Drinking Tours You Need to Take

15 Drinking Pilgrimages You Need to Make

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Drinking Tours You Need to Take

Spirited Away

One of the best ways to stock your bar at home is by going away to visit the destinations where your favorite spirits, wines, and beers are produced. Not only will you have the incredible opportunity to experience how your favorite booze is produced and enjoyed in its native habitat, but you'll return with bottles full of stories about the wonderful sights, cultures, and people you met along the way and share them with your friends and family. From the best breweries, distilleries, and wineries in the United States worthy of a visit, to producers in far-flung locals from Scotland to South Africa and from Italy to Japan, here are our recommendations for incredible drinking pilgrimages you should make this year.

The Macallan, Speyside, Scotland

Speyside, Scotland

Scotland is home to five distinct whisky regions (six if you count Islay as its own, as many do), each with its own distinctive characteristics much like the terroir of wine. So while choosing just one destination is difficult, Speyside is a great place to start. This fertile valley of glens and rivers is home to nearly half of all Scotland's distilleries, including popular labels like The Macallan and The Glenlivet, and is known for nutty and fruity scotches, some of which are aged in sherry casks. The Balvenie Distillery tour offers a rare glimpse into every stage of the whisky making process, as well as some of the best drams in the country, just be sure to make a reservation as they limit their weekday tours to eight people.

Fall Brewing Company, San Diego
Ralph G./Yelp

San Diego, CA

Fans of hop-heavy, West Coast-style IPAs -- and craft beer in general -- know that San Diego is a bucket-list destination to explore some of the world's best brews. With over 130 craft breweries and counting, there's way more to explore than a short visit can accomplish, but beer tours and certain walkable neighborhoods will help. If you're on foot, the neighborhood of North Park is the best place to start, where you'll find favorites like Fall Brewing Company and North Park Beer Company. For more of an overview, try the Brewery Tours of San Diego.

Gate at Guinness Storehouse
Gate at Guinness Storehouse by Nico Kaiser (CC BY)

Dublin, Ireland

Chances are a trip to Ireland first sprang to mind at the mention of drinking pilgrimages -- here you'll find a rich history of legendary places to imbibe amongst spectacular scenery, charming pubs, and cheerful company. While the green countryside has plenty to explore, Dublin is an excellent jumping-off point. The Guinness Storehouse offers an engaging, multi-story tour culminating in a perfect pint at the top with 360 degree views of Dublin. And while Jameson Whiskey is now made in County Cork, you can still tour and taste at the original historic distillery on Bow St. Dublin's Teeling Whiskey Distillery is also worth a visit, as are the Pearse Lyons Distillery and the JW Sweetman Craft Brewery.

Backpedal, Portland, OR
Missy D./Yelp

Portland, OR

Lovers of craft beer, spirits and wine -- not to mention great food -- should definitely make it a point to visit Portland. There are over 100 craft breweries in the metro area alone, many of which are within walking distance from each other, including favorites like Deschutes, Kells, and Backpedal. Sample a wide range of spirits along the city's famed Distillery Row, which can be toured by pedicab, and save money on tasting fees by purchasing the Portland Distillery Passport. And just 100 miles southwest of Portland, you'll find the incredible vineyards of the scenic and laid-back Willamette Valley, known for excellent pinot noirs, which can be explored from underrated Salem.

Herradura Express, Jalisco, Mexico
Joseph S./Yelp

Jalisco, Mexico

Much more than just the cheap shots of your younger years, tequila -- that is, good tequila -- offers plenty of variety and refinement. And one of the best places to learn about the spirit made from blue agave is in its home state of Jalisco, where you can explore the Tequila Trail, a region home to many of the best distilleries, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can travel the agave-studded desert landscape by car to visit distilleries like the traditional Casa Siete Leguas or guided trips like the Herradura Express, which includes a train ride, distillery tour and tasting, lunch and entertainment.

Barrel House Distilling Co., Lexington, KY
Kimberly J./Yelp

Lexington, KY

Bourbon fans will undoubtedly want to carve out time to explore the historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Lexington is an excellent starting point for the trail, where you can tour and taste at favorite spots like small-batch Barrel House Distilling Co. and Town Branch, where you can sample both bourbon and beer. From there you can continue on to sample other familiar names like the beautiful Woodford Reserve distillery, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses. It's also worth following the trail to Louisville to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience where you'll learn about the history of bourbon, Kentucky, and, of course, sample top notch bourbon.

Gekkeikan Ōkura Sake Museum
Gekkeikan Ōkura Sake Museum by Alexander Schimmeck (None)

Kyoto, Japan

If you're a sushi fan looking to step up your sake game, a trip to Kyoto should definitely be on the agenda. While Japan offers a wide variety of sake regions to explore, the historic Fushimi Sake District in southern Kyoto is an excellent place to begin. Here you'll find over 40 sake breweries, which utilize the celebrated clean and soft water of Horikawa River's underground springs. Start with a visit to the popular Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, which offers a great historical primer and tastings of sake and plum wine. Beer enthusiasts should also check out sake and beer brewery Kizakura Kappa Country and Kyoto Machiya Beer Brewery.

