American Spirit: A Coast-to-Coast Craft Distillery Crawl
St. Augustine Distillery
St. Augustine, Fla.
The facility, in a converted 1917 ice manufacturing plant, was designed and built by former Maker’s Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell and has a Prohibition-era feel. Groups gather in a museum to learn about the history of craft distilling and the local ingredients used in St. Augustine’s spirits. Free tours, which run every half-hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday), include a sample of two cocktails made with the brand’s vodka and gin. staugustinedistillery.com
Best bottle: Florida cane vodka ($28) is made from only the hearts of local sugar cane. It’s soft, with a full mouthfeel and a finish that has hints of anise and green apple.
Where to stay: In the center of downtown St. Augustine’s historic district is Casa Monica, a luxurious Moroccan-style hotel first opened in the 19th century and used as a county courthouse until the 1970s. On weekends, park rangers shoot off antique cannons at the nearby Castillo de San Marcos, one of the oldest military forts in the U.S. From $459 per night; casamonica.com
Berkshire Mountain Distillers
In the eighth grade, Chris Weld tried to make a still for a science project but was shut down by his mother when she discovered it was illegal. Almost three decades later, he started making brandy as a way to use up extra apples at his family’s Berkshires farm. Hourlong grain-to-glass tours of the facility run from noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, during which you can handle ingredients, get a whiff of spirits at various stages in the distilling process, and sample the finished product. $10; berkshiremountaindistillers.com
Best bottle: Berkshire is known for its Ragged Mountain rum ($30), which has toasted nut, cigar, caramel, and vanilla flavors—perfect for sipping.
Where to stay: The Old Inn on the Green in the neighboring town of New Marlborough is housed in a former stagecoach relay from the 1700s that’s been converted into a classic New England bed-and-breakfast. From $249 per night, includes breakfast; oldinn.com
On Fridays and Saturdays, free 20-minute tours at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. culminate in a tasting of the distillery’s five white whiskeys. You’ll want barbecue afterward, so plan to stop by Buxton Hall, the newest pit in town. ashevilledistilling.com; buxtonhall.com
Best bottle: Award-winning Troy & Sons platinum whiskey heirloom moonshine ($30) is made with Appalachian spring water and a type of corn called Crooked Creek, which has a higher protein and fat content than other varieties. The resulting spirit is remarkably smooth, with a buttery aroma and fruity undertones.
Where to stay: The Inn on Biltmore Estate, a few miles away, overlooks the 8,000-acre grounds and 250-room chateau once owned by George Vanderbilt. From $609; biltmore.com/stay/inn
St. George Spirits
Housed in an old naval hangar facing San Francisco Bay, the 31-year-old distillery is a scenic 20-minute ferry ride from San Francisco’s Ferry Building, or a 10-minute car ride from Jack London Square in Oakland. Tours take place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and every hour from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Bring food or buy snacks on site—the outdoor deck is a great picnic spot. $20; stgeorgespirits.com
Best bottle: Terroir gin ($35) tastes like a glassful of forest, with a woodsy aroma that comes from Douglas fir, California bay laurel, and coastal sage.
Where to stay: The 1960s-style Waterfront Hotel in Oakland has 143 nautical-themed rooms overlooking the marina. While you’re in town, take a stroll down suddenly hip Temescal Alley. Formerly lined with stables, it’s now home to boutiques, cafes, and (naturally) an old-school barbershop. From $349 per night; jdvhotels.com/waterfront-hotel
High West Distillery & Saloon
Park City, Utah
High West—which became Utah’s first legal distillery in 1870—is at the bottom of a ski run and across the street from a chairlift. Ski in for a free tour at 2:15 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or at 1:00 p.m., 2:15 p.m., or 3:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. highwest.com
Best bottle: Rendezvous rye ($54) combines fiery six-year and mellow 16-year rye whiskey to create a feisty, full-flavored blend.
Where to stay: Originally built as a school in 1889, the Washington School House Hotel got a boutique upgrade four years ago and now has seven rooms and five suites, plush public spaces with soaring ceilings, and an on-call ski valet. From $266 per night, breakfast included; washingtonschoolhouse.com
Clear Creek Distillery
Portland may be known for beer, but Clear Creek, founded in 1986, produces seven kinds of excellent eaux de vie from Pacific Northwest fruit and a brandy from Douglas fir buds. The distillery doesn’t offer regular tours, but its tasting room is open seven days a week. Try to swing by during an open house, held twice a year, in spring and fall, when staffers pour samples next to the stills and will happily show you around. clearcreekdistillery.com
Best bottle: Williams pear brandy ($40), produced with locally grown Bartlett pears, is a strong, pure fruit spirit distilled in German-made stills.
Where to stay: Take a 15-minute cab ride to the Jupiter Hotel, formerly a midcentury-style motor inn, where rock bands play every night in the Doug Fir Lounge. From $139 per night; jupiterhotel.com