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The Best Spirit Distilled in Each of the 50 States

The Best Spirit Distilled in Each of the 50 States: Illustration by Sean Noyce

Illustration by Sean Noyce

During last decade, craft distilleries have blown up. There are now hundreds across the country, and we’ve finally reached a tipping point: Every state in the Union now contains at least one legally licensed distillery, something that hadn’t previously been the case since before Prohibition.

In honor of that milestone, here are the top bottlings distilled in each of the 50 states. There are lots of brands that merely source booze from elsewhere and slap their name on it, but for this list, I chose only spirits that are actually distilled in the state they claim to be from. Now go get wasted, from sea to shining sea.


001_AL-27SpringsGin-1

ALABAMA
27 Springs Gin
It figures that Alabama’s first legal distillery since Prohibition would be in a town called Stills Crossroads famous for its moonshining history. High Ridge Spirits’ gin is formulated for hot-weather-friendly drinks, with a floral-heavy mix of botanicals including elderflower and local lavender..

002 AK-FairbanksRum

ALASKA
Fairbanks Sourdough Rum
Most distilleries order commercially propagated yeasts to ferment their products most efficiently, but this rum uses a 60-year-old Alaskan sourdough starter. The resulting spirit is funky and unique, appropriate to the frontier ethos of Ursa Major Distilling.

003 AZ-Whiskey Del Bac

ARIZONA
Whiskey Del Bac Dorado
After years of building furniture out of native mesquite wood, Stephen Paul became obsessed with creating a single malt whisky using barley smoked with mesquite instead of Scotch’s traditional peat. So he taught himself distilling, bought a still and some local barley, and created Whiskey Del Bac. The Dorado version tempers the campfire-smoke flavor with a bit of barrel aging.

004 AR-Rock Town Muscadine Shine

ARKANSAS
Rock Town Muscadine Shine
Little Rock’s Rock Town Distillery makes moonshine in a variety of flavors, but this seasonal bottling is special, mixing unaged whiskey with Arkansas-grown muscadine grape juice. It’s sweet, tart and a little bit musky, just like the Southern favorite fruit itself.

005 CA-SGS-PearBrandy-Print

CALIFORNIA
St. George Pear Brandy
California is packed with great distilleries, but I had to pick something from St. George Spirits, which kicked off the modern craft-spirits revolution with its founding way back in 1982. The distillery makes an array of gins, vodkas and whiskies, but its pear brandy stands out; delivering incredible intense pear flavor without any cloying sweetness.

006 CO-Stranahan

COLORADO
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
This Rocky Mountain single malt launched about a decade ago to huge acclaim around the country, but in 2010, the brand, unable to meet local demand, pulled back into Colorado only, leaving the rest of us bereft. Thankfully, it has increased production and last year rolled out nationwide again, so you can enjoy its toasty, honeyed flavor.

007 CT-VELOCIPEDE VODKA FNL (1)

CONNECTICUT
Velocipede Vodka
The Nutmeg State’s Elm City Distillery is all about rye, distilling it into both a whiskey (currently available only unaged) and this bright and vanilla-y vodka named in honor of New Haven’s history as a hotspot for early cyclists in the mid-1800s.

008 DL-witspiced web

DELAWARE
Dogfish Head Wit Spiced Rhum
You probably know Dogfish Head as a groundbreakingly creative brewery, but the company recently acquired a still and is making vodka, gin and rum as well. Like Belgian witbier, the beer style it’s named for, this rum is flavored with orange peel and coriander for a spicy-citrusy punch.

009 FL-Tippler

FLORIDA
Tippler’s Orange Liqueur
Though it’s just a year old, St. Petersburg Distillery blew me away at this year’s Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention, where I thoroughly enjoyed its whiskey, rum, gin and vodka. But the standout was this liqueur, made—of course—with Florida oranges. It has a great balance of sweetness from the juice and bitterness from the peel.

010 GA-thirteenthcolony

GEORGIA
Thirteenth Colony Southern Corn Whiskey
There are lots of new Southern distilleries making unaged whiskey from a high percentage of corn—AKA moonshine—but most of it doesn’t taste very good. The stuff from Thirteenth Colony is an exception, with a nice oaky, buttery and smooth flavor, and none of the burn you get with low-quality whiskey.

