10 Craft Liquor Distillers That Are Raising US Spirits

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- If you’ve gone into a liquor store recently, you may have noticed the arrival of a “moonshine” brand made down the street in what used to be a vacant warehouse. Craft distilleries aim to take a big drink out of the entrenched global brands that dominate the hard liquor market. And so far, they've been pretty good at recruiting some of the biggest talent from the most-famed U.S. liquor brands.

According to the American Distilling Institute, craft distilleries are growing at a very fast pace. U.S.-based craft distillers rose from 24 in 2000 to 52 in 2005 and now stand -- or still -- at 234, as of the end of 2011. The institute estimates there are at least 50 new craft distilleries currently in planning or under construction. The craft distillery movement seems a logical next trend after the microbrewery craze.  

According to Mark Spivak, author of the upcoming book, “Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History,” craft distilleries are defined as those producing less than 40,000 cases per year. The concept of micro-distilleries, he says, “is really in the imagination.” 

Here are 10 of the most imaginative craft distillers in the U.S., according to liquor and travel experts:

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere:

This artisan distillery makes moonshine, grappa, apple brandy and rhubarb liqueur in a renovated warehouse in the small town of Cashmere in North Central Washington. The distillery makes all of its products by hand with fruits and grains grown in Washington state. “Their true claim to fame is a gin like no other. Normally the only botanical in gin is juniper berries, but at It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere a host of botanicals including hibiscus, coriander, citrus peel, cardamom, and star anise are incorporated to make a full flavored gin you’ll not find anywhere else,” says Washington State travel expert, Heather Larson, who runs the site, Discover Washington State.