Bourbon country is for the big boys like Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, and Wild Turkey — or is it? Though the southern states are dominated by distilling giants rooted in a century of tradition, the little guys are making a stand. Craft distillers across the South are trying out new flavors and questioning long-held beliefs that a certain spirit should taste a certain way. Next time you find yourself below the Mason-Dixon Line, look these guys up.
In his book, Alt Whiskeys, Corsair Artisan distiller Darek Bell writes, "I believe craft distilling will push the boundaries of what most people think a whiskey can be." That's certainly what he's doing at Corsair — and not just with whiskey. This distillery is headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It's right in the middle of bourbon country, but they don't make any bourbon. Instead, Bell focuses on more unusual spirits like his Triple Smoke American Single Malt Whiskey, Vanilla Bean Vodka and Pumpkin Spice Moonshine. Read more »
After nearly four decades as master distiller at one of America's largest wine and spirits companies, Lincoln Henderson retired to become head distiller yet again, this time for his own company. Henderson works with his son and grandson at Louisville Distilling to create his magnum opus: Angel's Envy Bourbon. Unlike the rowdier "cowboy" bourbons, as Henderson calls them, coming from other distillers in the region, Angel's Envy is light and delicate — and each batch is sampled by Henderson himself. Read more »
Ole Smoky Moonshine
When Tennessee eased its restrictions on distilling spirits in 2009, Joe Baker went legit, using his family's 100-year-old moonshine recipe to make his first legal spirits at Ole Smoky Distillery. Making 'shine is still a family operation, Baker says. He works with his parents at the distillery, along with "20 to 30 employees who are really related." They use freshly milled corn to make the 100 proof White Lightnin', as well as the Apple Pie Moonshine and Moonshine Cherries. Read more »
Making hooch is in Phil Prichard's blood, and the distilling know-how goes back for generations in his Tennessee family. In 1997, Prichard started his own distillery and began by making rum — not typical for a Southern distillery. Eventually he revived his family's whiskey tradition, but with an innovative and distinctively Southern twist. His Sweet Lucy Bourbon Liqueur and Double Chocolate Bourbon are just a couple examples of his out-of-the-box approach to a traditional industry. Read more »
Smooth Ambler Spirits
In the rolling hills of Appalachia, you'll find a small craft distillery that is committed to giving back to the local community. Smooth Ambler Spirits uses all local grains to make their Whitewater Vodka and Exceptional White Whiskey. They donate their spent grain to local farms and are very involved in local community activities. And like any Southern distiller, they also offer a line of fine bourbons. Read more »