20 Distilleries Every Whiskey Lover Must Visit Before They Die

There's no better way to experience whiskey than by drinking it straight from a distillery. Whether you prefer single-malt Scotch whisky or Kentucky bourbon, it's a more enriching experience to sip on the dark spirit while learning about all the effort that goes into making it. Regardless of what you're drinking, it's a sensory experience. In terms of whiskey, all of your senses are firing while tasting it, smelling the notes, and being able to visualize just how it's made. 

There are countless whiskey distilleries across the world that allow visitors to come in and peak at the process. Many people are familiar with the Kentucky bourbon trail, but that's just one piece of the entire whiskey-soaked pie. A few spots, like Kentucky or Ireland, are hotspots for whiskey production. This is mostly thanks to the history and climate of both places. But as of 2023, there are no limits as to where a whiskey distillery can be. 

We decided to create a bucket list of places for whiskey enthusiasts to visit. Our list of 20 distilleries every whiskey lover must visit before they die can act as a loose travel guide for future jaunts, which will hopefully include plenty of whiskey pours.

1. Buffalo Trace Distillery — Frankfort, Kentucky

Starting in Kentucky, any whiskey lover should have Buffalo Trace's notable Frankfort distillery on their list of places to visit. The distillery can trace its history back to the 1700s. This storied place has managed to thrive through many challenges, including Prohibition. It's a place oozing with a charm that helps the average person to understand the bourbon's backstory. 

The best part about Buffalo Trace is that they offer complimentary tours and tastings free of charge. There are different tours that cater to different areas of interest — including aging, bottling, or distilling. There are even tours designed for attendees below the drinking age, even though these tour participants aren't allowed to take part in tastings. If you need even more convincing to book a trip, Buffalo Trace offers virtual distillery experiences to help you get a feel for what could be in store for you if you visit.

2. Chattanooga Whiskey Distillery — Chattanooga, Tennessee

Another distillery you should visit is the Chattanooga Whiskey Distillery. As you may have guessed, it's located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2015, the company celebrated a very special occasion, becoming the first company to distill whiskey in Chattanooga in a century. Chattanooga Whiskey actually operates two different distilleries in the city: a Riverfront Distillery and an Experimental Distillery.

The Riverfront Distillery opened in 2017. It was transformed out of an old car dealership to serve as the primary location for producing Tennessee High Malt. Unfortunately, it isn't open to the public. The Experimental Distillery is the place you want to stop, but we can't help if your curiosity has you peeking in the windows of the Riverfront location. Tripadvisor users who have experienced the tour held at the Experimental Distillery praise the friendly guides, writing that they're more than willing to fill you with knowledge — while also filling you with whiskey. 

3. The Balvenie — Dufftown, Scotland

The Balvenie distillery in Dufftown is an important Scottish landmark. It's located near Balvenie Castle, which once hosted monarchs as guests. Balvenie created the distillery just down the road. Production began at the distillery as early as 1893. The distillery grounds remain mostly intact since the foundation was laid over a century ago. 

Those who are older than 18 and book ahead of time can experience a 2.5-hour tour of The Balvenie. During this tour, guests will taste the effort that goes into each and every bottle. The distillery is unique, as it houses more elements needed to create a single malt than other distilleries. On the grounds, barley is grown and malted and a coppersmith maintains the sills. Those who have participated in a tour particularly enjoyed being able to taste straight from the barrel. "It is a very intimate insight into the distillery and you really feel like a Balvenie VIP," one Tripadvisor review of the Balvenie tasting tour reads. 

4. St. Augustine Distillery — St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine Distillery is an old ice plant turned into a whiskey distillery. The Florida establishment was established in 2013. It offers both self-guided and guided tours where patrons can learn about whiskey, taste its intricacies, and craft up the brand's signature cocktails. 

During an exclusive guided tour experience, those willing to pay $200 can bottle their own single-barrel whiskey right in the barrel-filled distillery. The location also offers a certified Bourbon Steward course for $100, so you can really up your whiskey knowledge and brag about being a certified drinker of the spirit. Yelp reviews of the training class commend the personalized experience and the instructors' openness to answering the students' eager questions.

Whiskey from St. Augustine Distillery offers an authentic taste of the distillers' craft. It's a one-of-a-kind location to dive into the world of whiskey, whether you're mildly curious or looking to become an expert. 

