Sorry, Samuel Adams fans, but craft beer is so 2014. The latest trend in artisanal alcohol is the craft spirit, lovingly created at regional micro-distilleries with locally sourced ingredients, innovative distillation techniques and generous helpings of so-cool-it-hurts authenticity.
The past 10 years have seen an explosion in American craft distilleries, each churning out their own hyper-local take on whisky, rum and the increasingly resurgent American-style gin. But two of the most exciting micro-distilleries are outside American borders, offering beautiful views and centuries of tradition and history alongside their world-class spirits.
For the first, head to the Japanese island of Hokkaido, home to Nikka Whisky’s Yoichi Distillery. The northern-most distillery in the country, Yoichi is the birthplace of the single malts that have earned Japanese whiskies a perennial place in connoisseurs’ Top 10 lists. Flanked by mountains on three sides and the sea on the fourth, Yoichi still uses traditional Scottish methods, including massive copper distillation pots fired by powdered coal. You can take self-guided tours of the facility (or find an English-speaking guide), sip up to three blends of salty, peaty whisky at one of two tasting bars and discover the founder’s intriguing history at its museum. Remember to sample the rare Yoichi Single Malt NAS.
The other must-visit distillery is found on the famous Scottish island of Islay. Unlike most of its peers, The Botanist focuses not on whisky but on small-batch artisanal gin.
Crafted from 22 botanical ingredients hand-foraged from the hills, peat bogs and shores of the small island, its floral gin is slowly distilled in one of the last functional Lomond pot-stills in existence. Take the £5 tour or splash out £25 for the full warehouse experience, tasting glass included. And remember to pick up a bottle as you head out.