6 North Carolina Bourbon's You Should Be Sipping

Join us as we raise a glass and toast our North Carolina Bourbon makers. September was declared “National Bourbon Heritage Month,” by the US senate in 2007, to celebrate the uniquely American history of the spirit. But we all know every month, is bourbon month.

These 6 North Carolina Bourbons, in alphabetical order, are all worthy of your attention.

By Colleen Thompson

From the mountains to the coast, North Carolina distillers are producing small batch, crafted spirits. And while they all share the regulated, and mandated requirements all bourbons have to meet -- made from 51 percent corn and aged in charred new American oak barrels – they are all uniquely individual. So while we sip these 6, we'll keep in mind the wise words of Mark Twain and remember, "too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough."

End of Days Distillery

Survivors Cut Bourbon

Wilmington, NC

Founder of End of Days Distillery, Shane Faulkner, recognized the void in Wilmington for a distillery that offered tours and tastings. So, he brought on board several key partners who each brought unique abilities and assets to the team, to inspire Faulkner’s ethos of hard work and hustle. “Our family of premium handcrafted spirits honors our agricultural roots and the timeless values taught to us by the dreamers and doers of the world. Like every great artisan, we know there’s no substitute for local grain-to-glass ingredients and passion for the process,” says Faulkner.


“This bourbon is several years in the making,” says Faulkner. “I had the opportunity to spend time with a dear friend who really knows his bourbon. We worked together on several mash bills and tasted countless barrels that were created well before I started EOD. We made several batches together and sourced local barrels for aging. To this day, we use the same pot still and basic recipes as we continue to put away new whiskeys.”


EOD partnered with a local farmer outside of Pittsboro, NC for their corn which is freshly milled and delivered directly to the distillery door the day it’s needed. They now have plans to source a variety of crops including heirloom styles. “We also use a 2 row malted barley and a touch of rye in our mash bill. We  selected our barrels from Speyside Cooperage and age our whiskeys in a traditional 53gal Cask. We chose a #3 char which certainly helps develop the character and color,” says Faulkner.


Throughout the last few years Faulkner has had a chance to sneak a few sips from the ricks and see how time, temperature and the barrel has influenced the profile. The distillery will only be releasing 150 bottles which will be available for reserve to its Cask Collection Members online from the 30th September, with the remaining bottles being released publicly on October 2nd.


On the Nose: Vanilla, caramel and spice from the rye.

In the Glass: Well balanced, smooth, deep amber.  

Sip: Neat, no ice or water. Straight up.

Cocktail: EOD Smoked Old Fashioned

Visit: Free tours and tastings and the lounge is open Wed-Sat from 11am-9pm. Reservations/Tours can be booked online. 

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GIA Distillery

FJW Solera Style Whiskey

Madison, NC

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GIA (pronounced Gee-ah) Distillery was established in 2017 by Mark Sorrells and Sal Giaimo. This boutique distillery is located in a train station building built in 1895 in the tiny town of Madison, NC (about 20 minutes north of Greensboro).Sorrells, who is originally from Asheville, NC, already had experience in distillation, when Giaimo, who grew up in Sicily, asked him if he could make grappa. Making the ancient spirit the old fashioned way using the whole grape, juice, stems and skins, their Francesca Grappa established the distillery. They parlayed this experience when crafting the distilleries second release, the FJW Solera Style Bourbon. From crushing the grapes/grain, fermentation, distilling, bottling, and labor intensive solera style ageing, everything is done by hand.


“The FJW Solera Whiskey consists of a bourbon mash bill made up of corn, wheat, barley and rye,” explains Sorrells. “We age the whiskey in an old Spanish tradition that consists of stacking the barrels vertically and only taking a portion from the bottom row of barrels to bottle.  The spirits left in the bottom barrel are then refilled from the barrel above and so on until new unaged liquor is added to the top barrel. This causes a mixture of all of the ages and results in a unique taste that makes our product stand apart from most bourbons.” 


On the Nose: Roasted apple, toffee and buttered popcorn.

In the Glass: Smooth, smoky, nutty flavors  

Sip: Neat with one cube of ice.

Cocktail: FJW Whiskey Sour

Visit: The GIA bar and venue is open to the public on Fridays 2-9PM and Saturdays 12-9 PM  where you can sample the products, purchase crafted cocktails, as well as try wines from our sister company Nonno Nino Winery and purchase bottles .  Currently not doing tours due to COVID.

Old Nick Williams Company

ONW Carolina Bourbon Whiskey

Lewisville, NC


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Old Nick Williams Distillery was established in 1768 and at the time the North Carolina Prohibition was enacted in 1909, they were one of the largest legally operating distilleries in the United States. For over 250 years, the Williams family has had an amazing and colorful journey. From participating in the Revolutionary War to establishing and then losing an established whiskey brand to prohibition.It is currently owned by Van, John, Matt, and Zeb Williams who are all the grandsons and great-grandsons of Nicholas Glen Williams, the last owner of the distillery prior to Prohibition.


"ONW Straight Bourbon is made from a centuries old family recipe," explains co-owner and Operations Manager, Ashlee Ellis. “We pride ourselves on staying as true to the original recipe as we possibly can and we hope we are making our ancestors proud. We use locally grown corn (65%), wheat (30%), and malted barley (5%), which we grind ourselves at the distillery. We age the bourbon for a minimum of  24 months in new American oak. We use well water from the property in the mashing process just like it has always been done and proof with LeBleu water which is located less than 20 miles from us.  


On the Nose: Notes of caramel, butterscotch, and toasted oak.

In the Glass: Smooth and warm on the back of the tongue.

Sip: Neat with one cube of ice.

