In the United States, there are well over 1,000 distilleries in operation, many of which are craft enterprises run by people who live and breathe their products. With all those distilleries, one thing is certain: We make some damn delicious spirits here in the U.S. of A.
And that’s the reason why The Manual created our first-ever Spirit Awards. We wanted to recognize the best booze coming out of our country. Did we try every spirit produced in 2018? No, not by a long shot, sadly. But we promise we tried our very best.
First, we decided on nine major liquor categories to judge: Bourbon, Rye, Single Malt Whiskey, Unaged Rum, Aged Rum, Vodka, Flavored Vodka, Gin, and Brandy. These categories, we felt, represented the widest swath of American-made spirits. Next, we spent eight months tasting candidates from across the country. From those, we narrowed it down to three finalists in each category.
The winners were chosen via a blind tasting, during which they were judged on appearance, aroma, palate, and finish. Our focus on smaller craft producers in the U.S. allowed us to highlight spirits that our readers may not have heard of or tried yet.
What you will find below is a spirited look at the best booze made in the United States in 2018. Are you going to agree with us every time? Probably not. These selections are based on how our panel tasted on a particular day at a particular time. That is the joy of a spirit. One day, it might taste like one thing, and the next may give the drinker an entirely new experience. Cheers to your next drink and to American craft spirits.