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top 10 craft, small-batch whiskey distilleries of the south

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As any true whisky connoisseur knows, whiskey has been an American tradition since the beginning — and nowhere knows whiskey like the South. From the post-revolution days to the years of Prohibition, the passion and craftsmanship that govern good whiskey have flourished and progressed along with the times.

Today, whiskey lovers demand more from their drinks than ever before, and small-batch Southern whisky distilleries are rising to the challenge. Much like craft brewing has taken off in the world of beer, craft distilling is truly coming into its own as a source of bold and complex whiskies. While you can find a good craft whiskey or bourbon anywhere in the country, there’s no higher concentration of fine craft whiskey distilleries than in the South. To that tune, here are 10 of the best small-batch whiskey distilleries in the American South.

 

1. Corsair Distillery

This Kentucky craft distillery is a powerhouse of creativity. Though their catalog has expanded to include such beverages as gin, absinthe and rum, they got their start with whiskey — and they do it well.

What They’re About

Corsair has one mission, and that’s summed up by their slogan “Booze for Badasses.” By combining highly-controlled, traditional methods with unconventional ingredients in small batches, Corsair has come up with multiple award-winning whiskeys.

Why They’re Worth It

If you’re looking for an interesting twist on a traditional whiskey, Corsair is the way to go. For example, their Triple Smoke malt whiskey is a deeply complex one, made by taking three fractions of barley and smoking each over a different fuel: beechwood, cherry wood and peat. It combines the sweet barrel notes of an American whiskey with the rich smokiness of single malt.

Corsair’s Triple Smoke and Ryemageddon are possibly the most traditional entries on their rotating menu, which heavily features seasonal and experimental spirits. Be sure to check their website for some of the more unique offerings. Quinoa whiskey, anyone?

 

2. Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery

This distillery is reviving tradition in Nashville, Tennessee. They craft fine spirits in the form of white whiskey and two types of bourbon.

What They’re About

For Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, whiskey is a family tradition. Charles Nelson created one of the most successful Southern whiskey distilleries of the late 19th century, only to have it close after his death during Prohibition. However, in 2006, two of his descendants discovered that the passion for fine whiskey ran through their veins as well, and Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery was born. With original recipes and quality ingredients, this distillery creates the best of tradition and technology.

Why They’re Worth It

One of Green Brier’s central whiskeys is “Bell Meade Bourbon.” Taken from the original recipes of Charles Nelson, this bourbon is characterized by a high concentration of rye and is finished at 90.4 proof. This is truly small-batch bourbon, as there are only four hand-selected barrels in each batch.

The other bourbon Green Brier makes is “Bell Meade,” which is aged in a sherry cask. Aged for nine years, blended and finished like a refined Scotch, this is a barrel-aged whiskey you won’t want to miss.

 

Balcones distilling produce whiskey and bourbon exclusively, in their classic, special releases and single barrel series.

 

3. Balcones Distilling

Situated in Waco, Texas, Balcones takes distilling craftsmanship to a whole new level. They produce whiskey and bourbon exclusively, in their classic, special releases and single barrel series.

What They’re About

If there’s one word that sums up the whiskey-distilling philosophy of Balcones, it’s passion. Even though it’s one of the newer distilleries in Texas at under 10 years old, Balcones might just be the pinnacle of traditionalism. When the founders began their distilling venture, they were dissatisfied with the way many craft distilleries were thrown together just to make money. To pay homage to the long tradition of whiskey-making, they decided to hand-craft not only their whiskey and bourbon, but all of the still equipment it’s made in, too!

Why They’re Worth It

If the 100% authentic distilling process isn’t enough for you, the unique flavors of Balcones’ flagship Texas Single Malt whiskey might be. This complex whiskey opens up with notes of slightly overripe fruit and a bit of toffee, segueing into a body of toasted malt, honey, baked apples and pears. To finish, it’s spiced with hints of cinnamon and clove that linger on the palate.

In addition to their classic single malt, you can find Balcones whiskey in cask strength, aged in French oak casks, made from blue corn and more. All options are made with the same loving care for a variety of rich flavors.