Cocktail: Blueberry Mint Julep

Visit: Tours are offered Monday-Thursday from 11am-5pm and Friday-Saturday from 11am-6pm.  They are $10 per person and include a tasting and a shot glass.


Southern Distilling Company

Southern Star Paragon Bourbon 

Statesville, NC

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A true grain-to-glass distillery, on a beautiful 20-acre farm, Southern Distilling Company is deeply rooted in heritage in historic Statesville, North Carolina. Founded by Pete and Vienna Barger in 2013, the distillery now comprises a state-of-the-art, glass fronted distillery.


The Bourbon mash bill recipes are a minimum of 51% corn, with the Southern Star Paragon, using 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley, resulting in a warm and sweet wheated bourbon. It is aged for a minimum of 4 years in charred and toasted oak barrels and bottled in 3 different expressions: Paragon original at 92 Proof, Paragon Bottled-in-Bond at 100 Proof, and Paragon Cask Strength Single Barrel selections.


On the Nose: “Our Paragon Wheated Bourbons capture the distinct essence of a traditional North Carolina Whiskey,” explains Vienna Barger. “A mature, well developed, and complex bourbon, carrying notes of butterscotch and caramel with a sweet and easy-going character.”

In the Glass: “Our Southern Star High-Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskeys  are a warm balance of rye spice, wood notes and fruit that excite the taste buds,” says Barger. “At 90 Proof, it maintains a flavor intensity and complexity that bourbon drinkers seek and enjoy. Creamy mouthfeel and long and enjoyable finish.”

Sip: Neat or over a single large cube of ice.

Cocktail: Southern Sazerac

Visit: Southern Distilling Company offers behind-the-scenes tours & tastings. Please visit the website, facebook page, or call the distillery for scheduling and availability.

Southern Grace Distilleries

Conviction Straight Bourbon

Mount Pleasant, NC

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Southern Grace was co-founded in 2014 by Leanne Powell and Thomas Thacker (after leaving behind careers in politics) in Concord, North Carolina, becoming the first legal distillery in Cabarrus County. The distillery moved into an abandoned State prison in Mount Pleasant, expanding production to include Bourbon. They converted the 1929 prison dorm and the solitary confinement “Hot Box” into barrel houses. “Another reason for the move to Mount Pleasant was the potential to develop a tourism venue around the former prison,” explains Director of Operations, Emily Burkhart. “"Whiskey Prison'' was the concept of our co-founder and President Leanne Powell, who we lost in 2019, but whose vision for a unique guest experience guides us to this day.”


Named “The Best Bourbon in America Under Four Years Old” at the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival, Conviction goes from grain to glass entirely on the Southern Grace property. “Our grain bill is 88% corn and 12% malted barley. The corn is purchased from a grower less than four miles from the distillery and all of our barley is grown in North Carolina. Conviction Single Barrel Straight Bourbon is always uncut and unfiltered and bottled at barrel proof,” says Burkhart.


A unique feature of Conviction, is that all the specifics of each batch are hand-written on the label. “We have to do that because all Conviction is barrel proof, or cask strength. So, while it has a barrel entry proof of 105p, every barrel has a slightly different proof when it is harvested,” explains Burkhart. The bourbon I tasted for example was Barrel 732, which has a proof of 99.6 or 49.8 abv. 


On the Nose: Vanilla, clove, stewed fruit & honey notes.

In the Glass: A bold, smooth mouthfeel with peach and caramel notes.

Sip: The drinking recommendation for Barrel 732 is a two ounce pour with a single cube of ice or a drizzle of cold water. 

Cocktail: Conviction Old Fashioned

Visit: Different tours are offered throughout the year. The most popular one is the Behind Bars Tour, offered Tuesday-Saturday at 12:30, 2:00, and 3:30 and takes guests into the production facility to see how Conviction Bourbon is made.

Walton’s Distillery

E.M. Walton’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Jacksonville, NC

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Don Walton has been an attorney in Jacksonville, NC since 1989 and is the owner of Walton's Distillery.  A graduate of UNCW, he moved to Kentucky to work for a relative in a retail venture and eventually returned to college at University of Kentucky School of Law.  “While living in Kentucky I had the opportunity to visit a lot of the distilleries and became obsessed with the idea of opening a bourbon distillery in North Carolina,” says Walton. “I returned to North Carolina in 1989 and began practicing law in Jacksonville. My plans to open a distillery were delayed a decade or two but in the meantime I experimented with countless mash bills and post distillation techniques.” After obtaining their federal permit to distill spirits they ran test batches for over 9 months and decided upon a corn whiskey, using locally grown field corn.  


“I decided to name all of our products after my grandparents.  The first product was E.M. Walton's Corn Whiskey which is 100 percent corn, distilled five (5) times utilizing limestone water drawn from an onsite well.  Our whiskey is steeped on toasted Appalachian oak chips, filtered and tempered to 80 proof before bottling. Our E.M Walton's Straight Bourbon Whiskey is simply our corn whiskey barreled. Our Bourbon is 100% corn which makes it unique as most bourbons are a combination of different grains. We barrel our Bourbon for a period of not less than 2 years in a new charred white oak barrel.  Our barrels are rotated as they age and currently we are emptying 3 and a half year old bourbon.


On the Nose: Hints of vanilla, oak and caramel.

In the Glass: A bold, smooth mouthfeel with vanilla and caramel notes.

Sip: Straight on ice.

Cocktail: Walton’s Bourbon Cherry Cola

Visit: Free tours and tastings at the distillery Monday - Saturday. Tours run approximately every 30 minutes, begin at 10:00 am and end at 4:30 pm.