Bergerac, France

Bergerac, France

While you can't really go wrong no matter which wine region of France you venture to, Bergerac to the southwest of Paris offers spectacularly vibrant whites and full-bodied reds of similar caliber and for less money than its well-known neighbor Bordeaux. You can also find great organic and biodynamic wines, many of which are made by women winemakers such as Clos d'Yvigne. The region is also known for incredible food, including black truffles and foie gras, so consider going on a wine and truffle tour. Look for charming and affordable B&Bs like Farcies du Pech.

Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno, Piedmont, Italy
Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno

Piedmont, Italy

Like France, there's an abundance of incredible wine regions to explore in Italy, each offering their own distinctive varietals, along with spectacular scenery and food. But consider starting your exploration far north of Rome in the Piedmont region, known for some of Italy's most renowned red wines: Barbaresco and Barolo. In addition to sipping vintages from legendary producers like the beautiful Fontanafredda estate and artisanal winemakers like Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno, consider a tour of Slow Food's La Banca del Vino (Wine Bank) designed to preserve Italy's wine heritage.

Hofbraühaus Beer Hall, Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany

For centuries, Munich has been a beer drinker's mecca, where you can hoist steins of Helles, Dunkel, and Weissbier in beer halls and gardens, and, of course, during Oktoberfest. They're so serious about beer here, there's even a 502-year-old German beer purity law that limits beer's ingredients to hops, barley, water, and yeast. And while you should definitely visit iconic spots like Hofbraühaus beer hall and the Spaten brewery, be sure to check out new school spots like Giesinger-Bräu and Crew Republic, who are crafting some creative new brews.

Habitation Clément, Martinique

Sainte-Marie, Martinique

While the Caribbean offers plenty of excellent destinations for rum enthusiasts, Martinique should be at the top of your list. The tiny island is home to over a dozen distilleries, and celebrated for its distinctive rhum agricole, which is distilled from pure sugar cane juice rather than molasses -- as most other rums are -- providing a greater complexity and more natural flavors. Explore the Route des Rhums around the island, and be sure to visit legendary distilleries like the historic Habitation Clément, which includes a botanical park; small Neisson Distillery, the last exclusively family-owned producer; and Saint-James, which features a rum museum.

Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, Upstate New York
Christy R./Yelp

Upstate New York

As action-packed as New York City is, upstate New York offers plenty worth exploring -- especially when it comes to craft spirits, beer and wine. A short train ride or drive from the city, the scenic Hudson Valley offers excellent producers, many of which use local ingredients, such as Tuthilltown Spirits, and Brotherhood Winery -- the oldest winery in the country. You can also explore the best of the region on the Hudson Valley Beer Trail tours. To the west, the Finger Lakes region offers over 100 wineries, breweries, and distilleries to explore, including Five and Twenty for spirits and beer, and Mazza Chautauqua Cellars for wine.

Beefeater Distillery, London, England

London, England

Gin enthusiasts have a wealth of distilleries to explore throughout the United Kingdom, each offering distinctive flavors thanks to local botanicals and production methods. London serves as an excellent jumping-off point for the region. The iconic Beefeater Distillery offers an inexpensive and informative tour and tasting; artisanal Sipsmith features the first copper-pot distillery to open in London since 1820; and The Distillery includes a distillery, gin museum, multiple bars, dining, and lodging. You'll also find plenty of excellent breweries, both craft and traditional, worth visiting.

Vinehopper Route, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Stellenbosch, located just to the east of Cape Town, is widely regarded as the Napa of South Africa when it comes to wine, featuring over 150 producers beneath towering granite mountains. Within the region there are numerous sub-regions (also known as wards), each producing celebrated varieties, including Chenin, Cabernet, and Pinotage. The charming university town is a great launching point to explore the regions, and taking a half- or full-day tour with guides like Vinehopper is a great way to sample much of what the Stellenbosch Wine Routes have to offer.

The Kavalan Distillery, Yuanshan Township, Taiwan

Yuanshan Township, Taiwan

While many people often associate whisk(e)y with places like Scotland or Kentucky, several Asian producers have recently risen to prominence, including distilleries in Japan and Taiwan. Since opening in 2005 as the first whisky distillery in Taiwan, the Kavalan distillery located an hour south of Taipei, has quickly grown to be a global favorite, winning hundreds of awards and even beating out Scotch stalwarts, and thanks to a tropical climate the aging process is much faster -- often taking half the time to age than traditional production regions. Kavalan's free tours offer visitors the chance to see their production methods, taste, and blend their own whisky, along with optional tours of an orchid farm or a scenic hike.