Over rosé? Bored by craft beer? There’s no need for sippers to stress. The latest craze is to sample spirits produced with locally sourced ingredients at a regional micro-distillery. From award-winning small-batch gins in Australia to peaty single-malt whisky in northern Japan and experimental vodkas in the US, there’s no denying that the craft-spirit-making zeitgeist is upon us.
Box Distillery, Ådalen, Sweden
Poking out of dense forest on the shores of the spectacular Ångermanälven River in remote northern Sweden is Box Distillery (boxwhisky.se). And for this picturesque distillery it’s all about the location: the crystal-clear river, where 500,000 litres of cold mountain water flows by each second, combined with the region’s wide temperature variations, results in Scandinavia’s most distinctive whisky. From June to August Box Distillery is open daily for tours; it has a restaurant and bar.
Industry City Distillery, Brooklyn, USA
Vodka by self-proclaimed nerds! Industry City Distillery (industrycitydistillery.com) can be found in the shared space of Brooklyn’s Industry City and approaches its sugar-beet-vodka crafting from a scientific angle. All equipment was built on the premises, resulting in a very experimental approach to distilling. Fancy a cocktail with views of the bay? Friday and Saturday nights from 4pm to 10pm is cocktail time at Industry City’s tasting room.
Yoichi Distillery, Hokkaidō, Japan
Japanese whiskies currently take pride of place in some of the world’s finest drinking establishments. Nikka Whisky – 2015 International Distiller of the Year – produces much of its award-winning peaty single malts at its Yoichi Distillery (nikka.com). Located close to Sapporo in southern Hokkaidō, the handsome distillery is flanked by mountains and the Sea of Japan. Taste up to three whisky blends on the distillery tour; self-guided tours are also available.
The Botanist, Islay, Scotland
Scotland may be the home of whisky, but on the Hebridean island of Islay you’ll find a micro-distillery dedicated to creating a floral gin with foraged botanicals (thebotanist.com). The all-important raw ingredients, picked from Islay’s shores, hills and bogs, are distilled to create a contemporary gin. Book the full warehouse experience for an insight into the distilling process and philosophy.
Four Pillars, Healesville, Australia
This sophisticated small distillery, spearheading the micro-distillery explosion in Australia, sits in the heart of Victorian wine country and offers a delicious alternative to the abundance of cellar doors in the surrounding Yarra Valley. Four Pillars (fourpillarsgin.com.au) is dedicated to crafting gin using native Australian botanicals such as lemon myrtle and Tasmanian pepperberry. About an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Four Pillars’ contemporary tasting room rivals many a wine-country cellar door.
Sipsmith, London, England
Sipsmith Distillery (sipsmith.com) is one of five licensed gin distilleries located in the London area and the first to be granted a local license for a copper-based still since 1820. This handcrafting specialist produces gin and vodka in small batches with reference to the English countryside. For instance, Sipsmith’s delicious sloe gin has been rested on a bed of wild sloe berries, creating an extraordinary burgundy hue. It’s a must taste! Tours take place on selected weekday evenings – book in advance.
64° Reykjavík Distillery, Reykjavík, Iceland
Sourcing subarctic berries to create delicious schnapps is 64° Reykjavík’s speciality (reykjavikdistillery.is ). Using handpicked ingredients from the wilds of Iceland, this distiller’s offerings include crowberry schnapps, made from the small, juicy black berries that only grow in the subarctic tundra, and the traditional Icelandic spirit brennivín, a strong schnapps flavoured by caraway and angelica seeds. The distillery isn’t open to visitors, but you can try some of its delicious products at Iceland’s best cocktail bar, Reykjavík’s Slippbarinn (slippbarinn.is).
Glendalough Distillery, Glendalough, Ireland
Ireland’s first craft distillery, started by five friends, Glendalough (glendaloughdistillery.com) is safeguarding Irish distilling heritage by reintroducing poitín (‘the water of life’) to the world of spirits. Once expertly crafted by monks, poitín was outlawed by King Charles in 1661, which sent it into obscurity. Glendalough now makes the spirit in three strengths: Premium Irish, Sherry Cask Finish and the ominously named Mountain Strength. The distillery will be open for tours and tastings in late 2017, but in the meantime, poitín can be enjoyed nearby at The Wicklow Heather (wicklowheather.ie), in the village of Laragh.
Poli 1898, Veneto, Italy
Not all craft distillers are new kids on the block. The family-run Poli distillery (poligrappa.com) has been making fine grappa in the heart of the Veneto for more than a century. Key to its highly sought-after grappa is the sourcing and prompt distilling of quality raw materials using a combination of traditional and bain-marie stills. Poli offers guided tours.
Hartfield & Co, Kentucky, USA
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, where fabulous small-batch distillers litter the bluegrass fields, is a well-worn path for most spirit enthusiasts. The first distiller since Prohibition to be granted a licence in bourbon country, Hartfield & Co (hartfieldandcompany.com) prides itself on sourcing ingredients from within 10 miles of the property where possible. This is craft distilling at its finest. The Saturday ‘County Tour’ includes an in-depth look at Hartfield’s processes and finishes with a tasting.