 

4. Asheville Distilling Co.

One of the premier small-batch whiskeys in North Carolina, Troy & Sons from Asheville Distilling Co. represents some of the best in the craft distilling movement. They produce only three varieties of whiskey, putting incredible care into each one.

What They’re About

Asheville Distilling was born out of a mission to revive authenticity in the distilling world. Founder Troy began her journey with a few recipes found in the North Carolina state archives and the advice of some old-timers with years of distillation secrets under their belts. The secret to the success of the company’s whiskeys is actually no secret at all, though — it’s a process that’s fine-tuned and controlled at every step of the way.

Why They’re Worth It

Troy & Sons’ “Blonde” is an extremely smooth whiskey with an interesting twist. It’s made using only the white corn and turkey red wheat that has been growing in the region since the 1800’s. According to the distillers, these heirloom grains produce a silky flavor that modern strains just don’t create in a finished whisky.

Asheville Distilling Co. also offers “Troy & Sons Platinum,” a moonshine made using heirloom, open-pollinated white corn for ultimate authenticity. A variation of that, Troy & Sons “Oak Reserve,” uses the same top-shelf ingredients but ages them in small-batch bourbon barrels for a warmer, caramel flavor.

 

5. Old Forge Distillery

This Tennessee distillery prides itself on Southern tradition. They make moonshine, rum and vodka, but they also turn out a particularly fine small-batch bourbon.

What They’re About

Old Forge Distillery has managed to make the most of its historical roots in Tennessee. The secret to their craft bourbon is local ingredients and fresh, stone-ground grain. The distillery has the advantage of an on-site mill, which has been in continuous operation since the early 1800’s. It’s hard to get more authentic than that!

Why They’re Worth It

The bourbon distilled at Old Forge has the flavor of simplicity perfected. The freshly-ground grain and the hand-crafted distilling process give it a unique freshness and mellow character. “Old Forge Reserve” bourbon isn’t chill-filtered like lesser bourbons, and each barrel is hand selected for perfect balancing of flavor and body.

Old Forge’s other award-winning spirits also benefit from selective ingredient sourcing and a commitment to authenticity. You can even see the process in action by visiting the distillery!

 

The Garrison Brothers Distillery pride themselves on creating unique bourbons in vintage batches, so every year has its own distinct flavors and character.

 

6. Garrison Brothers Distillery

This distillery makes its home in Hye, Texas, creating award-winning bourbon whiskeys. They only produce a few hundred barrels a year, and bourbon is the only spirit on the bill.

What They’re About

The Garrison Brothers Distillery knows that the best bourbon has personality. They pride themselves on creating unique bourbons in vintage batches, so every year has its own distinct flavors and character. A five-year age gap between Garrison Brothers bourbons might make you think you’re drinking whiskey from two different distillers — but both would likely rank among the best you’d tasted.

Why They’re Worth It

Garrison Brothers is one of the only true Texan bourbon distillers, and they’ve truly made the process their own. In 2014, their “Cowboy Bourbon” was named American Microwhiskey of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible. This rare bourbon was unfiltered and straight from the barrel at 136 proof strength. Its bold smokiness won it the award, and the Garrison Brothers’ other fine whiskies continue to win hearts all over the South.

 

7. Rebecca Creek Distillery

Rebecca Creek is another southern whiskey distillery that happens to be Texas-based. In San Antonio, they make two varieties of vodka — but nothing beats the taste of Texas that characterizes the Rebecca Creek line of whiskies.

What They’re About

The secret to Rebecca Creek’s success is the still. Utilizing traditional copper pot stills and a single-batch distillation system, they end up with whiskey that’s smoother and creamier than others. The proprietary 28-degree frost filtration process allows for a unique rounding of the flavor profile, producing three unique whiskeys worth a try.

Why They’re Worth It

Among Rebecca Creek Distillery’s whiskey varieties is the impressive “Fine Texas Spirit Whiskey.” The distillery claims that within the refined bottle design, you’ll find a true Texas whiskey — harmoniously blending the lightness of Canadian whiskey with full flavor of bourbon.

Also worth a try is the “Texas Single Malt Whiskey,” made with 100% malted cocoa. This barrel-aged whiskey marries notes of cocoa with the rich profile of oak, producing a singular small-batch experience.

