What to Expect with Your First Distillery Tour

So, you’re ready to book your first distillery tour? A first-time distillery tour should be everything you expect and more. Your favorite beverage. That legendary style.

Naturally, there are some things you can do to make your first distillery tour more enjoyable. Some things to remember and tips to ensure you know what’s to come is a great way to begin this ride.

Today we’ll explore everything you need to know. This is not a spoiler alert. Think of it as an enhancer—an aperitif rather than a chaser.

For some things in life, anticipation is the best part. So, strap in. Additionally, if it’s your first distillery tour or your tenth, here’s what you can expect with yours.

Welcome One, Welcome All

In the beginning, man created distilleries. He gave them sights, sounds, the breath of oak perhaps, or the scent of sugar and spice. Then he gave them a beating heart. He told stories and brought them to life.

From the moment you walk in, you will be surrounded by a sense of something special. Pictures on the walls. Rooms filled with machinery, some old, some new but all shining bright, and each with their job to do. You’ll get to know that this is more than just a place of business. This is a creator’s environment. Inside and out.

Expect an introduction. Your host will present a little bit of history, combined with the traditions of the past, the names, and the faces long since gone. Inspiration and anticipation of the future are also part of the tour.

Rooms simply filled with spirits? Sure, but just not in the way you might think.

Life is What You Make It. So is a Distillery

Make no mistake this is a creative process. From planted and raised grain to barreling and labeled bottles, each distiller has a process and a way in which they do things. 

If you are allowed to participate, which most will encourage, please do so. Be excited and show interest in areas you find fascinating or even bizarre. Your host will likely be entertaining, as most have a quick wit along with an extensive knowledge of the product. This tour will be a culmination of things. It can be a multi-level sensory experience if you let it, so have fun, be respectful and enjoy the ride.

Remember, this is an experience. Take it all in—all of it.

All In a Day’s Work

Your host will provide information on who’s who. From distillery management to packer, you will see that this is a well-oiled spirit machine. A tight ship where everyone has a place, none more important than the other.

Fermentation tanks are generally the first port of call. The fermentation process results in the base product for the particular spirit, be it vodka or whiskey, and is sometimes called a “mash.” The fermentation equation is straightforward and doesn’t change.

You will learn that Fermentation = Yeast plus Sugar, which produces Alcohol and CO2. Your distiller may produce the mash onsite or have it brought in.

From here, your host will discuss their distillation process. When a base product is distilled, the actual event happening is a separation of alcohol and water through evaporation and condensation. The alcohol is heated and then captured, producing an alcohol product that forms the basis of the spirit.

Each Tour Will Be Unique

The distillation is done in stills, which you will be introduced to on your distillery tour. Stills are used to heat the mash at a low temperature, thus vaporizing it. Evaporation occurs, as does a cooling down of the liquid, which gives a product a much higher concentration of alcohol than at the beginning.

Your host, while explaining the processes, will no doubt impart information about the people involved and more about the unique facility you’re touring.

Each individual is more than just what they do as a part of the production line. Naturally, techniques and the science behind the best results play a large part, but there’s something else that goes into the mix. There’s an understanding of flavors, a dedication, and an attitude to creating the best product it can be.

A distillery tour is not only about the result but serves as a window into the lives of the people who create it. It’s about sharing their processes. It’s also about the distillery life and a product that they love. Blood, sweat, and tears? You bet.

The Tastings

There is always a greater appreciation and respect for something if you know where it’s come from and better understand its origins. For example, where it was born and where it landed is important to get an idea of how you can appreciate the product in everyday life.

When it’s time for the good part, your host may ask what you like in terms of your regular beverage or favorite flavors. The aim here is to give you the best experience possible, so don’t be afraid to let the host know if you prefer straight-up, non-mixed beverages or have a penchant for the exotic. Having an open mind will help, too. Give something a try. You never know.

What to Expect

In terms of your environment, some distilleries have large areas with table settings for larger crowds on their tours. Some smaller ones will have a bar area, much like a wine tasting, where everyone is a bit more up close and personal. An intimate setting creates warmth and is inviting. It is these choices and preferences for the tasting environment which have been decided with the sole purpose of evoking a certain feeling in its visitors.

