If you've walked down the liquor aisle recently, you might have noticed an explosion of choices – not only in type of spirit, but also in the distilleries producing them.
According to the American Distilling Institute, the number of American craft distilleries has risen from only 100 in 2010 to more than 1,800 by the end of 2018.
10Best wanted to find the best craft and small-batch spirits producers – family-owned distilleries, grain-to-glass operations or distillers using only the best local ingredients in their products. We recruited a panel of craft spirits experts including bartenders, spirits journalists and judges to help us nominate 20 distilleries in each of the following categories: whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, brandy and specialty spirits.
For the past four weeks, our readers have been voting for their favorites, and the results are in.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners:
Best Craft Brandy Distillery: Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Fresh Michigan apples go into this award-winning brandy — Photo courtesy of Long Road Distillers
Long Road Distillers makes a small-batch brandy from fresh local apples sourced from the Fruit Ridge of West Michigan. The brandy spends nearly a year in used whiskey barrels to allow the flavors to develop and mellow.
Best Craft Gin Distillery: Great Women Spirits in Geyserville, Calif.
10 botanicals lend depth to this California gin — Photo courtesy of Great Women Spirits
Ada Lovelace Gin takes inspiration from the daughter of Lord Byron, recognized as one of the world’s first computer programmers. This dry English-style gin features 10 botanicals, many grown on the Coppola family wine estates of Napa and Sonoma.
Best Craft Mixer: Strongwater in Denver
Winning mixer company specializes in craft herb and hemp bitters, shrubs and cocktail syrups — Photo courtesy of Strongwater
Inspired by the apothecaries of the 16th century, Strongwater adds a dash of botanical integrity to cocktails through their line of herb and hemp bitters, shrubs and cocktail syrups.
Best Craft Rum Distillery: Wicked Dolphin in Cape Coral, Fla.
Florida-grown sugarcane goes into this winning rum — Photo courtesy of Wicked Dolphin
Wicked Dolphin Distillery uses 100-percent Florida-grown sugarcane to create small-batch rums in a traditional copper pot still. The spirit then gets aged in used American white oak Kentucky bourbon barrels for a minimum of one year (and up to 14 years). Wicked Dolphin also produces a silver rum, coconut rum (made from real coconut water), black rum and vanilla bean rum.
Best Craft Specialty Spirits Distillery: Desert Door Texas Sotol in Driftwood, Texas
Winning spirit tastes like gin crossed with smooth tequila — Photo courtesy of Desert Door Texas Sotol
Desert Door Texas Sotol is a sweet, citrusy, herbal spirit distilled in Driftwood, Texas from wild-harvested West Texas sotol plants. The resulting 80-proof spirit tastes like a gin crossed with a smooth tequila. The oak-aged version spends time in new charred American white oak.
Best Craft Vodka Distillery: 619 Spirits in San Diego
619 Vodka is distilled from pure cane sugar — Photo courtesy of 619 Spirits
San Diego’s first urban craft distillery makes Six One Nine Vodka from the city’s North Park neighborhood. The spirit is distilled entirely from cane sugar for a clean, smooth texture that’s naturally gluten free.
Best Craft Whiskey Distillery: Ironroot Republic in Denison, Texas
Winning Texas distillery makes three grain-to-glass whiskies — Photo courtesy of Ironroot Republic
Ironroot Republic mashes, ferments, distills, ages and bottles all their spirits in Denison, Texas for a true grain-to-glass experience. The lineup includes three whiskies —two straight bourbons and a limited release straight corn whiskey.
Congratulations to all these winning distilleries!