By Kyle Doran
Charleston is a beautiful and historical city that offers boutiques, restaurants, and plenty of landmark sites to visit.? It also offers hours of enjoyment for anyone who loves the art and science behind distilling high quality spirits.? In the last few years, a number of new distilling companies have opened up for business in the Charleston area.? Each with their own brand of spirits, flavors and distilling techniques.? Join us as we explore some of the top local distilleries in Charleston and the surrounding area.
Charleston Distilling Company
First on our list of top local distilleries is Charleston Distilling Company.? Opened in 2014, Charleston Distilling Company has made quite a name for themselves, boasting an impressive lineup of small batch whiskey, vodka, gin and whiskey liqueur.? Just this year they were presented the gold medal from the American Craft Spirits Association for their 94 proof Vesey’s Straight Wheated Bourbon Whiskey.? They were also presented a silver medal for their 100 proof Calhoun’s Straight Rye Whiskey.
This distillery places an emphasis on using only the freshest farm to table ingredients in their spirits.? All of the grains used, are milled on-site at their Millhouse at Flowers Farm in Summerton, South Carolina and then shipped to the distillery to be processed into mash.? Their powerhouse distilling team manages to produce around 12,000 bottles per year!? A very impressive number, considering the level of excellence placed into each small batch.
Located on King Street, Charleston Distilling Company offers tours Monday through Saturday from 11am to 7pm (closed Wednesdays and Sundays) for anyone over 21.? For a $5 entry fee, you will get an illuminating background on how they distill their award winning spirits.
High Wire Distilling Company
Established in 2013 by husband and wife team, Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, High Wire Distilling Company produces a line of small batch spirits using specialized ingredients.? Scott, who is a Culinary Institute of America trained baker, uses his expertise to hand pick each of the grains used for their spirits’ mash bills.? All of High Wire’s products are also distilled using a hand-hammered, German copper still to ensure a premium small batch.
Their lineup consists of award winning gins and whiskeys, as well as vodka and liqueur.? Their 88 proof Hat Trick Extraordinarily Fine Botanical Gin took home silver in 2014 from the American Distilling Institute.
They offer tours and tastings Tuesday through Saturday, every hour on the hour at their warehouse located on Upper King Street.? At $10 per person, you will get a detailed overview of the distilling process and a tasting flight of High Wire spirits.
Striped Pig Distillery
Launched in 2013, the Striped Pig Distillery is actually Charleston’s first distillery since the prohibition.? They specialize in handcrafted, small-batch spirits and have recently won some very notable awards.? Above all, their Striped Gin won the double gold medal at the New York International Spirits Competition.? They also won three silver medals for their vodka, gin, and rum at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits competition.? There were over 2,000 entries this year, so earning three separate silver medals is very impressive.
Striped Pig Distillery produces their whiskey, gin, moonshine, rum and vodka using only local, hand-picked ingredients.? All of their distilling machinery was custom designed and assembled by the distillers, therefore, making their process one-of-a-kind.
They also offer distillery tours and tastings on Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 7PM, and Saturdays from noon to 5PM at $5 per person.
Located about 20 miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island, Firefly Distillery is the largest distillery in the state of South Carolina.? Jim Irvin and Scott Newitt founded Firefly Distillery together.? They wanted to capture the feeling of mystery and southern nostalgia in the name ‘Firefly.’? Starting out with a low budget, Jim and Scott decided to build their own still from scratch, instead of purchasing one.? They constructed a simple 55 gallon stainless steel tank on top of a propane burner.? This simple still setup allowed them to begin creating spirits, starting with their Muscadine vodka and quickly expanding into others distillates.? Their original still is now on display in their tasting room.
Firefly’s line up of spirits has grown extensively since then.? It now includes whiskeys, rums, craft liqueurs, vodka infused lemonades, an assortment of flavored moonshines and the world’s first sweet tea vodka.
They offer tours and tastings at the picturesque property, Tuesday through Saturday 11AM to 5PM for $6 per tasting. ?Taking one of their tours will allow to meet their team, learn about their distilling process and try out samples from the Firefly brand of spirits.
Last on our list of local Charleston distillery hotspots is Cannon Distillery, located in the historic Avondale Neighborhood.? If vodka is your drink then you should definitely plan a visit here.? Founded by Lewis Dodson, Jessica Krofta and Kris Kincaid, Cannon Distillery is a smaller boutique distillery that distills vodka exclusively.
Their first line of spirits include three different types of vodka.? The first they call Grit Vodka, which is an 80 proof all corn vodka. Cannon distills it seven times, resulting in a smooth flavor with little to no burn.? The second, known as ‘Chai Noon,’ is 100% corn vodka blended with a special black tea recipe and organic sugar.? At 65 proof, it is the perfect blend of spicy and sweet.? The third is their ‘Coffee Vodka’. They make this with only three ingredients; coffee, vodka, and sugar.? Cannon’s Coffee Vodka is 65 proof and bursting with notes of dark chocolate and caramel.
Cannon Distillery offers tours and tastings, Wednesday through Saturday, 1PM to 7PM.
As you can see, there is plenty to discover at the developing distilleries in and around Charleston, South Carolina.? There is such a range of differing flavors and styles available to choose from.? If you appreciate a well crafted spirit, then you will definitely find something to enjoy.? Whether you’re a local or just passing through, you’ll want to tour each of these distilleries.? You can understand their distilling process and try out their specialty spirits with the people that created them.? Who knows, they may even inspire you to follow in their footsteps and purchase a still to create your own brand of spirits.? Have fun and drink safe.
Kyle Doran is a writer and content creator for Mile Hi Distilling. ?A manufacturer of high-quality moonshine stills and distilling equipment based in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. ?Kyle loves learning all about the time-honored tradition and history of distilling spirits as well as discovering delicious drink recipes and liquors.