Most people know Asheville as Beer City, and for good reason – there are literally dozens of micro and even nanobreweries in the area, creating a wide variety of incredible lagers, sour beers, IPAs, and every other imaginable variety.
But when it comes to drinking local on the cocktail side, did you know that Asheville has a great craft distillery scene? Since many spirits spend time aging in barrels or in other kinds of time-consuming processes, many craft distilleries emerge on a small scale at first, only to grow rapidly as their products hit the market and people discover the delicious flavors.
Whether you’d prefer your locally distilled whiskey on the rocks or your locally made gin in a gin and tonic, Asheville offers plenty for the distillery-loving crowd to enjoy. Once you’ve tried the best distilleries in Asheville, there are other small distillers in the mountains of North Carolina that are well worth a visit if you’re in the area for a while as well.
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The Best Distilleries in Asheville, NC
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Distilleries in and Near Asheville
Only in the past 10 years or so have the North Carolina distilleries really returned to the Asheville area, but Western NC is known for its spirits. The chief stereotype is the harsh corn whiskey and moonshine from this area of the country, but distilling moonshine has stopped being something to do on the sly and started to be a craft beverage.
There are a variety of local micro-distilleries producing their own delicious flavored “moonshines,” but without the dangerous heavy alcohols that made moonshine gets its reputation for danger.
That being said, since the distilling industry in this area was virtually nonexistent from Prohibition until the early 2010s, the growth of microdistilleries is far from a moonshine-only game. Many of the distilleries in North Carolina are committed to using heirloom or local grains, botanicals that are native to the Asheville area, and innovative brewing and barrel resting programs.
Keep an eye out for Asheville Distilling Company, which is temporarily closed but planning to open on South French Broad Avenue in 2024. We skipped it on this list, but it could be a real powerhouse once it opens in its new location.
1. Stop and Stay a While at Rye Knot
This unassuming location set back on Merrimon Avenue in North Asheville hides a myriad of talents: their food is top-notch, and the space is comfortable and perfect for a meal or a night out, but they also make beer and spirits on-site.
Right now, Rye Knot offers RK Bourbon Whiskey, Corn Whiskey, Knot Rye Whiskey, and Vodka, and they are looking forward to adding their own gin and rum to the list. They also are aging some Straight Rye and Straight Bourbon.
Many distilleries that are in their early years launch with younger spirits while they age their first round of barrel-aging spirits that need a few years to mature. If you’ve had tasting flights at breweries in town, prepare yourself for a spirits tasting flight, where you can sample and learn a bit more about what makes each spirit distinct.
Location: 868 Merrimon Ave, Asheville
2. Participate in Whiskey Business at Two Trees Distilling Company
Nestled in the little town of Fletcher, south of Asheville, Two Trees Distilling Company offers a wide range of flavored whiskeys and Bourbon Whiskey with flavors like Old Fashioned and Manhattan already in the product, as well as their straight bourbon whiskey.
Come to this local craft distillery for flavors like Carolina Peach, Scorched Brown Sugar, Peanut Butter, Candy Apple, Sea Salted Caramel, Crisp Apple, and Cinnamon Spice, as well as holiday flavors like Pumpkin Spice and Peppermint. The flavor options are endless for both sippers and those who prefer to mix them into a perfect flavorful cocktail.
Location: 17 Continuum Drive, Fletcher
3. Follow Where the Spirit Leads at Oak & Grist Distilling
Oak and Grist’s team really wants to create grain-to-glass experiences, a truly local set of small-batch whiskeys and gins that create jobs throughout the supply chain right here in Western North Carolina and celebrate the flavors produced in our mountains.
The locally grown and malted barley they use is grown within a 60-mile drive of the distillery itself, which is located in Black Mountain. If you love to eat local, drinking local is more possible than ever now.
Their Genever-Inspired Gin is based on a type of spirit that drinks a bit like whiskey and a bit like gin, and it’s overall a totally new flavor for many people. Then they age some of their gin in casks for at least a year to create their Barrel Reserve Gin.
They also produce American Malt Whiskey, a Single Malt Whiskey, and a Rye Whiskey, though you’ll only find the Rye Whiskey at their distillery, and its extremely small batch size makes finding a bottle a challenge at times.
If you get the chance to tour the distillery, you can learn more about the distilling process for gin and whiskey, as well as all the features they care about so deeply, like forming connections with local farmers to get their grain from as local a source as possible.
Then, pull up a seat at the cocktail garden or the covered patio and try their spirits in a cocktail designed by the people who know these spirits backward and forward. Then, pick out some bottles to take home as gifts or to keep the party going.
Location: 1556 Grovestone Road, Black Mountain
4. See Where the Distilling Magic Started at Cultivated Cocktails
This distillery isn’t old by any means, but since 2012, Cultivated Cocktails has been distilling gin and rum in Asheville, and they’re the first to do so since Prohibition! They make the rum and gin, to be sure, but they don’t really stop there. The word “cultivated” really sticks in your mind through the whole process of visiting Cultivated Cocktails since they want the craft mixers to be just as much a star in their tasting room.
At Cultivated Cocktails, you’ll find Hazel 63 Rum, an aged dry rum; Shades of Rosé Gin, getting its pink tinge from resting in red wine barrels; Asheville Vodka; Highway 9 Gin, full of bright citrus flavors; Asheville Coffee Liqueur; and Asheville Creme de Cacao, produced with the chocolate wizards at French Broad Chocolates. There’s also Steel Horse Whisky, Asheville Ginger Cordial, and Appalachian Aperitif, with more to come, most likely.