5. High West Distillery — Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah is already a dreamy town. There's no better way for a whiskey lover to experience the area than by visiting High West Distillery. The distillery is located outside of the city and up in the mountains, so it feels like a destination worth seeking out. In 2006, High West became Utah's first legal distillery since 1870, so there is plenty to learn from this place.

Aside from a general store and a restaurant, the distillery offers tours led by whiskey experts. In 45 minutes, attendees will learn about the distillation process that makes High West unique. Afterward, fans can opt for a guided tasting to be able to taste everything they learned about the various expressions. The tours cost between $10-30 per person. If you're looking for more, High West also has a saloon in downtown Park City, which also offers more to experience.

6. The Old Bushmills Distillery — Bushmills, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is home to The Old Bushmills Distillery, the oldest licensed distillery in the world. That fact alone makes it worth a visit from every whiskey lover. The distillery was granted its license to produce in 1608, so it's been around for a while. The best way to experience the establishment and history of the whiskey producer is through a tour. 

For about $20, patrons can go on a guided walking tour for an hour that ends in the 1608 bar, for a tasting. A premium option that costs around $50 dives a little deeper into the history of Bushmills Irish Whiskey. Visitors get to see the real process of distilling Old Bushmills in action on their tour, not just hear a spiel about the brand. The tasting for the premium tour is even a little more upscale — taking place in the Master Distilleries room and featuring six different drinks. This gives your tastebuds the chance to learn something new too. 

7. Glenora — Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Over in Canada, there's Glenora. This business is the first single-malt whisky distillery in North America. The brand also produced the world's first single malt whisky aged in ice wine barrels. For those looking to have an extended experience at the distillery, Glenora has an Inn on its grounds for visitors to stay. Additionally, the distillery offers a few tours for anyone looking to learn more about its production process.

A quick option is a $7 per-person tour that lasts for about 20 minutes and ends in a tasting. Individuals are not required to book ahead of time. The tour is open to all ages and free to children who aren't able to drink. A more in-depth venture is a private appointment tour that lasts about 1.5 to 2 hours. Visitors who pay a fee starting at approximately $125 per person will learn everything there is to know about the brand and be able to draw samples directly from the barrel for a more personalized experience.

8. Rabbit Hole Distillery — Louisville, Kentucky

Back in Kentucky is Louisville's Rabbit Hole Distillery, one of the newer establishments on the list, having opened its doors in 2018. Rabbit Hole might sound like your average bourbon distillery, but it's anything but. The modern-looking is artistically designed, matching the eclectic vibe of the surrounding neighborhood. The distillery itself is built in the former location of the Disney Tire Company, which also gives it an interesting history.

The tours and tastings at Rabbit Hole are not to be missed. A one-hour tour delves into everything that makes Rabbit Hole tick and stand out from other bourbons. General admission is $25, but those 20 and younger are free to come and learn. The end tasting takes place at the picturesque Overlook Lounge, where those who aren't of drinking age aren't permitted to sample the five different spirits presented. You don't want to miss this place.

9. Jameson Distillery — Dublin, Ireland

Jameson Distillery in Dublin, Ireland is as iconic as it gets. The Bow Street location was the original site of the distillery from 1780 that has been turned into a museum for all things Jameson. The distillery has it all: cocktail classes, tours, tastings, a bar, and more. Visitors will learn the history of Jameson Irish Whiskey and how it has remained such a bar staple for centuries. The vibe of the Bow Street location — especially the downstairs bar — can get loud, but that's exactly the energy you'd expect from people drinking Jameson all day. 

While the Bow Street location is iconic, most of Jameson's production these days takes place at its Midleton Distillery in Cork. The location also offers vast experiences but with more in the works. By 2025, the Cork location plans to have made major upgrades in honor of the brand's 200th anniversary, which gives you ample time to book a visit in celebration. 

10. Castle & Key Distillery — Frankfort, Kentucky

Another must-visit distillery in Kentucky is Frankfort's Castle & Key Distillery. It opened in 2018, after a four-year restoration of the historic Old Taylor Distillery. As you might expect from the name, there's a castle on the grounds that's been on-site since 1887. There was a distillery on the site as early as 1819, so Castle & Key has plenty of history, despite being a newer brand.

