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Great Non-Factory Craft Whisky

Written by Thad, Monday, June 15th, 2015 in Alcohol Culture, Culture

intro-bgAs a new book reveals there is a long history to one of craft distillers’ dirty secrets – many of them are just mass-produced “industrial” whisky. While this is perfectly good whisky, it is being dressed-up (and marked up) as an artisanal product with history, integrity, and even equipment to sell it. But, with a wary eye and little research, you can find distillers who are dedicated enough to produce their own whisky.  Here are a few of them:

Kings County Distillery, Brooklyn, New York, NY

Founded in 2010, they currently have a range of three products: Moonshine (aka unaged whisky), Bourbon (age 12+ months), and Chocolate Whisky (a cocoa infusion of their moonshine using Mast Brothers Chocolate). They distill seven days a week and offer tours and tastings on Saturdays.

Catoctin Creek Distillery, Purcellville, VA

Scott and Becky at Catoctin produce some of the nation’s best organic and kosher spirits, including Mosby’s Spirit, an organic, award-winning white whisky, and several rye whiskies. They also distill gin, brandy, and fruit brandies. If you really want to guarantee the provenance of your whisky, they offer cask sales (with custom bottling), but be warned that a 30 gallon cask will give you between 150 and 175 bottles, depending on proof. They distill almost every day, give tours Tuesday thru Sunday, and have bottling workshops regularly.

Copper Fox Distillery, Sperryville, VA

Rick Wasmund at Copper Fox does things his own way. He contracts with a farmer in Virginia’s Northern Neck to grow barley and rye. He learned to hand malt barley at Bowmore Distillery in Scotland and now Copper Fox is the only North American distillery that hand malts barley. They use fruitwoods – apple and cherry – to smoke their malts and produce two very interesting whiskies: a Single Malt and a Rye. They give tours all week and generally have some part of the process happening at all times.

Balcones Distillery, Waco, TX

Balcones is serious about authenticity. They pledge that 100% of their whisky is mashed, fermented, and distilled at their distillery. Beyond that, they make unique and interesting whiskies using unique ingredients like heirloom blue corn, Texas scrub oak, Texas wildflower honey, and Mission figs. They offer tours by appointment.

Craft distilleries are popping up across the country, but too many of them are being run by businesspeople who see a market opportunity. They use an old building and some perfectly patinated copper to build a story for mass-produced spirit that is often also bottled off-site. So, whether whisky, gin, or vodka is your drink, there are many distilleries out there that are the realization of a distiller’s dream and who are doing the work in-house to make unique spirits. They are always open (Hint: be wary of places where tours never show mashing, fermenting, or distilling happening) and willing to talk about their unique take on their products (Hint: unique and different products do not fit into mass-production easily). So, do the research, take a couple of tours, and raise a glass in support of your local distillery!

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