The top bourbon states: Who’s making your favorite drink?

We used to call the bourbon movement “virgin bourbon” because it was so late in the game. The first big-spending U.S. bourbon distilleries took root in Kentucky a generation ago, and by the late ’90s, tourists were bringing new money to a state that had long been home to a fair share of drunks, or purveyors of crappy drinks at poorly run roadside bars. To boost exports and stabilize their bottom lines, several big-name distilleries turned from base barley to bourbon. “That’s when a big pack of geeks got together and said, ‘There’s going to be plenty of grain left to distill bourbon in. Why not do it virgin?'” says South Carolina-based account director Nick Campbell, formerly a former beverage director at the Ritz-Carlton. From a tiny exploratory team in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Washington, Va., the tinkerers at Vermont Spirits — the chief brand makes his name synonymous with bourbon, but makes other whiskeys as well — quickly cornered the U.S. bourbon business when they launched in 2013. (Now that a string of famous purveyors have arrived in the nation’s capital, they call theirs a “virgin moonshine.”) An estimated 5 million bourbon and whiskey lovers signed up, and today most of the whiskey flows through dispensaries in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and, now, Virginia. The brand’s first full-scale commercial distillery, located in Hopkinsville, Ky., went on line last year, producing on average 30,000 gallons per day. The brand is independent of parent conglomerate Diageo, and though the second distillery should come online next year, it’s running at preproduction levels, focusing on quality-control. However, you might not be able to pick it up in your liquor store. Vermont’s distillery doesn’t sell to bars or distributors, but the main office takes orders through the distillery website, which also serves as a wholesale outlet. If a supermarket starts serving the stuff, the distillery says, it will “immediately sign out” the bottle and ship you a replacement, because the staff (there are only three) says it isn’t profitable to take part in big-box chains.

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