There are so many different tours at Castle & Key worth checking out, even though you're welcome to visit and explore on your own. The basic is a $30 per person 1-hour tour that ends in a tasting to give you the basics of the brand. Some tours allow you to explore the expansive botanical gardens in the area, with a cocktail in hand, of course. A unique tour is the "Walk the Ruins" experience, which gives an extensive history of the castle. It's not cheap — at a $500 flat rate — but the immersive experience ends with a tasting and charcuterie board to refuel after all of that adventure. 

11. Shinshu Mars Distillery — Nagano, Japan

Japan should be a bucket-list destination for any whisky lover to learn about the region's expressions of the spirit. A good starting place is Japan's highest distillery, Shinshu Mars. The distillery is tucked in the Alps of the Miyada village, where the Hombo family has been distilling whisky since 1949, even though they were producing other spirits before then. The environment, which includes cool temperatures, melting snow, and high altitudes, is optimal for producing spirits. 

Shinshu Mars produces several spirits including beer, sake, brandy, wine, and whisky. As far as whisky, it's known for Kiichiro Iwai, or Mars Whisky, which is a corn-based spirit aged in ex-bourbon barrels. There's also an Iwai tradition, which is a malt-driven Japanese whisky, both of which patrons can try on the tour and more. Those who visit the grounds will be able to purchase limited-edition bottles you can't get anywhere else, making it an ideal bucket-list destination.

12. Woodford Reserve — Versailles, Kentucky

Woodford Reserve has been distilling its legendary bourbon in Versailles, Kentucky since 1812, which has since been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. It's only had four owners since its opening, so some say that its heritage has been closely preserved. It's a busy and popular place to learn about whiskey, so if you want to tour the grounds, you should book a reservation three months in advance.

Woodford Reserve offers a few tours, from their standard 70-minute guided tour and tasting to a mixology class. Those looking to learn the most about the brand should check out the VIP Master Distiller Tour Experience, with a $500 per person price tag. For two hours, guests will learn about Woodford Reserve from Master Distiller Emeritus Chris Morris or Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall. Some guests will have the pleasure of learning from both individuals. The tour ends with a limited-edition bottle, which is a one-of-a-kind souvenir to bring home.

13. Breckenridge Distillery — Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado is a city full of drinking experiences, and one of the best is at the Breckenridge Distillery. First founded in 2008, Breckenridge Distillery hasn't been around for too long. In just over a decade, the brand has expanded the line to include bourbons finished in different casks, rye, flavored vodka, bitters, and more. To get a full breakdown of what it has to offer, the distillery offers a variety of tours prime for learning (and tasting). 

It's worth a visit, whether you're doing a quick 30-minute tour or Breckenridge Distillery's Whiskey Blending Lab, where you and up to three friends can pay $1,400 to customize your own bottle. There are also a variety of VIP tours with guided tasting flights (beyond just the whiskey lineup), food pairings, and more depending on how deep you're trying to dive into the distillery's offerings. This spot has to be on your bucket list.

14. Balcones — Waco, Texas

Texas might not be known for its whiskey distilleries, but Balcones in Waco has tried to change that since they first opened their distillery in an old welding shop under a bridge in 2009. Balcones is a haven for whiskey lovers, featuring a tasting room complete with its own cocktail menu. The distillery also offers a basic tour and tasting that costs around $22 per person that takes you from grain silos to glass. 

Patrons must be at least 19 years old to attend the tour and 21 to sample the whiskey. When you find yourself in Waco looking for a good drink, Balcones is a no-brainer option. "Truly Texas-made! We had a really lively tour group and a very knowledgeable guide, which only added to the fun," one Tripadvisor review of the Balcones tour reads. Texas natives should seriously consider paying a visit to this distillery.

15. Highland Park — Kirkwall, Scotland

Highland Park in Kirkwall, Scotland is by far not an easy place to get to. It's located in the remote islands of Orkney, once occupied by Vikings. Nowadays, only 20 of the approximately 70 islands are inhabited, due to the harsh weather conditions — they're nearly in the Arctic Circle. However, Highland Park Whisky has been distilling whisky in its corner of the world since 1798.