 

8. Western Son Distillery

Located in North Texas, Western Son Distillery crafts fine small-batch spirits. Though they originally set their sights on vodka production, they have branched out into other spirits — including whiskey.

What They’re About

Western Son’s mission statement is to foster quality over quantity. The philosophy is to locally craft high-quality spirits while also supporting a community cause. That’s why the line of Red River Whiskey supports the Native Texas Wildlife Conservation and their efforts. If you’re looking for a small-batch whiskey that means something, Red River is worth your time.

Why They’re Worth It

This distillery produces more varieties of whiskey than most others. Their offerings include rye, bourbon, Canadian-style blended whiskey and even a bourbon cream liqueur. The main draw of Western Sons spirits is their small batch size. Using a 600-gallon pot still, each batch is still inspected for flavor and quality.

 

9. Witherspoon Distillery

This Texas producer is one of the most solid craft bourbon distilleries today. Founded in 2011, the quality of Witherspoon Distillery has pushed it through the ranks of small-batch bourbon distillers in the South.

What They’re About

Witherspoon’s approach is to buckle down on basics and make sure every step in their process is made correctly. They make a point of sourcing American-made raw materials, fermenting on-site and implementing a strict inspection process for the distilling and packaging processes. Transparency is a big part of their philosophy, and tours are available in case you want to see the process yourself. The result is a whiskey worth your time.

Why They’re Worth It

Witherspoon’s intent is to make a real Texas bourbon, and part of that means using a grain bill that’s 75 corn. Packed full of American flavor, Witherspoon’s “Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey” also carries a bit of sweetness. A touch of barley and rye round out the flavor of this small-batch bourbon, and it’s a drink to be reckoned with at 100 proof.

The distillery also produces a Scotch whiskey in single malt. It carries unique flavors meant to evoke the Speyside and Lowland regions of Scotland. If you’re looking for a Texas twist on Scotch, this is for you.

 

Firestone and Robertson Distilling Company is located in Texas and produces a fantastic blended whiskey.

 

10. Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.

Another Texas contribution to craft whiskey distilleries, Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. brings some of the best to the table. Their specialty is an award-winning American iteration of blended whiskey.

What They’re About

The Firestone & Robertson mission was to create a truly American blended whiskey that had the complexity, refinement and character of its Canadian and Scotch counterparts. The secret to this distillery’s excellence is a proprietary wild yeast. That’s right — they’ve got fermentation down to a literal science.

Through a rigorous selection process, the Head Distiller chose one particular strain of yeast to use in the whiskey production. In a fateful coincidence, it turns out the yeast they chose came from a pecan nut — the state tree of Texas.

Why They’re Worth It

Firestone & Robertson’s flagship is simply called “TX Blended Whiskey,” and the simplicity of the name is mirrored by the flavor — in all the best ways. You’ll find aromas of vanilla and oak, along with a warm body of honey butter, caramel and coffee. Its smoothness and rounded flavor profile won it “Best American Craft Whiskey” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The distillery also offers a straight bourbon with unique characteristics due to the climate variation notorious in North Texas. This barrel-aged whiskey gives notes of clove, sweet corn and allspice, and it’s an interesting foray for bourbon connoisseurs.

 

For Craft Whiskey Connoisseurs

It’s hard to get a taste of good whiskey and not want to try making it yourself! Distilling whiskey can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, but most people get one thing wrong on their first try: the importance of the aging process. You’ve probably noticed that the finest products are barrel-aged, and that’s a hugely important process when it comes to flavor.

There are a ton of great craft whiskey distilleries in the United States and some of them are part of the Deep South Barrels family. Some DSB Drinking Buddies are: Corsair Distillery, Old Forge Distillery, Garrison Brothers Distillery, Rebecca Creek Distillery, and Witherspoon Distillery.

If you or someone you know is looking to do a bit of home distillation, make sure you’re on the right track with the right barrels. Deep South Barrels is your source for American white oak aging barrels, hand-crafted with no nails, no glue and no nonsense. Whether you need one liter or 20, Deep South has the barrels to suit your needs. Dive into the world of whiskey today with custom-engraved aging barrels and all the accessories you need for an authentic home distillation experience.

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