Speaking of preferences, there may be some different tastes and flavors offered on the tour. As new products are created for an ever-increasing adventurous market, don’t be surprised if you become somewhat of a guinea pig, sampling new spirits in the making.

Don’t worry. It’s all in the name of evolution.

If you are offered any new and potentially unusual flavors, there may be a chance you won’t like them. In fact, these could be so distasteful to you that the urge to scream and run will need to be curbed. Should this happen, and if you don’t wish to offend a lifelong distiller, simply say, “I’m not sure that Duck Egg and Licorice Bourbon is quite my taste.” Problem solved.

What Happens at the Distillery Stays at the Distillery?

Some things in life need to be savored.

You may be asked to respect the no videography or no photographs policy in certain areas on the premises. That is not uncommon, as there are proprietary things going on here. It is a business, after all. You will no doubt be given opportunities to gather and take photos, so don’t be concerned.

Enjoy Yourself

The urge to social media the life out of everything is high on some priority lists. Of course, people like to share their experiences, but be careful, or you might miss it yourself.

Remember the anecdote of people watching whales breach out at sea? For example, there’s a stunning display worthy of everyone’s attention, but every single person was too busy live streaming it and putting selfies and images on social media that they were not seeing it with the only lens that should ever be capturing an event like that firsthand.

They’re your eyes. It’s your tour. Your experience.

Last Drinks

Chefs have dishes. Distillers have their spirits. Both are born from the things the creators love and the life they’ve chosen.

The land from where their product comes from matters. The soil in which the ingredients were raised and the people who made it all possible contribute to each spirit’s process. Small-batch boutiques or mammoth household name brands, it’s all been a road traveled.

So, we’ve reached the end of the tour. Hopefully, at this point, you would have been through… experienced…and been told of the history.

The take home from all this, apart from the actual take-home samples or bottles purchased, will be different as distillers vary, as do their processes. The result is what you hold in your hands and what is now embedded in your head. The perfect end to your distillery day.

Top Tips

Need help navigating how to get the most out of your distillery tour? It’s nice to be prepared. It’s even better to know the experience was everything it could have been…and more.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-timer, there are certain things that will make your time more enjoyable.

Know Where the Amenities Are

You will probably be provided with a guide to where the restrooms are, but take note beforehand. It may make your day a little less stressful.

Dress to Impress

Casual and comfortable is the way to go. There are times when the areas are warmer than others due to distilling processes. As things cool down, take something warmer to put on, as tasting areas will be air-conditioned for visitor comfort.

Have You Eaten?

Typically, the tastings aspect of a distillery tour will have you sampling the spirit in various forms. Some are straight, and some may be mixed to show versatility or different flavor options. You probably don’t want to do that on an empty stomach.

Age Limits are Law

Some distilleries will allow under 18 visitors. However, mostly due to the tasting aspect, they will require age-appropriate guests at their premises.

Speak Up Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Expect opportunities for asking questions as you move through the distillery. Additionally, some distillery tours allow questions before, during, and after the experience. Where does your water come from? Are there any by-products from the process of distilling? From where do you source your ingredients? Who are your suppliers? Learn more by asking more.

Mind Your Manners

It goes without saying your behavior will need to be in check, as will others. There’s only room for one spotlight today, and that is on the people and the product everyone has come to learn about on the tour.

Respect the House Rules

Follow the host’s guidelines, and everyone’s day will be more enjoyable. 

Leave a Tip

A gratuity is something that may or may not be a requirement. Gratuity is part of the cost of the tour, sometimes. It never hurts to show your gratitude to a business.


To distill is to take something and change it into something else. Heat it. Cool it. Make it stronger, better. To purify and transform.

When you take your first distillery tour, you are deciding to learn from the masters. Additionally, this is not just about the spirit itself but the whole picture from beginning to end.

Can you taste the environment, the past and the present, and the passion in every drop of the beverage? We think you will.

Forget chocolates. Life is like a box of spirits. Thankfully, the tradition is set to continue.

Are you looking to find the best distilleries near you? It’s easy to find great local options. Explore what is in your area today and book a tour for the best experience you’ve had in a long time.

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January 22, 2023 - In Spirits

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