Craft spirit distilleries have grown exponentially across the United States over the last 20 years. We’ve gone from a handful of distilleries in a handful of states to having at least one distillery in every state in the nation.
Ever since the end of Prohibition the government agency now known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau or simply the TTB has set the standards for beer, wine and spirits across the country. The definition for spirits like bourbon – America’s Native Spirit, Tennessee Whiskey, Vodka, Absinthe, etc. have been established at the federal level while states set many of the standards for distilleries within their borders. For the most part allowing local jurisdictions to establish their own rules is a good thing but over the last nearly 100 years it’s created a patchwork of regulations that vary widely by state. What spirits makers can do in one state does not necessarily apply in another state. The patchwork creates both opportunities and challenges for makers as well as consumers as they tour this great land tasting the best spirits often made from locally grown grains, sugar canes or fruits.
We surveyed distilleries in every state plus D.C. to pull together real-world answers to give distillers and their fans a snapshot of what to expect in each state. This data was accurate when collected but with today’s pandemic going on some of these rules like Cocktails to Go (CTG) or Direct to Consumer (DTC) shipping are being re-written day by day. And some temporary orders allowing things like CTG may expire based on state controls.
We asked distillers across the country a series of about a dozen questions. Some of the responses are pretty straight forward while others are a bit surprising. For example in the Sooner state of Oklahoma you cannot sell or buy a bottle of spirits from the distillery. Can you imagine this visitor experience. “Wow, I love your gin. I’ll take two bottles.” Distiller, “Great, you’ll have to go pick it up at the local liquor store.” Hmm, time to adjust some laws there to help out these small businesses.
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And sample sizes vary from a low of 1/2 ounce all the way up to unlimited. It’s kind of hard to taste a bourbon, a whitedog, a vodka and a gin if you are maxed out at 1/2 oz. And on the other end of the scale where 25% of the states have “unlimited” samples, distillers were quick to point out that if anyone seems to have imbibed in too many samples they will quickly and responsibly be cut-off.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into the nitty gritty and look at the survey responses. The data below is all sortable. The default view is sorted by state so you can quickly find things but if you want to see who can ship bottles from the distillery Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) then simply click the heading and you will automatically sort the list.
And if you would like to see a summary of the data take a look at the related infographic version of this story here. One note, some of this information like cocktails to go is changing daily as the country deals with the horrific pandemic. That said, read on, and start making your plans to support one of the 2,200 plus craft distilleries across the country. If you are planning a visit it is highly recommended you call ahead to make sure the distillery is open for visitors or the gift shop is open for socially distanced purchases.
A Survey of 50 Distillers from 50 States and D.C.
Looking to find a distillery in your neighborhood or another state while you are traveling (safely of course)? Visit our Distillery Directory to find every distillery in the country. You can view Distilleries by State here or start with a list of Distillery Trails here.
I also what to shout out a big “Thank You” to all the distillers that took the time to contribute to this research.
Stay tuned, stay safe, and let us know if something has changed in your state. You can email us anytime at Info@DistilleryTrail.com.