Even though whiskey predates the United States by centuries, it’s an undeniably American liquor. It helped George Washington muster troops during the American revolution. It traveled with settlers making their way out West for the first time. It’s partially responsible for spurring Prohibition, and in 1964, Bourbon was officially recognized by congress as “a distinctive product of the U.S.A.”

Why such a rich history? Besides the fact that many early Americans had roots in whiskey-producing countries like the British Isles, perhaps it was the sheer simplicity of the whiskey-making process, which only requires water, fire, and grains. And a distillery to house them, of course.


Despite the recent proliferation of craft whiskey-makers, distilleries built during the golden age of whiskey are landmarks. In fact, the buildings in which whiskey is produced are as just a much a part of American heritage as the product that comes out of them. These are some of the classic—and new classic—distilleries from all across the country:

George Washington Distillery: Alexandria, Virginia

Although it’s no longer operational, George Washington’s Distillery at his estate at Mount Vernon has been there since 1797, when a Scottish farm manager suggested it would be a good business venture.

Image credit: Flickr

Heaven Hill Distillery: Bardstown, Kentucky

Obviously we can’t talk about American whiskey without spending some time in Kentucky. Heaven Hill Distillery produces a number of spirits, most importantly Evan Williams Bourbon, which is the first whiskey on record produced in the state, dating back to 1783, when Kentucky was still a county in Virginia. The 1930s-era warehouses pictured are where bourbon is aged.

Image credit: Flickr

Jim Beam Distillery: Clermont, Kentucky

Next stop on the Bourbon trail? Jim Beam, which has been distilling whiskey for more than 200 years.


Image credits: Left image by Jamie Bernstein on Flickr. Right upper image also by Jamie Bernstein on Flickr.

Maker’s Mark: Loretto, Kentucky

Maker’s Mark might be a newer name when it comes to old whiskey—it’s only been produced since 1954—but its facilities are timeless, listed on the National Historic Register of Places since 1974.

Image credit: Richard I’Anson/Getty Images

Jack Daniels Distillery: Lynchburg, Tennessee

Of course, we must travel down to Tennessee to visit our old friend Jack Daniels, which has been making sour mash whiskey in square bottles out of Moore County since 1866. Included in the National Register of Historic places, it’s the sole remaining distillery in a county where there were once 15.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Willett Distillery: Bardstown, Kentucky

Willett is a bygone distiller of Bourbon and Rye that has recently been resurrected. Shuttered until the 1980s, the Willett family-owned parent company just began making test batches in January 2012. Unfortunately, because of the aging process, you’ll have to wait a couple of years to have a taste.

Image credit: WhiskeyAdvocate

Kings County Distillery: Brooklyn, New York

Kings County Distillery is the oldest New York City whiskey maker, and it was the city’s first distillery out of the gate when Prohibition ended. It’s housed in the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s 113-year-old Paymaster Building.

Image credit: CoolHunting

Tuthilltown Spirits: Gardiner, New York

Tuthilltown Spirits also gets some New York street cred—it was the first distillery in the state opened after Prohibition. Like many old fashioned distilleries, it also has a gristmill.

St. George Spirits: Alameda, California

And now for something completely different, St. George Spirits, a craft company housed in an old, 65,000 square-foot airplane hangar.

Image credit: Flickr