The craft spirits industry is exploding, with more than 1,500 craft distillers at work across the United States (according to the American Craft Spirits Association). It's never been easier to get stellar ingredients for the perfect cocktail, but the sheer variety available in liquor stores can be overwhelming.
To help narrow things down, 10Best asked a panel of spirits industry experts to nominate the best craft distilleries in seven categories. 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 winners list:
Best Craft Brandy Distillery: Korbel Brandy in Sonoma, Calif.
Korbel makes their brandy from California grapes — Photo courtesy of Korbel Brandy
Korbel has been producing California brandy since 1889. This award-winning spirit is made from California grapes, distilled in small batches and aged in fire-charred oak barrels to produce a golden brandy with a rich butterscotch nose and a smooth finish.
Best Craft Gin Distillery: Durham Distillery in Durham, N.C.
This is the first win for Durham Distillery — Photo courtesy of Felicia Perry Photography / Durham Distillery
Durham Distillery crafts their small-batch Conniption Gins in a custom-designed German copper pot still. Botanicals are individually vacuum-distilled to maximize their flavor. Conniption American Dry Gin exhibits floral notes of cucumber, honeysuckle and citrus, while the Navy Strength Gin is made with botanicals like Indian coriander, cardamom, rosemary, caraway, citrus and fig.
Best Craft Mixer: Liber & Co. in Austin
Liber & Co. makes bar syrups from high quality raw ingredients — Photo courtesy of Liber & Co.
Liber & Co. in Austin crafts a lineup of bar syrups designed for the cocktail lover, which are made from the best raw ingredients available. Texas red grapefruits from a local orchard go into the Rio Red Grapefruit Cordial. Other flavor options include blood orange, grenadine, tropical passion fruit, fiery ginger and almond.
Best Craft Rum Distillery: Wicked Dolphin in Cape Coral, Fla.
Florida distillery has won three years in a row — Photo courtesy of Wicked Dolphin
Founded in 2012, 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: Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Long Road Distillers specializes in aquavit — Photo courtesy of Long Road Distillers
Among the spirits made by the folks at Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids are two varieties of aquavit, a popular Scandinavian spirit. The Original Aquavit has a profile of herbs and spices, while the limited release Old Aquavit rests in used whiskey barrels for 12 months, lending it greater complexity with notes of dill and caraway. The Michigan distillery also makes limited release liqueurs in flavors like raspberry and cherry.
Best Craft Vodka Distillery: Prairie Organic Spirits in Princeton, Minn.
Prairie Organic Spirits makes their award-winning vodka from Minnesota-grown corn — Photo courtesy of Prairie Organic Spirits
Everything from Prairie Organic Spirits starts with ingredients from Minnesota farms, free from herbicides to help protect native wildlife. Organic corn is distilled in a copper still as many times as needed to produce the desired flavor profile. The leftover grains are then returned to local farms to be used as animal feed.
Best Craft Whiskey Distillery: Smooth Ambler in Maxwelton, W.V.
Smooth Ambler crafts blended whiskey and bourbon from fresh mountain water — Photo courtesy of Smooth Ambler / Facebook
Smooth Ambler uses fresh mountain water and hand-selected grains in crafting their line of four whiskeys. The flagship Old Scout American Whiskey is a blend of whiskeys distilled from bourbon mash bills, one aged in new oak and the other in re-charred bourbon casks. Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon is bottled at cask-strength. The Big Level Bourbon incorporates wheat and malted barley into the mash, while Smooth Ambler Contradiction is a blend of classic and wheated bourbons.
Congratulations to all our craft distillery winners! Remember to visit 10Best.com daily to vote in our Readers' Choice contests.