matter the season, at the new distillery and tasting room to sample a delicious rum—dark, citrus, silver, or spiced.
20909 Frontage Road; bayourum.com
Cathead Vodka (Jackson, Mississippi)
In 1966, Mississippi became the last state to repeal Prohibition, and 44 years later Cathead became the Magnolia State’s first legal distillery. It didn’t let the delay dampen any spirits. With a name derived from the Mississippi blues scene, Cathead distillery is ingrained in local music, and a portion of proceeds goes toward supporting musicians. Visit the relocated tasting room and distillery in the heart of downtown Jackson. As always, the Honeysuckle and Pecan-flavored vodkas continue to be crowd favorites.
422 South Farish Street; catheadvodka.com
Asheville Distilling (Asheville, North Carolina)
Formerly Troy and Sons, Troy Ball (known as Moonshine Mama) and her husband, Charlie, have been crafting whiskey and white lightnin’ since 2011, fitting in swimmingly with Asheville’s already established craft beer scene. Since North Carolina liquor laws prohibit distilleries from selling whiskey on-site, guests can’t purchase the Blonde Whiskey or Platinum American Moonshine at the distillery, but plenty of Asheville restaurants and bars serve the local favorite.
12 Old Charlotte Highway; ashevilledistilling.com
Top of the Hill Distillery (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
You’ll have to go to Carolina in more than your mind to visit this college-town distillery that doesn’t craft your run-of-the-mill spirits. It is the only fully local, USDA-certified organic distillery in the Southeast, and it produces the world’s first and only 100% organic wheat whiskey. We’ll drink to that! Try the Carolina Whiskey or Piedmont Gin, and savor the flavors.
505 West Franklin Street; topodistillery.com
High Wire (Charleston, South Carolina)
Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall went against the grain when they opened their new King Street distillery in 2013. Instead of sourcing bulk grain, their small-batch spirits incorporate more inventive granules, like Carolina Gold in New Southern Revival Brand Bourbon Whiskey and Tennessee sorghum in their deep amber Sorghum Whiskey. Stop by their bustling tasting room in the heart of the Holy City and see why Charlestonians are hung up on Hire Wire.
652 King Street; highwiredistilling.squarespace.com
Jack Rudy Cocktail Company (Charleston, South Carolina)
Mix things up with a tonic that can become the backbone of a custom cocktail. Created by mixologist Brooks Reitz and named after his great-grandfather, these small-batch concentrates delight with unique recipes for bitters, grenadines, and tonics—mixing subtle flavors to create artisanal twists on classic mixers. Even though they’re not spirits, they add an old-fashioned buzz to your drink of choice.
Firefly (Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina)
A game changer for timorous drinkers, Firefly flew onto the market with muscadine vodka, followed by its now famous sweet-tea vodka that tastes dangerously similar to the Mason jar staple. Visit the distillery on scenic Wadmalaw Island 30 miles south of Charleston.
6775 Bears Bluff Road; fireflyspirits.com
Ole Smoky (Gatlinburg, Tennessee)
Get your shine on at the first federally licensed moonshine distillery in eastern Tennessee. Master distiller Justin King still uses his family’s century-old recipe, along with more than 20 creative flavors like Lemon Drop, Apple Pie, and Hunch Punch Lightnin’. And it’s bottled in Mason jars, adding even more authentic proof to this darn good hooch.
903 Parkway; olesmoky.com
Prichard’s (Kelso, Tennessee)
Don’t worry—the bottle is supposed to look a little drunk. A 200-year-old bottle that master distiller Phil Prichard stumbled upon in an antiques shop while visiting England influenced this crooked-neck design. He reproduced the character-filled container for his artisanal rums and whiskeys that are distilled in an old schoolhouse in Kelso and in the newest Nashville location.
4105 Whites Creek Pike; prichardsdistillery.com
Jack Daniel’s (Lynchburg, Tennessee)
This iconic distiller is a jack of one trade: crafting an incredible whiskey. Its international top-selling Old No. 7 has legions of loyal consumers praising its smoothness thanks to the Lincoln County Process of charcoal-mellowing the spirit before maturation. Take a tour of hallowed ground for whiskey-making in Lynchburg, but heads up: It’s a dry county, so guests can look and purchase, but no sipping on-site.
182 Lynchburg Highway; jackdaniels.com
Corsair (Nashville, Tennessee)
This new kid on the whiskey block is a favorite of purveyors, winning more than 40 awards since it tapped the scene in 2010. Try the smooth Triple Smoke American malt whiskey when touring the distillery and tasting rooms in Nashville or Bowling Green (and don’t forget to ask about the Wry Moon ’shine!)
400 East Main Street #110; corsairdistillery.com
George Dickel (Tullahoma, Tennessee)
George Dickel handcrafted his first bottle of corn-based whiskey in 1870. Today, Dickel is the second-oldest whiskey made in Tennessee, and it is still meticulously crafted with the same ingredients and integrity as 146 years ago. Visit the revered distillery, tucked away in the Appalachian foothills of the Volunteer State, to watch workers barrel their historic hooch.
1950 Cascade Hollow Road; georgedickel.com
Tate & Company (Waco, Texas)
Master distiller Charles “Chip” Tate started a spirited new chapter from scratch in 2015. After converting an 11,000-square-foot old barn into a distillery from the ground up, Chip focuses on crafting Texas brandies using locally sourced ingredients. Stay tuned for corn and malt whiskeys, including what Tate describes as “several new styles of whisky,” in the spring of 2016.
7324 Steinbeck Bend Drive; tatedistillery.com