One of their coolest additions lately has been the Imbibe Box, a monthly subscription service that gives you all the garnishes, bitters, mixes, and more to create 15-20 craft cocktails per box (spirits are sold separately due to alcohol shipping laws varying per state). The boxes come with recipe cards and help the bartender-in-training in your life to get to know the many tools of the trade.
Location: 25 Page Avenue Suite 103, Asheville
5. Take a Walk on the Wild (Plants) Side at Eda Rhyne Distilling Company
If you’ve spent much time with folks who have lived in the mountains for generations, you’ve probably heard about foraging, looking for wild edible and medicinal plants out in the natural vibrancy that are the woods here.
Eda Rhyne’s various spirits take their lead from the incredible flora of this area, from their different varieties of Amaro (an herbal liqueur that was popularized in Italy but adapted to Southern Appalachia by Eda Rhyne) to their locally-foraged Spicebush-infused Vodka.
They offer Pinnix Gin, made with local botanicals, and a special edition Rustic Nocino, a liqueur made from black walnuts. If you haven’t spent much time sipping complex botanical aperitifs, a visit to this distillery will fill you with wonder and flavor.
They’ll also probably tell you about heirloom grains they are working to bring back from rarity for their upcoming Rare Grain Rye Whiskey, which uses Seashore Black Rye and Conor Family Corn, bringing these incredible grains back into use and giving those who imbibe the resulting spirits access to varieties and flavors that might otherwise be lost.
Location: 101 Fairview Road Suite A, Asheville
6. Find a Downtown Libation at Chemist Spirits
If you’ve been out on the town in Asheville in the past, you might have happened into Antidote, the bar and taproom that is attached to Chemist Spirits. Chemist might just be the best-known among the distilleries in Asheville!
There, you’ll find an old-time apothecary theme and intricate, delicious cocktails of all kinds, many made with Chemists’ signature spirits. Most of what Chemist produces are gins, including their standard American Gin and Navy Strength Gins, as well as a Barrel Rested Gin that picks up flavors from the wooden casks.
They’ve also created various additional products, like a special chocolate orange gin liqueur and various whiskeys that have been made in collaboration with the Biltmore Estate or Green Man Brewing. While at their distillery, you can tour the facility and learn more about what distilling looks like and how they get such signature flavors into their various spirits using well-timed additions of botanicals and excellent methods for keeping the spirits bright and smooth.
Location: 151 Coxe Avenue, Asheville
7. Make It a Great Night at Dalton Distillery
With its downtown location, Dalton Distillery really packs a one-two punch: first and foremost, they offer a great downtown bar with ping-pong and other games, plenty of beer options, and excellent bartending, but second (and clearly more rare): they make many of their spirits themselves!
From their Araña Blanca Vodka (a vodka made with blue agave that has a bit of a tequila flavor to it) to their Appleachian Vodka (a fermented apple spirit!), you’ll find a lot of local and a lot of interesting flavors.
Sample the Hammond Rum or its cousin, their Hammond Oak Rum that is aged with French oak wood chips for three months, or the buzziest of the three, the Hammond Coffee Rum. They love that their adjoining bar has more North Carolina-made spirits than any other bar in Asheville, and when it comes to drinking local, this is the place to belly up to the bar!
Location: 251 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville
More Western NC Distilleries to Sample
We don’t want to leave you high (on the mountains) and dry (without liquor) if you happen to still be looking for local North Carolina spirits produced in the Asheville area. While these distilleries are an hour or more away, you’re likely to find incredible flavors and fun stories if any of these spots fits into another itinerary you’re on: combine it with a hiking trip or your drive home, and you’ve got yourself a great NC road trip destination.
8. Sample the Shine at Copper Creek Distillery
The folks at Copper Creek Distillery pride themselves on their traditional methods for making moonshine, learned from older men in their community, crafting drinkable, smooth moonshine. They have a Grape Shine, an Apple Shine, and a sweeter and lower-proof Apple Pie Shine, as well as their standard Il-lic-it Shine and an interesting Gold Shine, which gets its hue from aging with oak that gives it a little more of a whiskey flavor.
While their products are available at liquor stores around the area, it’s worth stopping for a free tasting at their distillery in Marion – it’s the first legal distillery in a four county area since Prohibition!
Location: 2550 US-221 BUS, Marion
9. Taste the Single Malt Whiskey at Blue Ridge Distilling Company
There’s a cool story behind small-town-distillery Blue Ridge Distilling. The team are salvage divers, of all things, working in a dangerous and interesting trade where they are often on the bottom of the ocean.
Their new endeavor, making Defiant Single Malt Whiskey, has already carried them to winning a gold medal at the Fifty Best awards in 2019. They give tours of their facility, though calling ahead is a good idea since they aren’t open late in the afternoon or evening. They also have a Defiant Rye for rye whiskey fans.
Location: 228 Redbud Lane, Bostic
10. Sample Southern Distilling Shines at M & T Distilling Company
While enjoying the fun of Hendersonville’s growing food, drink, and tourism scene, stop by M & T Distilling Company to try flavored moonshines and buy some to take home. They’re keeping the traditions of ‘shine distilling alive using their all-copper still and making 100-proof corn moonshine, but they also make flavors that make any cocktail very tasty.
Sample Coffee Moonshine for a buzz, or make a sweet treat with either the Salted Caramel, Amaretto, or Peanut Butter shines; they also offer the popular Apple Pie flavor as well as a sunny and summery Peach Moonshine. No matter what you try, consider touring the distillery and ask for some cocktail recommendations before you head out after buying your favorites.
Location: 711 Maple Street, Hendersonville
There you have it! The best distilleries in Asheville, NC. What is your favorite distillery near Asheville? Let us know so we can give them a try!
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