Last Updated on December 10, 2020
Last Updated on December 10, 2020
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North Carolina distilleries have taken time to prosper, thanks to prohibition, restrictive laws, and other factors.
But as things open up for the 80-plus locally-owned distilleries in our state, you can see they’re already producing incredible gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, moonshine, and other spirits.
And after asking our readers about their favorites, we received an overwhelming variety of responses. That is why this is your list, not just ours, of North Carolina distilleries that you must visit at least once.
Before we cover these awesome local distilleries, we’ll give you a little bit of history on liquor in our state. Here’s how we’ve organized the guide from beginning to end:
- History of Alcohol in North Carolina
- North Carolina Distilleries
- Clear Spirits
- Dark Spirits
North Carolina Distilleries
We want to preface that this is a growing list. If you’ve got something in mind, please let us know (nicely) in the comments section or by email.
The History of Alcohol in North Carolina
Prohibition in North Carolina went into effect in 1908, 12 years before the 18th Amendment‘s passage. Even prior to this, many counties throughout North Carolina were considered dry.
The rise of bootlegging came during these dark days and even laid the foundation for NASCAR. That’s because many runners modified their vehicles for speed and space for smuggling liquor. You can learn about this at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
When prohibition ended in the United States in 1933, North Carolina did not join the booze party for another four years. Even then, many counties remained dry for many more years.
A lifelong student of moonshine, Frank Stephenson Jr breaks down some of the things we discussed in more detail with North Carolina Moonshine: An Illicit History.
North Carolina Distilleries
Now that local distilleries in North Carolina are allowed to make and sell their creations, here are some that you must visit. Before each description, we’ll share the types of liquor they offer and where you can find them.
Also, when frequenting these awesome establishments, please enjoy their spirits responsibly and bring along a designated driver.
Gin | 151 Coxe Ave, Asheville
Juniper is the name of the game when it comes to gin, as you might already know. At Chemist, their “New Western” style of vapor infusion highlights citrus, rose, and mint instead.
From their prohibition-era apothecary tasting room, visitors to this Asheville distillery are reminded of a time when alcohol was only available with a prescription.
Their adjoining cocktail bar, Antidote, promises “the cure for the common cocktail,” so drink up!
Gin, Vodka, Liqueurs | 711 Washington St, Durham
We’re told that owner Melissa Katrincic fetched olives from her grandparents’ gin martinis as a child, which shows you owning Durham Distillery might’ve been her destiny.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll see why she was meant for this, as Katrincic’s business produces two award-winning versions of Conniption gin, American Dry and Navy Strength. Durham Distillery is also the first producer of canned cocktails (Gin and Tonic, Cucumber Vodka and Soda, and Rose Spritz).
We also included a visit to Durham Distillery in our guide to a weekend in Durham!
Fainting Goat Spirits
Gin, Whiskey, Vodka | 115 W Lewis St, Greensboro
In a former blacksmith shop, this father-son duo is creating award-winning gin, vodka, rye whiskey, and bourbon that’s meant for sipping, definitely not mixing.
Fainting Goat’s small batch and grain-to-glass spirits stand out for their quality in each sip. That’s why you’ll hear us mention them nearly always first among our favorite North Carolina distilleries.
Vodka | 4625 Industry Ln, Durham
Graybeard Distillery in Durham’s Bedlam Vodka is smooth and drinkable on its own. But why rice? Legend has it that Irish ancestors passed the recipe down to founder Scott Russ.
They were determined to distill vodka during the Great Potato Famine of the 19th century, and thus beginning the rebellion. You can learn about this and more as you tour Graybeard.
There, you’ll see why it was rated as one of the Top 10 Vodka Distilleries in the US!
Gin | 840 Mill Works St # 120, Winston-Salem
We’ve spotlighted the innovative breweries in Winston-Salem but think Sutler’s Distillery deserves a nod, too. This place uses sweet and poignant botanicals of lavender, coriander, juniper, and citrus, but also a little tradition to make their gin.
A sutler is a person who followed armies and sold provisions to soldiers, often in ceramic bottles, which is exactly what holds Sulter’s Gin. Traditionally, the sutlers “were the original purveyors of spirits, boosting morale against all odds.”
That’s exactly what this gin proves to do.
