In 2014, Arizona lawmakers made it a little easier for micro-distillers to operate by creating a new, craft distillers license. This didn’t open up the floodgates for homegrown spirits, yet as of the beginning of this year, 14 craft distilleries have opened their doors and have begun heating their stills.
These distilleries are already outnumbering the dozen or so Arizona wineries, and I highlight a few of the most popular ones across Arizona right here.
Located at: 508 West First Street, Tempe, Arizona 85281
The Arizona Distilling Company honors the historical Copper City Brewery, an Arizona beer maker that shut down during the prohibition era. Now, the Arizona Distilling Company specializes in craft-made whiskey, gin, and tequila. Rum will be joining its list of offerings once the aging process has finished.
Its small batch size affords the company the flexibility to experiment with new ingredients, recipes, and distilling techniques to create truly different craft liquors. One such creation is its durum wheat whiskey, crafted with a grain commonly used to make pasta and a recipe truly unique to Arizona. You can visit its headquarters in Tempe for tours and tastings.
Located at: 400 North Washington Avenue, Prescott, Arizona 86301
When the Thumb Butte Distillery opened, it officially became the first legal distillery in the region since the end of Prohibition in 1933. Today, Thumb Butte offers nine varieties of craft spirits from its location in historic Whiskey Row. Escalante Dark Rum, Western Sage Gin, and Bloody Basin Bourbon are just a few of its offerings.
You can visit the Thumb Butte Distillery for tastings and tours Tuesday through Saturday, or check out one of its monthly live music performances at the Prescott location. The Thumb Butte distillery is also a regular sponsor of the Fourth Friday Art Walk Artists Receptions.
Located at: 30 South Arizona Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85701
The Independent Distillery of Tucson is one of the most unusual craft distilleries in the country. These “purveyors of fine, handcrafted spirits” source local ingredients to create fine whiskeys, rums, vodkas, gins, and absinthe. The founders’ aim is to provide customers with a product that harkens to a time when drinkers didn’t mask the taste of their alcohol with sweet additions.
History plays a major role at this distillery. One of its shelves houses a bottle of 4,000-year-old corn whiskey, and the team plans to cultivate local grains that are all but extinct to bring back the region’s historical flavors. Contact The Independent Distillery to schedule a tour or tasting.
Located at: North Scottsdale, Arcadia and Paradise Valley locations
The “Outrageous Homebrewer’s Social Outpost” is an eatery and distillery in the Scottsdale area that offers all the traditional fare you expect from a gastropub, but with a few surprises. The OHSO Distillery is proud to present its Arizona Premium Vodka, which will soon be joined by its own gin and rum concoctions. Its nanoBREWERY also pumps out unique craft beers with an Arizona flare.
You can visit OHSO any day of the week for fantastic food and drinks. Happy hour is every weekday afternoon until six, followed by a late night menu available until midnight. You can also stop by for a beer brunch during the weekend and enjoy one of the 36 beers on tap with your meal.
While these Arizona distilleries are some of the larger craft distilleries in the state, let’s not forget Red Mountain, Paradox, Lucidi, Canyon Diablo, Three Wells, Caskwerks, Sonoran, Hamilton and Desert Diamond are also dispersed across the state serving up everything from vodka, rum, gin, whiskeys, bourbons, agave spirits, bitters and you-name-it speciality spirits.
Many of these distilleries host public and private tours and some even have their own tasting rooms. Not a bad way to get out of the heat and spend the afternoon.