Today’s sophisticated imbiber has so many quality options, and the tipple-crazed travelers can find great options all around the world. Mexico is known for its high-end tequilas and mezcals. Scotland has smoky scotch. Japan created sake. And, of course, bourbon is a true-blooded American pastime.
The next time you get a hankering for local spirits, head to the source and let the cocktails fuel the trip.
While Japan is known for amazing sakes, they have also upped the ante on locally made whiskies. In fact, you could say the brown spirit is a fetish of the Japanese, and it’s one they do quite well. One of the most famous distilleries is Nikka, which makes Miyagikyo whiskey.
Stay in the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Imperial Hotel, Tokyo for the night and then take the train to the Miyagikyo Distillery, about four hours away. There you can tour the facilities and sample the goods.
A two-hour ride in the opposite direction is the Suntory Hakushu Distillery, which is also worth the trek.
Of course, if you want to sip some sake, you can find plenty of places making it right in the city. Consider taking a three-hour sake tour with Sakagura, or plan your own visit to the Ishikawa Brewery and Yoshino Shuzo Sake Brewery.
New York City
Yes, the Big Apple does appear to have everything, and craft spirits just happen to be another category where it excels. Thanks to the 2007 Farm Distillery Act, opening new distilleries in the city became legal, and business took off, especially in outer boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens.
A decade later, you can drink some excellent locally made pours right on site. Some highlights include Greenhook Ginsmiths, Astoria Distilling, New York Distilling Company, Brooklyn Gin and Widow Jane Distilling Company. Many of these facilities have tours and/or bars where you can sample goods, but you can also find these made-in-NYC spirits at fine establishments all over the city.
As for where to stay, if you want to be close to the action, book a room at the hip Wythe Hotel right on the Williamsburg waterfront.
Park City and Salt Lake City
Utah might not be the first place booze-lovers think of when they want to travel, but this ski-friendly state scores high on the craft sprit scene. High West Distillery was the first establishment to put Park City on the map as more than a ski town. Over 10 years later, it still packs in whiskey hounds intent on trying the American Pride Bourbon and Campfire Whiskey. Head there not only for a dram but for the excellent craft cocktails and hearty mountain food at the saloon as well.
In the state capital, you will find Beehive, creator of Great Jack Rabbit Gin, a lovely small-batch treat infused with local herbs.
Starting in 2007, Elevation Distilling began churning out Salt Lake Vodka.
And since 2013, James Fowler’s Sugar House Distillery has produced some of the best rum and malted whiskey.
Park City and Salt Lake City are located just over 30 miles from each other, so it’s easy to visit both places on your next trip (plus you have to fly into SLC, anyway). Book your stay in Park City at the elegant Four-Star Waldorf Astoria Park City, and if you’re there in the winter, you can mix in a little time on the slopes, too.
This might be a given since Scotland lends its very name to scotch, but it’s not just booze you will get; the countryside proves stunning and the people are delightful. If big cities are your thing, head to Edinburgh or Glasgow, where the scotch you will be sipping is Lowland-made. Distilleries in this area prove sparse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of the “Lowland Ladies” from Glenkinchie, Annandale or Auchentoshan.
And, if you need a break from the brown spirits, try the gin at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery. Book a room at the lovely and historic Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, which sits just one minute from where you were last drinking.
When planning a tour of the Highlands, you have a lot of options both in lodging and libations: Make sure to visit the historic Glen Garioch Distillery in Oldmeldrum and Glenturret Distillery’s Famous Grouse Experience, which is essentially a flight of scotch, food, a tour and a bit of name recognition.
If you find yourself visiting the Glen Ord Distillery, book a room at the beautiful Culloden House, a luxury chateau showcasing its deep Scottish roots.
Really, you can’t go wrong no matter what path you choose, just plan to explore one area at a time. Also, keep this bit of trivia under your hat: The Gaelic word for whisky is “uisge beatha,” which translates to “the water of life.”