A visit to Sutler’s would fit in nicely while enjoying a weekend in Winston-Salem. See what else does, too!
Three Stacks Distilling
Vodka | 906 Atlantic Ave, Kinston
Three Stacks Distilling produces Social House Vodka with non-GMO North Carolina corn to create a smooth, pure, and sustainable spirit. This distillery in Kinston is a net-zero facility, powered by excess organic material.
That means any additional surplus is given back to farmers. The owners follow the mantra of leaving the world better than when they found it.
And that’s a message we can definitely get behind, especially because of the delicious vodka they’re sharing with us all.
Moonshine, Whiskey, Rum | 4682 State Hwy 50 S, Benson
Broadslab Distillery can trace its roots back to the days before prohibition as North Carolina’s first “dirt to bottle” distillery. That means Broadslab grows, harvests, and processes all of the grain used to make sippable moonshine, whiskey, and rum.
We all know that moonshine has endured a tumultuous past. When it became legal in North Carolina, owner Jeremy Norris saw an opportunity to make his five-generation farm into a thriving distillery.
Visit their property and you might just think it’s one of the most beautifully placed North Carolina distilleries.
Baltic-Style Spirits | 803D Ramseur St, Durham
Since 2012, Brothers Vilgalys in Durham has brewed and bottled their delicious Krupnikas for the public just like they used to make for friends and family.
This Lithuanian Spiced Honey Liqueur is produced with fifteen whole herbs and spices, North Carolina wildflower honey, and pure grain.
Check out their other Baltic-style spirits that include the fruit and herb Zaphod, tart Beebop, savory Beatnik, and the spicy Jabberwock.
Call Family Distillers
Moonshine | 1611 Industrial Dr, Wilkesboro
The Call Family‘s operation might be one of the most important North Carolina distilleries, especially if you consider their history. Willie Clay Call was a known smuggler and skilled at evading the law during the days when moonshine was illegal.
Of course, everything is on the up today, with his descendants legally distilling in Wilkesboro. At Call Family Distillers, you’ll find the largest direct steam injection still, which is custom-built to hold 2,100 gallons.
To honor Willie, the distillery serves as a museum, too. You can check out his original outfitted cars that were never caught by the police, as well as the still he used.
Call’s son and grandsons are doing the distilling. During one visit, we were lucky enough to chat with Laura Call, who’ll share her knowledge and stories about the family and distilling in general.
Muddy River Distillery
Rum | 1500 River Dr #100, Belmont
Along the “muddy” Catawba River is North Carolina’s first rum producer, Muddy River Distillery.
Using custom-built stills and premium American ingredients, Muddy River creates a unique product that’s also gluten-free. Their Silver Carolina Rum was their first, a small batch smooth rum with no color or sugar added.
However, you’re more likely to see Muddy River’s Spiced Carolina Rum in restaurants and cocktail bars. Its hints of vanilla and cinnamon are really nice.
Mystic Farm & Distilling
Bourbon and Gin | 1212 N Mineral Springs Rd, Durham & Cherokee (Soon)
A farm 20 miles away grows all of the corn and wheat and on-site, beehives produce honey and botanicals for their bourbon and gin. Mystic’s Bourbon is a spiced Scottish-style variety that goes down smooth.
However, we think the star of their line-up is their non-chill filtered base bourbon. This wonderful spirit is aged for two years and yields notes of butterscotch and toffee.
Oak and Grist
Whiskey, Gin, Rye | 1556 Grovestone Rd, Black Mountain
One of the only grain-to-glass distilleries in Western North Carolina, Oak and Grist mixes a family Scottish legacy and local ingredients to create uniquely Appalachian spirits.
Sourcing their grain from Riverbend Malt House in Asheville ensures that all the grain used in Oak and Grist supports North Carolina farmers.
In addition, 10 percent of all profits from this small town distillery’s Dark Rhythm Gin is sent to OUR Voice. That’s a non-profit serving Buncombe county individuals affected by sexual assault and abuse.
Oak and Grist is one of the many reasons you should visit Black Mountain, listed among our favorite small towns in North Carolina!
Oak City Amaretto
Amaretto | 1100 Corporation Pkwy #132, Raleigh
Using owner Anthony Scalabino’s Sicilian grandmother’s recipe and all-natural American ingredients, Oak City Amaretto makes the best amaretto you’ll find.
