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 wants 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, tequila and specialty spirits. Now it's your turn to vote.
You can vote once per cay, per category until polls close on Monday, September 23 at noon ET. Click on each category below to vote:
Best Craft Brandy Distillery
Brandy is often distilled from apples or grapes — Photo courtesy of iStock / ruslanshramko
Brandy is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to renewed interest in classic cocktail recipes. The term "brandy" refers primarily to spirits distilled from wine, and more broadly to spirits distilled from fruits (also called eau de vie). Many of these distilleries work in small batches using locally-sourced ingredients, including apples, pears and other fruits grown on nearby orchards or in partnership with local wineries.
Best Craft Gin Distillery
The word "gin" comes from the French term for juniper — Photo courtesy of iStock / warrengoldswain
Gin gets its name from "genievre," the French word for juniper. This globally popular spirit begins with a neutral base spirit distilled with an array of botanicals – not just juniper berries these days – to give it a distinct aroma and flavor profile.
Best Craft Mixer
A mixer can make or break your cocktail — Photo courtesy of iStock / MaximFesenko
A killer cocktail calls for killer ingredients, and that applies to more than just the booze. The craft distilling movement has buoyed a similar wave of companies hand-crafting their own lines of cocktail bitters, tonics, mixers, syrups and sipping vinegars, all with an eye toward elevating the cocktail experience.
Best Craft Rum Distillery
Rum is made from molasses or sugar cane juice — Photo courtesy of iStock / dulezidar
Sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean began distilling rum during the 17th century from molasses, an inexpensive byproduct of the sugar refining process. The spirit came to the U.S. in 1664 with the opening of the first rum distillery on Staten Island and continued to grow in popularity through the Revolutionary War. Rum has come a long way since those early days, and distilleries across the nation are experimenting with how to craft the finest variations.
Best Craft Specialty Spirits Distillery
These spirits run the gamut from absinthe to limoncello — Photo courtesy of iStock / tenkende
Gin, vodka, rum and whiskey are great and all, but the American thirst for craft spirits has grown beyond the bounds of the traditional to embrace specialty spirits from around the globe. Modern day distilleries now craft liqueurs, absinthe, aquavit, amaro and a host of other interesting libations alongside their flagship spirits.
Best Craft Vodka Distillery
Vodka ranks among the world's most popular spirits — Photo courtesy of iStock / igorr1
Russia and Poland were distilling vodka as early as the 8th or 9th centuries. Since those early days, it has become one of the world's most popular spirits, thanks in large part to its versatility in mixing. But vodka doesn't just belong in cocktails.
While some distilleries compete to create the smoothest, clearest and sometimes most flavorless variation, others are embracing vodka by making it with local, high-quality ingredients. That includes potatoes, wheat, corn and even grapes with minimal distillation to allow the natural flavors to shine.
Best Craft Whiskey Distillery
Who distills the best American whiskey? — Photo courtesy of iStock / 5PH
The American craft whiskey scene has really come into its own over the past few years, expanding beyond the traditional Tennessee and Kentucky bourbons to include ryes, single malts, blends and white whiskeys made with a combination of old world and new school techniques.
Remember, you can vote once per day in each category. The 10 nominees with the most votes in each category will be announced on 10Best.com on Friday, October 4.