The Oldest Distillery in All 50 States
Distilling is on the rise in the United States—in the past 18 years, the number of distilleries has increased from less than 50 to more than 1,300. Producers are now making whiskey, vodka, rum and every other type of spirit imaginable in every state. And while some states like Kentucky have a long, rich history of distilling, others have only recently gotten back into it since Prohibition.
We searched liquor licensing records and first distillation dates to find the oldest running distillery in every state. Some are recognizable names, others are small upstarts, and a few are large factories spitting out brandless spirits. Here is the oldest distillery in every state.
Alabama: John Emerald Distillery in Opelika, 2014
Alabama has had a rough history with distilling—well, legal distilling at least. The state started the Prohibition party early in 1915. The first legal distillery, High Ridge Spirits, couldn’t make it work, and the state’s official state whiskey, Clyde May’s, is made in Kentucky and bottled in Florida. Finally, a year after Alabama legalized liquor production, John Emerald Distillery found a way to make it work. The distillery, located near the college town of Auburn, opened in 2014 and makes vodka, gin, rum, spiced rum and single malt whiskey. All of the bottles are named after family members, and the community is involved in the process with bottling nights that anyone can attend (they even get to sign the bottle label as the official bottler).
Alaska: Alaska Distillery in Wasilla, 2008
Alaska Distillery, makers of the infamous smoked salmon-flavored vodka, set up shop back in 2008 just before a mini wave of distilleries popped up along the southeastern edge of the state around Anchorage. While the salmon vodka provides the distinctive taste of Alaska that the distillers hoped for, you can get a less fishy, yet equally Alaskan, flavor from the brand’s Permafrost Vodka.
Arizona: Desert Diamond Distillery in Kingman, 2009
The Pat family started dreaming of opening a brewery or a winery in Arizona in 2005. But when the state laws governing distilling changed, so did the family’s ambitions. Founded in 2009 with the first spirits coming out in 2010, Desert Diamond now makes four rums and a sugar cane vodka. Its Gold Miner Agave Rum, which is a dark rum infused with agave flavors, is a crowd favorite, according to the distillery.
Arkansas: Rock Town Distillery in Little Rock, 2010
Phil Brandon launched Rock Town in 2010 with Brandon’s Vodka, Brandon’s Gin and Arkansas Lightning moonshine. Today the distillery offers a range of aged spirits, many of which are made with ingredients grown within 125 miles of the distillery. In 2015, Jim Murray named the distillery’s Arkansas Single Barrel Reserve Whiskey the U.S. Micro Whisky of the Year, saying it was, “Unquestionably one of the great micro-distillery bourbons of all time.”
California: Alambic, Inc. (now part of E&J Gallo as Craft Distillers) in Ukiah, 1981
St. George Spirits markets itself as the oldest craft distillery in the country, but it’s not technically the oldest distillery in its home state. Alambic, Inc. was founded in 1981, a year earlier than St. George. Despite later changing its name to Craft Distillers, Inc., Alambic is actually more of a bulk producer, which is why E&J Gallo—another California-based brand—picked it up in 2017.
Colorado: Stranahan’s in Denver, 2005
Stranahan’s was early to the American single malt game, setting up shop in Denver long before Americans realized their countrymen were making whiskeys to rival Scottish single malts. The Colorado brand has inspired so much love and devotion in its 13 years of existence that madly loyal customers routinely line up in sub-zero temperatures for the distillery’s annual Snowflake release. Now owned by Proximo, Stranahan’s has become synonymous with Colorado spirits.
Connecticut: Westford Hills Distillery in Ashford, 1997
The land that Westford Hills Distillery is on was first purchased by the Chatey family in 1919, the year before Prohibition started. The land stayed in the family throughout the years and finally became home to Connecticut’s first distillery 78 years later. Westford Hills makes five European-style eau de vies and an apple brandy using fresh fruit from the northeast, which inspired Saveur to to write that the distillery is doing “the best thing to do with fruit in Connecticut.”
Delaware: Painted Stave in Smyrna, 2012
In 2011, Ron Gomes, Jr. and Mike Rasmussen wanted to open a distillery—they just didn’t want to do it together. They each separately had the idea to start a craft distillery in Delaware, so their meeting immediately gave them the driving force to make it a reality. They petitioned the Delaware General Assembly for new laws allowing them to distill, sell and give tours in Smyrna. Working with Dogfish Head, which was also interested in distilling in the state, the duo succeeded and opened their distillery in a 1940s movie theater. The brand’s spirits, Silver Screen Vodka and Diamond State Straight Bourbon Whiskey, pay homage to this history.
