Courtesy of Corsair Distillery

See how your favorite spirits are made at these craft distilleries—tastings most definitely included.

Corsair Distillery, Nashville, TN, and Bowling Green, KY

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Kentucky bourbon is steeped in tradition, and distillers have to follow scores of rules if they want to use the name. The team at Corsair barely colors within the lines, following just enough rules to call their product bourbon. Our favorite example: bourbon has to be at least 51 percent corn. Most producers use much more (even up to 80 percent), but Corsair uses exactly 51 percent, using the other 49 percent to introduce creative flavors like cherry-smoked barley. It's the kind of stunt that would be considered absurd if it didn't result in such a complex, fun-to-drink spirit.

Tours: Tuesday to Saturday in Tennessee and Friday to Saturday in Kentucky; $10; corsairartisan.com.

America's Coolest Distilleries

Corsair Distillery, Nashville, TN, and Bowling Green, KY

Kentucky bourbon is steeped in tradition, and distillers have to follow scores of rules if they want to use the name. The team at Corsair barely colors within the lines, following just enough rules to call their product bourbon. Our favorite example: bourbon has to be at least 51 percent corn. Most producers use much more (even up to 80 percent), but Corsair uses exactly 51 percent, using the other 49 percent to introduce creative flavors like cherry-smoked barley. It's the kind of stunt that would be considered absurd if it didn't result in such a complex, fun-to-drink spirit.

Tours: Tuesday to Saturday in Tennessee and Friday to Saturday in Kentucky; $10; corsairartisan.com.

Courtesy of Corsair Distillery

America's Coolest Distilleries

While working at a New York hedge fund, Bridget Firtle noticed an uptick in craft spirits and was inspired to get in on the trend. Pouring her life savings into making rum might not have been the wisest financial investment, but it was a passionate one. Two years and one smooth rum later, the founder of The Noble Experiment hasn’t looked back.

Across America, entrepreneurs like Firtle are jumping on the craft-distillery wagon, trading their day jobs for the fulfilling—if sometimes backbreaking—work of making small-batch spirits. When the American Distilling Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting craft distilling, was founded in 2003, there were only 69 licensed craft distillers. In just 10 years, that number has jumped to 400, and the organization expects it to reach up to 800 by 2015.

While the backstories of these cool distilleries vary wildly, all are driven by a passion for their products. And since most of the owners can’t wait to share that passion with the public, tours of their distilleries aren’t just informative—they’re inspiring.

Your guide at Woody Creek Distillers, near Aspen, CO, will explain how staffers are so obsessive about ingredients that they grow their own heirloom potatoes for their vodka. At Bull Run Distilling, in Portland, OR, you’ll learn that they produce rum not because it’s a moneymaker, but as a tribute to Portland’s first commercially produced spirit.

Of course, there’s nothing like firsthand experience, and that comes with the tastings. At Middle West distillery in Ohio, tours end with a sampling of three varieties of vodka as well as bourbon and white whiskeys and the OYO whiskey—which also turns up in the whiskey and pecan flavor of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Such tastings may have you plotting your own escape from the 9-to-5 so that you, too, can get a piece of the craft-distillery action. Or maybe that’s just the whiskey talking.

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