011 HI-Koloa Rum-Dark-Lg

HAWAII
Koloa Kaua’i Dark Rum
The Hawaiian island of Kauai’s volcanic soil and tropical weather make it ideal for growing sugar cane, so it only makes sense that a rum distillery would pop up there. Koloa’s products are rich and complex, with the caramel, molasses and roasted-almond notes in this bottling, making it great for tiki cocktails.

012 ID-LAYERS VEEV StraightOn NewBottle-LogoFix typefooter NOshadow web

IDAHO
Veev
Idaho is home to one of the largest organic-certified distilleries in the country—who knew?—and one of its tastiest products is Veev, a spirit made from Idaho wheat and infused with Brazilian superfruit açai. The subtly flavored result makes a lovely substitute for vodka, and you can feel good about buying it—it’s production is certified carbon-neutral, and 1 percent of all sales go to rainforest preservation and other environmental causes.

013 IL-Few Rye

ILLIONOIS
Few Rye Whiskey
Evanston distillery Few Spirits has been in business barely four years, but its whiskies and gins have made a big splash. The best of those is this rye, which boasts powerful spice and unexpected smoothness, along with a nice fruity background thanks to the French wine yeast used to ferment it.

014 IN-Just Whiskey

INDIANA
The Indiana Whiskey Co. Just Whiskey
Talk about local: Everything involved with the production of this wheated bourbon was made or grown in Indiana, from the grains, to the bottles, to even the still itself. It’s young, so it has a sprightly graininess along with some oak.

015 IA-Cedar Ridge Reserve Whiskey rgb

IOWA
Cedar Ridge Reserve Bourbon
Bourbon is made from mostly corn, so why shouldn’t the nation’s corn belt make more bourbon? That was what Iowa’s Cedar Ridge Winery had in mind when it expanded into distilling. This longer-aged twist on its flagship bourbon spends five years in oak for a complex but mellow spirit.

016 KS-Dark Horse Reunion Rye

KANSAS
Dark Horse Reunion Rye Whiskey
Founded by four siblings—thus the name Reunion—Dark Horse Distillery is bringing the craft spirits revolution to Kansas City. And this bottling jumps right into the recent trend for old-school rye whiskey, with huge spice and buttery texture.

017 KY-Blanton

KENTUCKY
Blanton’s Bourbon
I could have gone with any of a few dozen amazing bourbons for Kentucky, which is of course the nation’s leading producer of the stuff. Among its many distilleries is Buffalo Trace, which makes an astounding array of different brands, including this one, the first-ever single-barrel bourbon. The high-rye mashbill yields a nice mix of citrus, honey and spice flavors.

018 LA-Old New Orleans Cajun Spice

LOUISIANA
Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum
If you’ve spent any time in New Orleans, you’ve probably come across paintings by famed local artist James Michalopolous. But you might not have known that he also started a rum distillery in a 150-year-old former cotton warehouse in the Ninth Ward. Using molasses from Louisiana, it makes a variety of tasty rums, including this zesty bottling flavored with ginger, clove, cinnamon nutmeg and cayenne.

019 ME-IngeniumGin

MAINE
Ingenium Gin
Ned Wight’s ancestors ran a whiskey distillery in Maryland from the 1850s through World War II, but it took more than a half-century for him to get back into the family business with New England Distilling. The company’s clever gin is made in a pot still from a grain base, giving it some whiskey-like notes behind a mix of traditional botanicals like juniper and coriander and Asian flavors like lime and lemongrass.

020 MD-Lyon WHITE Rum

MARYLAND
Lyon White Rum
A century ago, Maryland was a hotbed of distilling, especially of rye whiskey, but Prohibition basically killed off the state’s entire booze production. Now, the industry is finally coming back, thanks to enterprising businesses like Lyon Distilling Co. It’s working on an aged rye, but it’s also embracing its Eastern Shore maritime heritage with this cocktail-friendly rum.

021-MA-Ragged Mountain Rum

MASSACHUSETTS
Ragged Mountain Rum
You’d expect a rich and funky rum like this to originate on the Massachusetts coast, but Berkshire Mountain Distillers is clear on the other side of the state, much closer to Albany than Boston. Nonetheless, it makes a truly incredible rum, one of the tastiest to originate from the US.

