Meet the Boutique Southern Distilleries You Need to Know About
The South is home to some of the best distilleries in the world, with legendary brands like Jack Daniels, Maker's Mark, and Jim Beam poured into glasses in nearly every bar in America and beyond. But lately, a new crop of booze makers are making a name for themselves. These micro-distilleries in every corner of the South are honoring the traditions of the past while blazing exciting new trails of their own. Sure, you’ll find plenty of great booze being made in Tennessee and Kentucky, but you’ll also find incredible spirits crafted in places like Maryland, Florida, and Texas.
Get ready to take a tour of the South’s best craft distilleries. We’ll explore plenty of the high-quality bourbon that put Southern spirits on the map, but also vodka, moonshine, gin, rum, non-alcoholic spirits, and even Vietnamese rice liquor. These are the boutique Southern distilleries you need to know about.
H. Clark Distillery
Thompson's Station, Tennessee
Heath Clark first experimented with making gin in college, but as passionate as he was about spirits, he chose to pursue a career as an attorney. Today, he has his cake and eats it, too, running his law office in a room tucked away inside H. Clark Distillery. All their spirits are hand-crafted with care in small batches. Although they do produce whiskeys, they are best known for their high-quality gins.
Toast Distillers is best known for the ultra-premium vodka, Toast. Made from corn and coconut water, their vodka is distilled six times to be smooth enough to savor straight without the need for mixers. The distillery was founded by Miami restauranteur Dieuveny “DJ” Jean Louis. After surviving the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Louis vowed to find ways to live life to the fullest: this includes using his spirits brand to support the efforts of first responders in a variety of locations and circumstances. Along with Toast vodka, the company also produces canned hard seltzers, rum, gin, and hand sanitizer.
Yuri Kato founded Fruitland Augusta after a successful career in the spirits industry led her to author a book on Japanese cocktails and consult with whiskey brands in Tennesee, among other achievements. When it came time to launch her own label, she was inspired by the idea of creating a vodka celebrating the great Georgia peach. Years of researching Georgia peach culture led her to Augusta, where a Belgian horticulturist and nursery owner named Prosper Julius Alphonso Berckmans put the Georgia peach on the map in the late 1800s. His nursery, Fruitland Nurseries, is now the site of none other than Augusta National Golf Course. Kato's Fruitland Augusta Georgia Peach Vodka and Fruitland Augusta Georgia Peach Tea Vodka proudly carry Berkmans's image on every bottle. Both are made with sweet, delicious, Georgia peaches.
Kentucky is known for producing incredible booze, but Jephta Creek manages to stand out, in part, by raising the grain, corn, and fruits that go into their liquor on their own land. It's a tradition of farming that dates back to the 1700s for this family-owned brand Joyce Nethery, uses her background in chemistry and farming as owner and master distiller, while her co-owner and daughter, Autumn Nethery focuses on marketing. Together they produce natural bourbon, vodkas, and moonshine that honor the land it came from.
New Orleans, Louisiana
There is perhaps no spirit that conjures the essence of New Orleans like absinthe, so it's fitting that it would be part of the lineup at Atelier Vie. In addition to Absinthe, they also produce whiskey, rum gin, brandy, and vodka. Owner Jedd Hass is an artist and musician and his creative spirit influences everything from the label design to the eclectic lineup. He says their recipe for the Toulouse Red Sazerac has been lauded as, the best sazerac ever," by many bartenders.
Burnt Church Distillery
Burnt Church Distillery challenges your notion of what a distillery can be, producing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic spirit lines. Its non-alcoholic brand, Amethyst, includes inspired creations like Blueberry Ginger Mint and Lemon Cucumber Serrano which are infused with fruits and botanicals, proving that a cocktail doesn't have to contain alcohol to be refreshing and delicious. On the alcoholic side, the lineup includes whiskeys, iced coffee-flavored moonshine, and a handcrafted vodka.
Black Draft Distillery
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Black Draft Distillery is the first licensed grain to glass distillery to operate in Martinsburg, West Virginia since the days of prohibition. They pride themselves in hand-crafting their liquor by hand, using natural elements. They are located in the Shenandoah Valley, and the water from the area is blessed with the same type of limestone aquifers that helped put Kentucky whiskey on the map. They produce bourbon, vodka, and a range of inventive moonshines.