Florida: Drum Circle Distilling in Sarasota, 2007
When you think rum, you likely think of the Caribbean. Next time, give the mainland United States a thought, too. Florida’s oldest distillery has been making waves in the rum scene for more than a decade, and has won accolades from the Rum Renaissance competition, the Caribbean Journal Rummy Awards and the Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival.
Georgia: Richland Rum in Richland, 1999
You’ve probably never heard of Richland. Erik and Karin Vonk never thought much of the town either, even though they lived nearby, until the mayor of Richland came knocking. He convinced the Vonks to move their small-time, private distilling operation—then called Vennebroeck Velvet—to the town. The rum was reborn as Richland Rum, and the town was reborn, too. The distillery now harvests fresh Georgia Red sugar cane to make the only single-estate rum in the United States.
Hawaii: Koloa Rum Company in Kalaheo, Kauai 2009
The first sugar cane harvest in the town of Kalaheo was in 1837 and, according to the Koloa Rum Company, rum production started around the same time. That tradition continues at the distillery, the oldest that’s still running on the islands, with seven different rums. It’s also the home of Hawaii’s first spirits tasting room, located right next to the distillery.
Idaho: DRinc in Ketchum, 1988
In case you couldn’t tell by the name (it’s pronounced “drink”), this is not a humble craft distillery. This is one of the monolith producers of neutral vodka, which is made from Idaho’s own russet potatoes. The neutral spirits (pure 190 proof alcohol) they produce are also used to make things like gin, liqueurs and malt beverages.
Illinois: North Shore Distillery in Green Oaks, 2004
What started as Derek and Sonja Kassebaum’s desire for adventure turned into Illinois’ first craft distillery, and the oldest currently running in the state. But just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s stuck in some lost heritage. They make vodka, flavored vodka, four different gins, two rums, aquavit and an absinthe, and all spirits go through a still named Ethel after Sonja’s grandmother (and ethyl alcohol).
Indiana: Midwest Grain Products (MGP) in Lawrenceburg, 1857
Despite its history, you’re not going to find many fans of MGP who love old distillery stories. The Lawrenceburg distillery was started by Seagrams to make rye whiskey meant for blending into Seagrams Seven. It’s now owned by food producer MGP, and it makes many of the country’s top-selling whiskey—brands across the United States buy MGP whiskey in bulk and bottle it themselves.
Iowa: Cedar Ridge Distillery in Swisher, 2005
There was actually a booming distilling business in Des Moines in the 19th century, arguably making it a booze capital of the world. Then the state became the second to hop on the Prohibition bandwagon in 1883 (even while parts of the state like Davenport kept making and serving whiskey well into the 1920s). Right in the heart of corn country, Cedar Ridge distills their bourbon from a 75 percent corn mash bill, and makes a few other spirits like brandy, rum and gin.
Kansas: High Plains Distillery in Atchison, 2005
High Plains Distillery was started by the Fox family, and like many distillers in America, they have a family history of moonshining. As the story goes, the Foxes have been distilling for seven generations, with the current being the first to do it legally. The distillery now makes vodka meant to be low in price and high in quality.
Kentucky: Burks Distillery (Maker’s Mark) in Loretto, 1805
Acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest operating bourbon distillery in the world, Burks Distillery beats out all of the other distilleries that now pack the bourbon trail. But it wasn’t until 1953 that Maker’s Mark plunked itself down in the historic distillery before producing its first signature wax-sealed bottle in 1958.
Celebration Distillation, which makes Old New Orleans Rum at the oldest facility in Louisiana, started as a second career for NOLA artist James Michalopoulos. Housed in an old cotton warehouse, the distillery produces several types of rum from local sugar cane, as well as a Cajun spiced rum that really shows off the brand’s Louisiana sass.
Maine: Maine Distilleries (Cold River Vodka) in Freeport, 2005
Located not far from Portland, Freeport is known more for its outlet stores than vodka—but Maine Distilleries has been working to change that for more than 10 years now. The brand brags that it is “ground-to-glass,” meaning they control everything from the potatoes and water to the individually numbered bottles. Their blueberry-flavored vodka, made with wild Maine blueberries, is worth checking out in person.
Maryland: Blackwater Distilling in Stevensville, 2008
Marylanders didn’t take Prohibition lying down. Known as the wettest state, Maryland didn’t even bother enacting a Prohibition enforcement law, and the governor actively opposed the dry laws. Blackwater takes inspiration from this spunky individualist spirit. They revived the state’s liquor business that languished without a distillery to call its own since 1972, when Majestic Distilling Co. was bought up by Heaven Hill. Blackwater has dabbled in whiskey aging projects but mostly puts out specialty rums and vodkas.