022 MI-Featherbone 750

MICHIGAN
Featherbone Bourbon
In a historic building that once housed a corset and buggywhip factory founded by a staunch Prohibition supporter, Journeyman Distillery makes some excellent Midwestern spirits. This particular whiskey is a mix of corn, of course, with both rye and (Michigan-grown) wheat, which gives it sweetness as well as spice.

023 MN-Vikre Ovrevann Aquavit

MINNESOTA
Vikre Øvrevann Aquavit
From a distillery overlooking Lake Superior, Duluth’s Vikre Distillery makes spirits inspired by its founder’s Norwegian heritage. There are gins flavored with spruce and cedar, as well as this excellent caraway-spiked aquavit. Try it in a Bloody Mary, or just by the shot.

024_AL-Cathead Honeysuckle shot

MISSISSIPPI
Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka
Mississippi was the last state to repeal Prohibition (it took until 1966!), so it kinda makes sense that it only has one legal distillery that I know of. Thankfully, it’s a good one: Cathead makes some tasty vodkas, especially this bottling, which has subtly herbaceous and floral notes that are just lovely in a highball-style drink.

025 MO-Pinckney Bend Gin

MISSOURI
Pinckney Bend Hand Crafted American Gin
All nine botanicals used in this gin, as well as the grain distilled into its base, are organic and grown in the US. They’re a relatively conventional set of herbs and spices for gin, but what makes the spirit different is that each botanical is infused separately, ensuring it’s at just the right level to contribute to a harmonious overall flavor.

026 MT-WhyteLaydie Credit Cathrine Walters

MONTANA
The Whyte Laydie Dry Gin
Missoula’s Montgomery Distillery consulted with local herbalists to pick out bee balm, yarrow and elderflower, a trio of local wild plants that give this gin a uniquely Montana flavor. They’re added on top of standard botanicals like juniper, angelica and cardamom to create a spirit that’s both familiar enough to use in classic cocktails and exotic enough to be noticeably different.

027 NE-Cut Spike Whiskey

NEBRASKA
Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey
As Highlands distillers do when making Scotch, Cut Spike Distillery dilutes its spirits with limestone-filtered spring water, which brings out the floral and honey notes in its single malt. But this bottling is quite a bit younger than most Scotches, so it retains a bit of coarseness that keeps things interesting.

028 NV-Frey Vodka

NEVADA
Frey Ranch Vodka
Talk about DIY: Frey Ranch just outside Reno is a winery and distillery that grows all the grapes and grains used in its products on-site. This smooth and crisp vodka made from corn, rye, wheat and barley is the only spirit Frey Ranch sells right now, but it has a gin and an aged whiskey in the works, too.

029 NH-Krupnik Honey Liqueur

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Krupnik Spiced Honey Liqueur
For more than 500 years, Polish drinkers have been enjoying booze infused with honey and herbs in a concoction called krupnik, and just last year, Djinn Spirits decided to bring this often-homemade brew to the masses. Its version will warm you to the core, with a cinnamon tingle alongside sweetness from local wildflower honey and mellow oaky flavors.

030 NJ-Laird

NEW JERSEY
Laird’s Applejack
You won’t find a more historic spirit in America than Laird’s Applejack: The Laird & Company distillery received the United States’ first distilling permit back in 1780, and actually supplied George Washington’s troops with its delicious brandy. Substitute this stuff for bourbon in any cocktail for a lovely autumnal drink, or sip it neat as a digestif.

031 NM-Santa Fe Spirits Apple Brandy 750 HighRes

NEW MEXICO
Santa Fe Spirits Apple Brandy
You might think of New Mexico as a desert state, but its more temperate north has held thriving fruit orchards for centuries, along with a tradition of making brandy from their yield. Santa Fe Spirits keeps that tradition alive with this fruity tipple, made from apples grown locally, including on the distillery owner’s own land.

