HELM's Must-Visit Distilleries

HELM's Must-Visit Distilleries

The Xander Whiskey is not just a great fall color; it was sparked in part by our love for its namesake. Why stop at inspiration? Included here are a group of great distilleries to visit in the United States. When you go to any of them, bring your best HELM, snap a photo, and tag us in it, and we'll send you a little token of our gratitude.

Castle & Key - Millville, KY

On the southern outskirts of Frankfort sits a restored castle, the whiskey stronghold for Castle & Key. Built in 1887 by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. (grandson of 12th President Zachary Taylor), the grounds also feature a classical Springhouse, and a Sunken Garden. Prohibition forced the distillery's closure in 1920, and while the property exchanged hands several times more, it remained largely in disarray until 2014. Had you traveled to its gates 10 years ago, you might have more likely done so on a dare than a bourbon expedition. Go there today and you'll see a vibrant distilling operation across a portfolio of gin, whiskey, and vodka; each expression sources local ingredients to inspire the end product. Make sure you check for reservations, as Castle & Key has a rotating list of seasonal events in addition to its standard distillery tour.

High West - Wanship, UT

In the mountains of Utah is another favorite of ours, High West. You can get to its larger distillery refectory in Wanship, UT, while another popular outpost can be found off Main Street in Park City, UT; the latter is a popular haunt for A-Listers during Sundance Film Festival. High West was founded in 2006 by husband-wife duo David and Jane Perkins. David was a biochemist by trade who found his muse during a distillery tour in Kentucky. They chose to relocate to Park City because of David's love of the Old West and Utah's little-known whiskey history. Standard refectory tours are offered, but you'll want to book a few weeks out. The Saloon on Main Street regularly has availability outside of high tourist times like Sundance. If you want to go big, check out The Nelson Cottage, in Park City, owned by the distillery, which features weekly prix-fixe dinners. All experiences can be found and booked here.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey - Denver, CO

Stranahan's whiskey is Colorado's first legal whiskey distillery since Prohibition, and its origin story is serendipitous. Volunteer firefighter Jess Graber responded to a neighbor's barn fire in 1998, and the owner of that barn was Woody Creek, CO local George Stranahan, a longtime brewery owner, and whiskey connoisseur. The two men forged a bond and discovered their shared passion for the Colorado outdoors and a good pour of brown juice. Both men developed a popular recipe that is handcrafted from grain to glass in Denver, Colorado, and released the first bottle in 2006. Stranahan's has quite a few offerings on its tours page, from free tours to its top shelf tour at $75 per person. All tours must be booked.

Garrison Bros. - Hye, TX

West of Austin in the Texas Hill Country, on the way to Fredericksburg, you'll find Garrison Brothers Distillery, better known by its trademarked moniker "The Best Little Stillhouse in Texas". Garrison Brothers is the first legal Texas whiskey distillery, and the property on which it resides also happens to be a working ranch, consisting of 68 acres of land. By its own account, Garrison Brothers start was a little too hot to handle. This distillery's first batch of bourbon was never consumed. The scorching Texas summer heat annihilated the barrels, and hundreds of gallons were lost. Don't plan on snagging a bottle directly from the distillery on a Sunday; alcohol laws in Texas are tricky and the distillery is closed. Tours typically last one-to-two hours. Traveling with your dog? You're in luck, because the distillery is dog-friendly "to friendly dogs".

Leiper's Fork - Franklin, TN

Leiper's Fork Distillery is located due southwest of Franklin's charming city center. A relative newcomer, this small batch distillery filled its first barrel of whiskey in the Spring of 2016. The company aims to stay true to its middle Tennessee roots of small batch production, yielding low impact through low volume. Leiper's Fork whiskeys are 100% mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled by the distillery's own hands and to their own specifications. Only 25,000 gallons of whiskey are produced annually by Leiper's Fork. Standard tours are inexpensive, but at $40 per person, we are big advocates for Libations, Legends, And Lore - A Cocktail and Storytelling Experience.

Grab your favorite pair of HELM, go explore one of these great places--or go somewhere else entirely--just don't forget to come back and tell us all about it.

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