SuTi Craft Distillery
Fort Worth, Texas
If you don't think rice liquor when you think Texas, it's time to think again. Suti Craft Distillery is the first distillery in Texas to specialize in authentic Vietnamese rice liquor. Everything that goes into your glass is produced on-site from rice raised in the Texas and Louisiana sun. Owners Suy Dinh and Tien Ngo emigrated to Texas from Vietnam and are proud to be the first to introduce their fellow Texans to a spirit that was so popular in their home country. The spirit can be sipped alone or used in a cocktail.
Founded in 2010 by friends Austin Evans and Richard Patrick, Cathead Distillery is the first legal distillery in Mississipi. They produce several varieties of vodka, gin, bourbon, and a unique chicory liquor. Each bottle features the words, "Support Live Music," a credo the owners take seriously as devoted blues fans. A portion of the brand's proceeds benefits charities including the Southern Foodways Alliance and the New Orleans Blues Society, among other organizations. In 2020, they were honored to be named a semifinalist for outstanding wine, spirits, or beer producer, by the James Beard Foundation.
Brough Brothers is owned by brothers Victor, Christian, and Bryson Yarbrough. The drawings on the Brough Brother's bottles depict the rich culture of Kentucky, with nods to boxing, horse racing, basketball, and of course, the brothers themselves. Brough Brothers Whiskey is prized for a smoothness derived from a special filtration process, which makes it perfect for sipping. The brothers pride themselves on crafting their spirits with love, and it definitely shows in the glass.
Rams and Parrots
Partners Rodney Dotson, William Jennings the Third, Reggie Jones, and Jonathan Ortiz are creating a buzz with their sweet, smooth, corn whiskey at Rams and Parrots. The excitement was so great that the brand sold out the first day it was released to a local liquor store in 2019. Luckily, they're always aging more, so you can get a chance to sample it yourself.
George Washington's Distillery
Many people don't know that in 1799, a distillery at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate was the largest in the country, producing a whopping 11,000 gallons of liquor. Today, a reproduction of the distillery produces small batches of whiskey, brandy, and rum right there at Mount Vernon utilizing 18th-century techniques. The estate is also the site of a working grist mill where the grains are ground for George Washington's Whiskey.
Big Machine Distillery
The team behind Big Machine Distillery has never been afraid to spread their wings, operating tasting rooms out of Nashville, Berry Hill, and Linnville. Best known for its award-winning 25-times distilled, 3-times platinum filtered, Big Machine Vodka, the distillery also produces hand sanitizer. Beginning in April 2021, a line of vodka juice pouches will also hit grocery stores. The product will be like Capri Sun for the grownup crowd, perfect for boat rides and camping trips.
Fresh Bourbon Distilling Company
Husband and wife team, Sean and Tia Edwards, have officially been recognized by the state of Kentucky as the first African Americans to make Kentucky bourbon who were not slaves. They created Fresh Bourbon to be accessible, both for those who want to savor their liquor on its own and those who prefer it mixed in a cocktail. Their first batch of bourbon is currently in production and pre-orders will ship this year.
Daufuskie Island Rum Company
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
It's hard to think of a more beautiful place for a distillery than South Carolina's Daufuskie Island. Just a short ferry ride from Hilton Head, it's the kind of place with views so beautiful you never want to leave. It's the perfect setting for Daufuskie Island Rum Company. The booze here is 100-percent American-produced and supplied, right down to the ingredients and equipment. Don't be deceived by the name, in addition to a lineup of premium rums, they also produce vodka and bourbon.
Virginia Whiskey Company
Single malt U.S. whiskeys are having a moment and there's perhaps nowhere the reason for this is more evident than at Virginia Whiskey Company. A mere glance at the elegant bottle suggests you are about to sip something special, and the depth of dimension of the whiskey doesn't disappoint. Produced in the rugged heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the whiskey combines old-world traditions with casks aged in Virginia's climate to craft a spirit as unique as its setting.