There are a lot of distilleries in America. Many you’ve heard of — either for their high-quality products, massive advertising budgets, or some combination of the two. But just because you hear the same names over and over again, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep an eye out for new and exciting brands to try. There’s a long list of underrated distilleries crafting amazing, creative, and unique spirits in every state in the union.
Like many bartenders, Kalani Ben, of The Spare Room in Los Angeles, is always on the lookout for different distilleries to try. But to Ben, it’s just as important to make a positive impact on the environment as it is to come up with great expressions.
“To me, the most underrated distilleries are the ones that funnel the bulk of their resources into education for their spirit category,” he says, “and also those who spend time developing efficient sustainability practices within their respected category.”
Being supportive of your category and sustainable are two great ways for a distillery to make itself known, but they aren’t the only ways. To find out what else moves the needle, we reached out to some of our favorite bartenders.
Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery
Nick Jackson, head bartender at The Rum House in New York City
Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery in New York. They make so many good whiskeys — from malted, to rye, to the Hudson baby bourbon — all of which are amazing and worth the price. The distillery is very cool too, right on a river with an excellent restaurant.
Justin Campbell, beverage director at The h.wood Group in Los Angeles
The most underrated distillery is CH Distillery in Chicago. These guy are really doing it right. Using local and organic grain, they make delicious products. Their fernet is my favorite I’ve ever had. I’ve had the pleasure of working with them once on a barrel-aged rum that was mind-blowing.
Oh, rumor has it they just bought up Jeppson’s Malört to finally be produced in Chicago now! Don’t know what Malört is?! Kerosene and flowers!
High West Distillery
Roman Cervantes from La Pulperia in New York City
In my opinion, the most underrated distillery is High West. Sure, they’ve received a lot of press in the last few years, but I believe they have really good products. Fans eagerly await the release of A Midwinter Night’s Dram and Bourye every year.
St. George Spirits
Keith Zintakmon, bartender at JRDN in San Diego
With the craft spirit boom in full effect, this is a very difficult question. So many different distilleries are doing great things and creating amazing products. I’d like to highlight St. George spirits in California for their wide variety of high-quality products. They produce 20 different spirits beautifully and are a great asset to any bar.
Hillrock Estate Distillery
Mark Tubridy, mixologist at 21 Club in New York City
That’s tough because there are so many great craft distilleries that tend to get overshadowed by the massive marketing campaigns of the larger, more established brands. One distillery that I can think of that definitely deserves more attention is Hillrock, in the Hudson Valley. They are the true embodiment of craft distilling and a leader in the “field-to-glass” movement.
All Hillrock spirits are produced from start to finish on the estate, from the growing, harvesting and malting of the grains, to the distilling, aging and bottling of their whiskeys. I love that the team is passionately bringing back the artisanal tradition of distilling in the Hudson Valley and their commitment to quality shines through in each of their products.
3 Howls Distillery
Cheston Overman, lead bartender at Bookstore Bar & Café in Seattle
One of the most underrated distilleries in my mind would be 3 Howls Distillery, which is here in Seattle. They do a wide selection of spirits, including whiskey, rum, and gin, and have started to rack up the awards at national competitions the past few years.
Trevor Alderson, bartender at Blue Smoke in New York City
I don’t know how underrated Willett is throughout the country, but it is rarely ordered in my bar, and I think that’s a crime. Noah’s Mill is fabulous for the price, and their 4-year rye makes a delicious Manhattan.
Jon Baer, manager of beverage and bakery operations at The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
Leopold Bros. I think the first thought when someone says US distillery or craft distillery is whiskey. Leopold Bros makes great whiskies, but they are so much more than that. They are also producing some of the best domestic gins, Amari and liqueurs in the country.
Nelson’s Greenbriar Distillery
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
Nelson’s Greenbriar Distillery and its Belle Meade isn’t exactly underrated, but it’s a bottle I’d like to see on more shelves. Not only is it a delicious product, but the story behind it is absolutely amazing.
Bull Run Distillery
Amy Wong, lead bartender at King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland
Bull Run Distillery. Lee Medoff, head distiller and founder, co-founded House spirits years before Bull Run and is a pioneer of Oregon distilleries. They distill a few different styles of whisky from American to Single Malts. The amazing part is they’ve helped numerous new distilleries get started in the area, such as Aria Gin — they really pay it forward.
Adam Cornelius, director of operations at Little Beet Table in Greenwich, Connecticut
The most underrated distillery is Koval in Chicago. They are doing some amazing distilling out of there with unique grains such as oat and millet.
Liam Deegan, partner at Barrel Proof in New Orleans
Hear me out: They make consistently good, affordable bourbon and rye. They are pretty steadfast in what they make. Even though they are trying out a bunch of new non-traditional products, they still don’t mess with what brought them to the dance.
101 Bourbon is simply one of the best.
Writer’s Pick: FEW Spirits
Chris Osburn, UPROXX LIFE
One of the most exciting, underrated distilleries in America is Evanston, Illinois’ FEW Spirits. One of the distillery’s best offerings is its small-batch Breakfast Gin that makes us feel like its okay to drink booze in the morning.
Recently, the brand collaborated with 90s grunge rock band Alice In Chains to create a tequila barrel-aged bourbon. It stayed very rock n’ roll and sipped beautifully.