032 NY-Hillrock Solera Bourbon

NEW YORK
Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon
A solera system is a way of aging, most commonly used with sherry, that involves transferring the liquid through a series of barrels without ever emptying them completely, so that every finished bottle contains a little bit of the oldest liquid within the system. HIllrock Estate Distillery uses a solera made of 20-year-old sherry casks for its deliciously complex bourbon, which is also distilled from corn and rye grown on-site.

033 NC-Queen Charlotte high rez bottle pic

NORTH CAROLINA
Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Rum
Muddy River Distillery first launched in 2012 with a smooth unaged rum that quickly gained local fame, but Queen Charlotte’s is an upgrade, aged in new American oak barrels for a more complex, caramelly flavor. The stuff may be named for a British queen, but the distillery is all-American: Its stills are named Freedom, Liberty and Democracy.

034 ND-Maple River Chokecherry brandy

NORTH DAKOTA
Maple River Distillery Chokecherry Brandy
Despite its unappetizing name, the bittersweet chokecherry is North Dakota’s official fruit; you’ll find it in jams, syrups and wines throughout the state. Maple River Distillery makes a cordial and vodka flavored with chokecherry, but this brandy gets at the fruit’s true essence by fermenting and distilling it.

035 OH-OYO Stone Fruit Vodka

OHIO
OYO Stone Fruit Vodka
In the fall, Ohio’s farmers’ markets are awash in stone fruits of all kinds, and that’s the inspiration behind this creation of Middle West Spirits. It’s a wheat-based vodka flavored with a complex but well-balanced mix of local cherry, peach, apricot, almond, hibiscus and honey. Try it with club soda if it’s warm out, or in a Hot Toddy if it’s not.

036 OK-loyalbottleGin

OKLAHOMA
Loyal Gin
Named for the tiny town (population: 80) where Prairie Wolf Spirits is located, Loyal Gin adds gunpowder green tea from a local teashop to its botanical mix, creating an interesting delicate floralness. Not bad for a distillery started by a father and two sons whose only prior experience was drinking bourbon.

037 OR-Clear Creek Doug Fir 375ml

OREGON
Clear Creek Douglas Fir Eau-de-Vie
As befits its hipster-capital status, Portland is overrun with great craft distilleries. Clear Creek is both the oldest and most unique among them, having made uncommon styles of spirits since way back in 1985. Its many fruit eaux-de-vie are worth a try, but for a true taste of the Pacific Northwest in a bottle, you have to taste its Douglas fir spirit, made by infusing the tree’s springtime buds in clear brandy.

038 PA-Bluecoat Gin

PENNSYLVANIA
Bluecoat American Dry Gin
Bluecoat is made using juniper, citrus, coriander and angelica, all ingredients in traditional London dry gin, but the patriotic spirit rebels against its British forebears by balancing those flavors much differently, with the juniper becoming an earthy grace note while the citrus shines through most strongly. It’s a versatile spirit, good for just about any kind of gin cocktail.

039 RI-Uprising Family

RHODE ISLAND
Uprising Single Malt Whiskey
Based in the first state to declare independence from England, Sons of Liberty Spirits is determined to bring Rhode Island’s rebellious spirit to whiskey. Uprising is a very non-Scotch-like single malt, made from the same kind of heavily roasted barley that usually goes into stouts and other dark beers. This gives it deep chocolate and coffee flavors, along with vanilla and caramel from barrel-aging.

040 SC-Firefly Sweet Tea Label New Bottle COMP HI

SOUTH CAROLINA
Firefly Original Sweet Tea Vodka
Firefly isn’t the only sweet tea-flavored vodka on the market, but it is the one that tastes most authentically like the Southern favorite. That’s probably because it’s made using actual tea grown on an actual tea plantation just five miles from the distillery, as well as Louisiana-grown cane sugar.

041 Coteau-des-prairies

SOUTH DAKOTA
Coteau Des Prairies Neutral Brandy
Believe it or not, South Dakota was known for its wines back before Prohibition, and today there are a number of vineyards coming back to the state. Dakota Spirits distills some of those local wines at high proof (making this legally a “neutral brandy”), and then ages them for about a year, creating a spirit that works nicely in whiskey cocktails as well as brandy ones.

