Finding the adult beverage that best suits your taste can be a challenge. As we grow older and have an opportunity to test a wider variety of drinks we acquire a more informed palate. With time we either settle into a routine or continue to explore our options. Like a great number of individuals I continue to do just that and am always up for challenging a bartender. Often, I let the bartender challenge me and have never been disappointed. I’ve a penchant for visiting breweries and distilleries, thus it leads me to finding the best whiskeys in each state of ACC Nation.
Well, that’s not totally true. The source of this list is Esquire magazine and their article, ‘The Best Whiskeys in Every State Right Now’. The piece, by Aaron Goldfarb, came out in February, so the ‘right now’ indicates his list is subject to change. Nonetheless, it makes for an interesting read and I thought we’d share with you the results.
Most of the bottles in this list range in price from $40 to $60. That’s a very reasonable price for a casual drinker. It’s always a great idea to have some of the better stuff in your liquor cabinet should someone special stop by.
Though my focus is on beer as of late that doesn’t mean I skip out on enjoying a whisky neat from time to time. With family in Kentucky (your bucket list must include the ‘Bourbon Trail’) and a father-in-law who knows and enjoys his whiskey, it’s only natural I should join in.
It’s important to note that Goldfarb left out Kentucky and Indiana. The Bluegrass State we understand as the sheer number and variety of quality whiskey produced there is overwhelming. Slapping ‘best’ on any of these would likely start a small scale war among people who drink something other than.
As for Indiana (he also left off Tennessee because of Jack Daniels), I’m not sure I agree with the decision but the state is literally cranking out monster volumes of alcohol used by companies everywhere. The production of Midwest Grain Products in Indiana is sent out via train and truck to facilities that slap a label on it. But, there are plenty of distilleries producing top quality whiskeys.
So, with a bit of digging I found an article from VisitIndiana.com entitled, ‘America’s Best Bourbon is Made at this Southern Indiana Distillery’. So, for our list we’ll add Starlight Distillery. Why? The distillery won the 2019 American Craft Spirits Association best Bourbon award for their Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey.
Goldfarb has a Top 10 and then the best of the rest list. We’ll start with the highest ranked whiskeys first.
The List – Best Whiskeys
At No. 6 is Virginia Distillery Company located in Lovingston. The distillery is located about half way between Charlottesville and Lynchburg on Route 29. They source a single malt Scotch from the Scottish Highlands and blend it with their single malt. In 2020, they’ll release a locally distilled single malt called, ‘Courage & Conviction’.
Fear not, there is another non-Kentucky product making it onto the Top 10. Pennsylvania’s Mountain Laurel Spirits in Bristol, on the Delaware River north of Philadelpha, comes in at No. 7. Their Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Whiskey, specifically the 94-proof finished in Vermouth barrels gets the nod.
In Florida you’ll want to keep an eye on St. Augustine Distillery. Two things make this unique. The first, it’s a community-owned distillery and the second, the Port Finished Bourbon aged in barrels from San Sebastian Winery.
Way down deep in the heart of Georgia, Americus to be exact, is Thirteenth Colony. They offer up a four year aged Southern Bourbon and Southern Rye finished on French oak spirals.
Triple Eight is located in Nantucket, Massachusetts and is part of the Cisco Brewery tri-fecta which also includes Nantucket Vineyard. Triple Eight has a 12 year old single malt named, ‘Notch’ which has won numerous awards.
We head to New York’s Finger Lakes Region for our next distillery. Located in Burdett which is just north of Watkins Glen, Finger Lakes Distilling delivers McKenzie Rye and Bourbon. Some of the more interesting twists include finishing in Pommeau and Riesling barrels.
There’s plenty of illegal moonshine operations producing whiskey across the South. That still holds true in North Carolina. Great Wagon Road in Charlotte has roots in that tradition. Rua, which means ‘red’ in Celtic is an organic style malt.
In Charleston, South Carolina High Wire Distilling features Sorghum Whiskey. The use of Sorghum, which contains a higher sugar content than corn hearkens back to colonial days. Both the aroma and taste are quite unique.
Jim Quist is Managing Editor of ACC Nation and Co-Host of ACC Nation Podcast. He’s a member of NSMA (National Sports Media Association), FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and USBWA (U.S. Basketball Writers Association). He is enrolled in the Beer Brewer Professional Certificate program at the University of Richmond. Follow him on Twitter @ACCTheQ.