Massachusetts: Berkshire Mountain Distillers in Sheffield, 2007
It turns out the Berkshires are good for more than summer homes and leaf peeping—you can also make tons of different kinds of booze up in them hills. Berkshire Mountain Distillers puts out several types of gin, vodka, a rum that’s equal parts tropical fruit and smoky wood, a solid bourbon and a corn whiskey made with the local New England crop. Their Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup is also one of the best things we’ve ever tasted.
Michigan: Temperance Distilling in Temperance, 1998
A distillery has got to have a good sense of humor to call Temperance, Michigan, home. It’s this sort of tongue-in-cheek personality that gives a bit of character to an otherwise soulless commercial distillery. Temperance makes more than 100 products for 60 clients and offers everything from distilling to bottling to branding in their turnkey process. Those products run the gambit, from Adult Chocolate Milk to pre-packaged Jello Shots Gelz to something mysterious called Liquid Money.
Minnesota: Panther Distillery in Osakis, 2011
“There's something about a first that leaves an impression all others try to measure up to,” the Panther Distillery website proclaims. As Minnesota’s first distillery since Prohibition, the brand takes full advantage of the North Star State’s drastic seasons. They embrace winter by cold-aging their whiskey barrels, while their flagship Saint Paul Straight Bourbon is a high-rye bourbon that incorporates spicy local grains grown within 30 miles of the distillery.
Mississippi: Cathead Distillery in Jackson, 2011
Technically, Cathead’s new distillery in Jackson, where they moved from nearby by Madison, was established in 2015—one year after brands like Charboneau. But the brand revived the state’s entire distilling culture when they began operations back in 2011, so we’re giving them the top spot. Finally kicking the last effects of Prohibition, which wasn’t abolished in the state until 1966, Cathead puts out several types of flavored vodka along with their standard sweet-corn-based vodka and multiple gins. But the brand’s real oddball release is Hoodoo, a liqueur that pays homage to the tradition of Caribbean folk magic in the South.
Missouri: Holladay Distillery in Weston, 1856
It was Lewis and Clark who discovered the limestone spring in Weston, Missouri, that today serves as the source of Holladay’s bourbon. The distillery has changed hands, names and spirits in the past. Bt on its 160th birthday in 2016, it regained the name of its founders—the Holladay brothers—and resumed bourbon production.
Montana: Spirit of Montana in Billings, 2009
Montana didn’t relax the rules banning craft distilleries until 2005, and it took some time for Spirit of Montana to sort out all of the legal documents before opening the state’s first legal distillery in more than a century. Luckily, the owners had their brewery, Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., to lean on until everything was sorted out. The brand now sells Cliffhanger Vodka and 40 Love gin in the building next door to the brewery.
Nebraska: Cooper’s Chase in West Point, 2009
Nebraska’s first federal and state licensed distillery started, quite literally, on the back of a napkin at a bar. Cooper’s Chase uses locally grown grains and Nebraska groundwater to set the spirit apart from all the other vodkas on the market. The skull logo inspiration comes from owner Doug Throener’s day job as a cattle rancher, the same ranch where the distillery is located.
Nevada: Las Vegas Distillery in Henderson, 2010
In 2011, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Las Vegas, Las Vegas Distillery ran the first stills in the state since Prohibition. Perched on the edge of town in Henderson, the distillery was founded by Transylvanian immigrant George Racz, who was inspired after visiting the first craft whiskey distillery in New York, Tuthilltown. But Racz wasn’t content with just making whiskey, so the Las Vegas Distillery now produces gin, rum, vodka and something called “Rumsky.” As Racz comes from a long line of Georges, and his son George, Jr. now helps run the business, there’s a good chance one George Racz or another will be running the still for a long time to come.
New Hampshire: Flag Hill Distillery in Lee, 2004
Before it was a distillery, Flag Hill was the largest vineyard in New Hampshire, so the crew had plenty of connections with local farmers when they expanded to spirits in 2004. The brand’s gin, vodka and brandy are based on cider from a local apple farm, but the Flag Hill distillers have also proven themselves serious whiskey makers by producing a bourbon and a rye inspired by the Monongahela Rye style.
New Jersey: Laird & Company in Scobeyville, 1780
Not only is Laird the oldest distillery in Jersey, but it’s the oldest official distillery in America, period. Robert Laird served in the Revolutionary Army and provided George Washington and his troops with enough applejack to drown a Redcoat. His efforts were rewarded with License No. 1 by The Treasury Office. The Laird family still runs the joint today.