042 TN-Triple Smoke Small Batch

TENNESSEE
Corsair Triple Smoke American Malt Whiskey
Tennessee may be home to Jack Daniel’s, the world’s most popular American whiskey, but it’s also where you’ll find Corsair Distillery, among the most creative small distilleries on the planet. Its Triple Smoke is one for lovers of peaty Scotch (or barbecue), made with three portions of barley smoked with peat, cherrywood and beech, which give it a rich and complex earthiness that’s best savored neat.

043 TX-Garrison Bros

TEXAS
Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Much like grapes, grain varies from year to year based on weather and soil conditions. But where many wineries vintage-date their bottlings to highlight this, very few distilleries do. Garrison Brothers, in the tiny central-Texas town of Hye, is working to change that, by releasing vintage-dated batches of its excellent bourbon. They tend to sell out fast, but you can still get your hands on the Fall 2014 bottling now.

044 UT-High-West-Western-Oak

UTAH
High West Silver Whiskey Western Oat
Park City’s High West Distillery & Saloon puts out a variety of great aged whiskies, but as its own stocks age, these are all sourced from other places. (There’s nothing wrong with that, and High West is completely forthright about the practice, but it disqualifies those bottlings from this list.) The best of the brand’s products that are distilled in Utah is this unaged whiskey made from a mix of oats and barley, which yields tropical-fruit and biscuit-y flavors.

045 VT-barr hill gin no medal

VERMONT
Barr Hill Gin
Caledonia Spirits is all about honey. Founder Todd Hardie has been keeping bees since he was 12, and local honey—including some harvested from his own hives—goes into everything the distillery makes. Its delicious gin is flavored with only juniper and raw honey, making it sweet enough to sip on its own. If you mix it, be sure to cut down on simple syrup or other cocktail sweeteners to keep your drinks balanced.

046 VA-Wasmunds-Bottle-M-web

VIRGINIA
Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky
The key to single malt whisky is the process of malting, or adding water to barley to begin the germination process and unlock the enzymes that allow fermentation. Copper Fox Distillery is the only one in North America that malts its own barley by hand, giving it complete control over the process. It also smokes the barley with apple and cherry wood, making for a fruity and subtly smoky spirit that’s unlike most other single malts.

047 WA-Westland Sherry Wood

WASHINGTON
Westland Sherry Wood American Single Malt Whiskey
Ask any Scotch geek: sherry cask-aged whiskey is excellent, and very trendy in the past few years. Seattle’s Westland Distillery jumped aboard the sherry train with this bottling, aging its Scotch-style single malt in old oloroso and Pedro Ximenez barrels, as well as some former bourbon barrels. The whiskey has lots of raisin and other dried-fruit notes, along with some nice ginger-cinnamon spice.

048 WV-SmoothAmblerYearling

WEST VIRGINIA
Smooth Ambler Yearling Bourbon
Yearling is really just a preview. It’s a young version of Smooth Ambler Spirits’ five-and-a-half-year-old bourbon, which will finally be making its debut this fall. In the meantime, though, the stuff is quite delicious. It’s made with a wheat-heavy mashbill, so it’s quite sweet, with caramel and butterscotch notes backed up with a little toasty oak.

049 WI-Death

WISCONSIN
Death’s Door Gin
Way up near the northern end of Lake Michigan sits Washington Island, a picturesque community that was once known for growing potatoes. In an effort to reinvigorate the island’s farms, Death’s Door Spirits uses wheat grown there for all of its products, and this gin also incorporates wild juniper berries from the island, along with coriander and fennel grown in Wisconsin. It’s a simple mix of botanicals that yields a wonderfully balanced gin.

050 WY-Wyoming Whiskey

WYOMING
Wyoming Whiskey
As the name suggests, Wyoming Whiskey is 100 percent Wyoming. The distiller’s family has been in the state since 1890, and it sources all its products from inside Wyoming. The corn, wheat and barley are all grown in the Bighorn Basin and milled on-site at the distillery, and cut with water that’s been filtering through Wyoming limestone for the last 6,000 years. The whiskey is heavy on vanilla and caramel flavors, with a good backbone of oaky dryness.


Jason Horn is Playboy.com’s spirits columnist. He lives in Los Angeles and you can follow him on Twitter @messyepicure.


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