Priding themselves on not being too sweet or having a bitter aftertaste, Oak City Amaretto honors Grandma Scal’s holiday tradition of gifting amaretto with an incredible smooth product.
Outer Banks Distilling
Rum | 510 Budleigh St, Manteo
It can be said that the first legal North Carolina distilleries sat along the Graveyard of the Atlantic, with over 1,000 rum-containing ships wrecking along the coastline of the Outer Banks.
Gold, Silver, and Pecan Rum are just a few of the award-winning spirits coming out of Outer Banks Distilling in Manteo. And their experimental Shipwreck Series uses different sugars and aged barrels to bring out unique flavors.
Southern Distilling Company
Bourbon, Whiskey, and Brandy | 211 Jennings Rd, Statesville
Prior to Prohibition, Statesville was known as the “liquor capital of the world” in the late 1800s. The town and its surroundings in Iredell County boasted over 250 legal stills but they were all forced to close in the early 1900s.
Today, Southern Distilling Company remains the only distillery in Statesville since Prohibition ended and my is it a good one! It’s one of the Southeast’s largest craft distillers, producing bourbon, rye whiskey, and brandy with grain sourced from local farmers.
The 25,000-square-foot facility exemplifies the 100-year-old Statesville tradition of distilling. Come see for yourself with a tour or tasting.
Southern Grace Distilleries
Whiskey, Bourbon | 130 Dutch Rd, Mount Pleasant
Southern Grace Distilleries in Mount Pleasant distills and ages its award-winning small-batch bourbon in a former prison.
Aptly named Conviction, their bourbon is complex and brings a warm kiss of ripe cherries and baked apples.
Also called “Whiskey Prison,” this distillery believes in charity. They often make donations to nonprofits supporting animals, the military, breast cancer research, Habitat for Humanity, and firefighter organizations.
Note: We were sad to read about co-owner Leanne Powell’s passing in 2019. John Trump of Carolina Journal remembers her here.
South Mountain Distilling Company
Whiskey & Moonshine | 1027 Malcolm Blvd, Connelly Springs
A family tradition in the heart of North Carolina’s South Mountains, Don Smith’s ancestors found an easier way to get through the gold rush- making Whiskey and Moonshine.
Using a custom made 200-gallon copper still, South Mountain Distilling is known for its smooth liquors made from four generations of secret recipes. In 2019, South Mountain Distilling paired up with TV personality and legendary moonshiner J.B. Rader to make a collaborative moonshine.
We included a visit to South Mountain Distilling in our guide covering a weekend in Morganton and Burke County.
Vodka, Gin, Whiskey, Moonshine, Rum | 505c W Franklin St, Chapel Hill
All of TOPO Distillery’s creations are smooth, sippable, and USDA-certified organic.
This distillery in Chapel Hill produces vodka, gin, whiskey, moonshine, and rum, with each spirit expertly crafted with soft red winter wheat from Scotland Neck in Halifax County.
Located down the street from Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, you can easily do a distillery tour and then enjoy a delicious meal and cocktail made with their spirits afterward!
We mentioned both of these places in our guide that covers a weekend in Chapel Hill and Orange County, too!
Whiskey, Moonshine | 261 Ben Williams Rd, Jacksonville
Walton’s Distillery sits just beyond an area of Jacksonville where many illegal stills previously operated. After owner Donald Walton Jr’s flash-aged whiskey reached full production, his cousin approached him about making moonshine.
This cousin, Norwood, had been illegally stilling moonshine for over 50 years and associated with Percy Flowers and other major moonshiners during the prohibition era.
Norwood and Walton started to produce moonshine in flavors like Apple Pie, Peach, Salted Caramel, and Pineshine Colada. And after you have a taste, you’ll see why it’s so famous in Onslow County and beyond!
We included a trip out to Walton’s Distillery in our guide to a weekend in Jacksonville, too!
And these are just a few of the places producing amazing liquor in our state.
Going into this, we knew there would be some interesting discoveries, especially when considering alcohol’s tumultuous journey in our state.
We just didn’t realize the amazing suggestions that would guide us along the way, too.
And we’re not done taking them, so if you have a suggestion on who you’d love to see us feature, comment below and tell us why!