New Mexico: Don Quixote in Santa Fe, 2005
Ron Dolin not only got a jump on the rest of New Mexico in opening the state’s first distillery, but also got a jump on the booze business when he started designing stills at just 16. He custom built the five stills that now create Don Quixote spirits in order to take advantage of Santa Fe’s altitude, which causes the base to boil more easily and allows Dolin to take a gentle hand with distillation for a purer, cleaner flavor. From blue corn bourbon to Muscat brandy to a gin infused with lavender and mint, Dolin certainly has been busy since he opened Don Quixote’s doors 13 years ago.
New York: Kings Action Group Corp in Brooklyn, 2001
If you want a nice story about the birth of craft spirits in New York paired with a fine glass of whiskey, head to Tuthilltown (opened in 2005) in Gardiner. If you want the true oldest distillery in New York State, you’ll find it in Brooklyn. Situated between the neighborhoods of Industry City (a series of repurposed shipping and warehousing structures along the waterfront) and Sunset Park (Brooklyn’s Chinatown), Kings Action produces a mix of industrially made rice wine, grain alcohol and cooking wine, and also serves as a distribution point for other imported spirits.
North Carolina: Piedmont Distillers in Madison, 2005
People were making plenty of moonshine in North Carolina from the 1920s to the early aughts, but Piedmont was the first one to do it legally. The distillery has capitalized on that moonshining history with brands like Midnight Moon Moonshine, Method and Standard Vodka and Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine that make neutral and flavored spirits using American-grown corn.
North Dakota: Maple River Distillery in Casselton, 2009
Maple River’s footprint is small, but it’s reputation is mighty. It’s been making spirits with local fruit since 2009 and is hard to find outside of the state. Despite the tiny production and distribution, the Chokecherry Brandy was featured in Playboy as the best distilled spirit in North Dakota. Being the oldest and longest running doesn’t always mean being the best—but then again, sometimes it does.
Ohio: Woodstone Creek in Cincinnati, 1998
The only way you’re going to see anything from Woodstone Creek is if you’re in the area. Despite its longevity, the brewery, winery and distillery combo has stayed small and local, producing just 100 to 200 cases a year. Spirits wise, they make no more than three barrels a year—no exceptions. They pride themselves on making spirits in much the same way they were made prior to the Industrial Revolution.
Oklahoma: Prairie Wolf Spirits in Guthrie, 2013
Being the first and the oldest is nothing new for the Merritt family. They’ve been doing business in Oklahoma since the land run of 1889 and still own the land they got in that year. Prairie Wolf Spirits is the latest venture, and it’s also the first distillery in the state since Prohibition. They make a vodka, whiskey, coffee liqueur and a gin infused with Gunpowder Green Tea called Loyal.
Oregon: Edgefield Distillery in Troutdale, 1998
What once was a shed for storing vegetables on a poor farm is now home to the oldest distillery in Oregon and the distillery’s bar. It’s owned by McMenamins and is a gathering spot for Oregonians that makes beer, wine, cider, coffee and, of course, spirits. Edgefield Distillery outlasted the first two distilleries that opened in Oregon after Prohibition, making it the oldest running still in the state.
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Distilling in Philadelphia, 2005
Until 1987, Pennsylvania was home to one of the oldest liquor brands in the nation, Old Overholt, until Beam bought them and moved operations to Kentucky. It was another 18 years until another distillery would fill the whole in Pennsylvanians’ hearts. Philadelphia Distilling took up the mantel in—where else?—Philadelphia, first in the Byberry neighborhood before recently moving to the quickly hipster-izing Fishtown area. With products like Bluecoat Gin and Penn 1681 Vodka (a reference to the year William Penn founded the Pennsylvania colony), Philadelphia Distilling goes all-in on the patriotic themes of America’s hometown.
Rhode Island: Newport Distilling Company in Newport, 2006
The guys behind Newport Storm Brewery had been making beer for seven years before deciding to go in a stronger direction. They created the distilling company to make Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum as a throwback to Rhode Island’s pirate and rum history, basing their recipe and production methods on how things used to be done. In addition to being the oldest operating distillery in the smallest state, they also have some TV cred. In 2010, Mike Rowe filmed an episode of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” at the distillery.