This distillery is packed with history. It even has bottles that are a tribute to its Viking heritage. Fans can absorb that history on a tour or by visiting the distillery for a peek around. The tours range from introductory to more advanced, allowing some patrons to sample straight from the barrel. Highland Park also offers a "Rare and Exclusive" tour where customers can sample whisky that's been aged for around 30 to 40 years, and are given plenty of goodies to take home to remember Highland Park by. 

16. Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery — Windsor, Ontario

Another distillery worth visiting is Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery, the home of J.P. Wiser's whisky. Located in Windsor, Ontario, the distillery has been around since 1857, which is before Canada was even a country. The brand quickly grew to become Canada's third-largest distiller and was a worldwide bar staple.

At the Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery, patrons can pay $20 each for a 75-90 minute tour about all things J.P. Wiser's. It's another tour that gets to the nitty gritty, so visitors have to wear closed-toed shoes to stay safe on the distillery floor. It ends with a tasting for those who can legally drink, to really get a flavor of how Canadian whisky sets itself apart. "There is an enormous amount of history to this place and it is very interesting," one Tripadvisor review of the tour at Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery reads.

17. Tullamore D.E.W. — Tullamore, Ireland

The Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery has been located in its small namesake town since 1829 by Daniel Edmund Williams, the creator of the brand whom it's named after. The brand has several different blends, single malts, and finishes of its Irish whiskey, best explored in its historic home. The classic 105-minute tour will cost you, but it's a personalized experience worth every penny. 

The tour kicks off with a welcome Irish coffee before you visit the still house and experiment in the blending lab. The folks at Tullamore let their guests taste whiskey straight from the cask before an official premium tasting. For an added fee, true Tullamore D.E.W. fans can blend and bottle personalized spirits. "I've been to Jameson in Ireland and well over a dozen distillery tours in Scotland – this was one of the best. Very classy, beautiful facility, and luxury experience," one Tripadvisor review of the Tullamore D.E.W. tour reads. 

18. Stitzel Weller — Louisville, Kentucky

Stitzel Weller Distillery, in Shively, Kentucky should be one of your preferred stops in the Louisville area. The distillery, which first opened on Derby Day in 1935, produced bourbon until the early 1990s. Then, in 2014, the distillery was revived when it was acquired by Diageo and became the home of Bulleit Bourbon. Now, it houses other brands like Blade and Bow, I.W. Harper, and Orphan Barrel. Fans of the brand can head to the quiet grounds to learn as much as possible.

Stitzel Weller offers several tours and tastings depending on your preference, with even an option for a bourbon and chocolate pairing, for those 21 or older. The distillery is also home to the Garden and Gun Club, a cocktail lounge where patrons can sample the brands on their own time while sampling the curated food menu. The Garden and Gun Club does not accept reservations.

19. Hudson Whiskey Distillery — Gardiner, New York

Hudson Whiskey's Distillery, sometimes referred to as Tuthilltown Spirits, is notable in New York history. It was the first whiskey distillery in the state since Prohibition when it opened in 2003. The charming rural town in the Hudson Valley feels like an oasis, but the buzzing city of New York City isn't too far away. This dichotomy is what fuels Hudson Whiskey to be a bottle that fits in on Fifth Avenue or on the farm. 

Visitors can learn about the history of this distillery on a 45-minute Hudson Whiskey Bourbon Renewal tour, including the history of the brand's feat to kickstart distilling in the state. There is also a cocktail bar, tasting room, and gift shop for customers to explore. The company also has plans to open an onsite restaurant soon. Needless to say, there are plenty of reasons to visit Hudson Valley, this distillery being the first.

20. The Glenlivet — Ballindalloch, Scotland

Another remote location worth seeking out to taste Scottish whisky is The Glenlivet. It's located in Ballindalloch, Scotland. The brand was started in this isolated region and has grown to become one of the most well-known Scottish whisky brands on the market. If you make the trek to their headquarters, you will be gifted with a wealth of knowledge and whisky tasting. Patrons can opt for different tastings, whether they want to sample the core range or a more exclusive single-cask range. There are also more exclusive tours of the archives or the Cedar Collection, which contains some of the oldest and rarest bottles from the brand. 

The Glenlivet distillery also has a state-of-the-art gift shop where customers can purchase personalized spirits, fill their own whisky bottles, and check out a ton of other distillery-exclusive releases. The location also includes a Drawing Room bar where patrons can sit back and enjoy whisky and bar snacks.