South Carolina: Terressentia in North Charleston, 2007
Terressentia is a contract distiller in South Carolina that producers liquor for retail chains, brand owners, exporters and distilleries. The business was built to satisfy the need for made-to-order spirits made by a third party, and while it doesn’t make any specific brands of its own, there’s a chance you might have tried something from Terressentia. With nearly 16,000 barrels in inventory, Terressentia isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
South Dakota: Dakota Spirits Distilling in Pierre, 2006
The story of Dakota Spirits Distilling starts with a rare agreement between two siblings known as the Bickering Brothers. Despite their differences, they joined forces to create the first distillery in South Dakota since Prohibition. They use a small batch copper still and South Dakota ingredients to make whiskey, vodka and brandy. “In the end,” the company states on its Facebook page, “our bickering allowed us to let the oak do its business without our interruptions.”
Tennessee: Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg, 1866 (or 1875)
Read any bottle of Jack Daniel’s and you’ll spy “Est. & Reg. in 1866,” referring to the year the brand claims the distillery was officially established in the ironically dry county of Lynchburg (though biographer Peter Krass disputes that timeline in Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel, claiming the distillery opened in 1975). The brand has recently embraced aspects of the Jack Daniel origin story that was previously swept under the rug, namely the role of an enslaved man, Nearis Green, in teaching young Daniel the art of distillation.
Texas: Mockingbird Distillery (Tito’s) in Austin, 1995
You know him, you love him. Tito Beveridge didn’t just make waves in the national scene for creating a quality craft vodka that snobs and clubbers alike can enjoy. He also shook up the local Texas scene by opening the first distillery in the state since Prohibition, (cowboy) bootstrapping his way from a flavored vodka nut to a full-scale, international company (and made his way to The Forbes 400 list in the process).
Utah: High West Distillery in Park City, 2006
Utah got a jump on Prohibition, shutting down the state’s burgeoning distillery business in 1870. Ironically, the state was also the critical 36th state to end Prohibition in 1933. To relaunch distilling in the state, High West set up shop in Park City (home to the Sundance Film Festival), where the brand got plenty of attention for its quality whiskey and unique yearly releases.
Vermont: Vermont Spirits Distilling Co. in Burlington, 1999
Vermont Spirits Distilling Co. started with Vermont Gold, a vodka made from Vermont maple syrup. That ethos of using Vermont ingredients has continued for nearly 20 years, as the brand expanded into a dozen different spirits from apple vodka to bourbon to gin. The state’s oldest running distillery is also responsible for the first Vermont corn whiskey.
Virginia: A. Smith Bowman in Fredericksburg, 1935
The Bowman family’s distillery started because they needed something to do with the excess grain from their 8-year-old farm. It was passed down through the family, who “continued to feed the distillers grains to the dairy cattle, which were known to be the most contented cows in Virginia.” In 1988, the distillery was moved about 60 miles to its current location near Fredericksburg to avoid rising property taxes in northern Virginia.
Washington: Dry Fly Distillery in Spokane, 2007
The founders of Dry Fly weren’t inspired to open Washington state’s first distillery since Prohibition by rousing demand from their fellow Washingtonians. They were inspired by fly fishing—well, by the natural resources of the Northwest and their potential to become delicious craft spirits. Eleven years later, they’re still repping their local flavors with bourbon, wheated whiskey, gin and vodka.
West Virginia: West Virginia Distilling Co. (Mountain Moonshine) in Morgantown, 1999
Moonshine and the Blue Mountains go together like corn and bourbon. In 1999, Payton Fireman decided to take that moonshining history of West Virginia and go legal with West Virginia Distillery Co. and its Mountain Moonshine brand. It has the first distilled spirits license issued in the state, WV-DRB-1, and lives by the motto, “the sunshine’s best in Florida; the moonshine’s best in West Virginia.”
Wisconsin: Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee, 2004
The first distillery in the state since Prohibition, Great Lakes Distillery set out “with a commitment to making truly original craft spirits that have ‘a little Wisconsin’ in every drop.” It appears there’s a lot of Wisconsin to go around. The distillery makes more than 18 different spirits, ranging from vodka to whiskey to absinthe to a pumpkin seasonal—all made in small batches. Aside from the spirits themselves, it’s also a great place to visit—Great Lakes Distillery won Best Wine/Spirit Tour in Milwaukee in 2017.
Wyoming: Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby, 2009
Wyoming Whiskey started with the goal of making something that tasted distinctly Wyoming. It worked, and the bourbon is one of the best bourbons made outside of Kentucky. The Mead family that started the distillery has been in Wyoming for five generations, and their distillery might be the most Wyoming product to ever be made in Wyoming. All of the brand’s spirits are made in the Big Horn Basin distillery using ingredients from the state, from the water to the grains. It’s only fitting that it’s the first distillery since Prohibition—and the oldest currently running—in Wyoming.