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By Clare Goggin Sivits On July 18, 2022

5 Places to Go & Vacation Like a Craft Distiller

Summer arrived here in the PNW the same day that a solid three months of rain came to an end. Let’s just say we were ready for some sun. And since we know summer won’t last, we’re also plotting our escape once the dark clouds return. To that end, we asked a bunch of craft distillers we regularly collaborate with where they like to go when they get away.

A photo of Crater Lake, a National Park located in Oregon surrounded by mountains and trees.
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon

Between distilling delicious craft spirits and sitting down with us to talk beverage marketing or graphic design, five distillers slipped us a few vacation suggestions. After all, these are people who work hard. They spend long days using their hands to carefully create vodkas, gins, whiskeys, and other delicate spirits that we want to sip and savor. When they take a vacation, they make it worth the trip.

The recommendations we got ranged from mountainous terrain to European coasts and cave explorations. If you’re like us and you want to vacation like a craft spirits distiller, read on.

U.S. National Parks — Caley Shoemaker

At first, Altar Spirits Master Distiller Caley Shoemaker admitted that picking a favorite place to visit was hard for her. “My favorite vacation spot is somewhere I have never been,” she told us. 

Caley loves exploring new places and discovering new foods and new experiences. She wants to take a break from the daily monotony by learning about the “nuances of new places.” That’s the “magic of travel.”

However, anyone looking for magic can find it in any one of the many National Parks across the country. As Caley notes, “I find it so interesting to see the different terrains of our country and to hike and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.” 

After all, when you’re looking for something new and out-of-the-ordinary, what could satisfy that better than Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska or Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. 

Side note: both Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park (among others) are currently experiencing damage due to national disasters. If you’d like to find out how you can help keep these beautiful parks preserved, learn more here.

Celle Ligure, Italy — Devon Trevathan

When it comes to travel, Devon Trevathan is a pro. Literally. The president of the nomadic spirits company, Liba Spirits, her job revolves around travel. So she admits that picking a favorite place is a bit of a challenge. But she quickly landed on the prime location: Celle Ligure.

Waves lap up onto a beach on the coast of Celle Ligure, Italy in front of buildings and residential structures as trees and mountains are seen in the distance.
A beach in Celle Ligure in Italy

“I tend to appreciate relaxing, warm places rather than bustling metropolises when I’m on vacation,” Devon tells us. The coastal commune of Celle Ligure in Northern Italy fits the bill. 

“It had everything that a person could ask for,” she explains. “Beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean; assorted stands selling whatever you need, including used books in English for a couple of euro; and since it’s Italy, absolutely insane bakeries, delis, trattorias, and fresh produce all within a mile radius.”

In fact, the destination holds fond memories for Devon. “I’ll never forget how it felt to swim in that crystalline water — the salinity made it easy to float, and I would lay there looking up at the sky, hearing this gentle, twinkling sound under the waves before running up the beach to eat my speck and cheese focaccia, which had been warmed by the rays of the sun.” Sounds like absolute poetry, right?

There’s more: “At night, we would have a big dinner like homemade lasagna, and it was there that I had one of my favorite ever desserts: fresh summer peaches cut in half and filled with chocolate ganache then baked until set,” Devon continues. “I wish I could spend every summer there; something to aspire to I guess!”

Vacation goals for all of us, really.

Belize and Guatemala — Anthony Brichta

A blue house stands next to a boardwalk and a dock that stretches into the Caribbean Sea near a palm tree on Caye Caulker, an island off the coast of Belize.
Caye Caulker, an island off the coast of Belize

When not focused on small-batch and premium spirits for County Seat Spirits in Allentown, Pennsylvania (along with the cocktail bar and tasting room in Easton), Anthony Brichta looks for a little adventure. At least that’s what he did when he visited his favorite vacation spot — or rather a series of spots in Belize and Guatemala.

It started in Belize. “We went cave diving at Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave,” Anthony told us. This natural attraction, situated close to the town of San Ignacio, is billed as one of the most stunning sites in the country. It certainly stuck with Anthony. He followed up the cave with a bit of snorkeling in Caye Caulker, a small island off the Caribbean coast of Belize.

Onto Guatemala. Anthony visited Tikal National Park, the ruin of an ancient city in the middle of a rainforest. The archaeological site features temples and other architecture that dates back to the 4th century. It’s what remains of the capital of one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms.

The natural beauty and ancient ruins weren’t the only things that left an impression on Anthony. “It was great experiencing all of the local culture and we got to try some great Belizian Rum and amazingly fresh coffee in Guatemala,” he notes. “I may or may not have brought back a suitcase full of local rum!”

That’s enough to get us to buy a plane ticket!

Florence, Italy — Shelly Heppner

When we asked Bespoke Spirits House owner and distiller, Shelly Heppner about vacation, she first replied, “LOL.” 

Vacation seems like a fantasy to her at the moment but she tells us she has big plans for a European vacation once she gets the chance. “I have dreams that I hope to turn into plans once the distillery is stable after COVID,” she confesses. “England, Spain, and Italy. And I can’t not go to Paris! Now that I am in this business, I see my travel plans in a different way. Sussing out cool small distilleries as my guide.”

The buildings and monuments of Florence, Italy stretch out on either side of a river as the sun hovers just above the horizon in the distance.
Florence, Italy

Given a minute to consider, Shelly reveals, “I did travel Europe, and my favorite place would have to be Florence.” And who wouldn’t love to visit this beautiful and historic location in Central Italy? The city is filled with incredible architecture that makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the Rennaissance. Not to mention, you’re in the heart of Tuscany so you know the food and wine will be stellar.

As a bonus, Shelly also shared another European travel tip with us: “A really cool place off the beaten path was Leipzig, in Germany.” So we’ll have to fit that into the European agenda too.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains — Kris Bohm

There’s no question about it for Kris Bohm. The president of Distillery Now, a distillery business consulting service, doesn’t bat an eye when he tells us, “My favorite place in the world to vacation is without a doubt the Sierra Nevada mountains.”

Hiking backpacks lean against rocks as snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada range stretch into the sky in the background.

The famed mountain range spans 400 miles, mostly in California, and touches Nevada as well. A visit to this part of the country offers the opportunity to see the largest tree in the world (General Sherman), dip your toes into the largest Alpine lake in North America (Lake Tahoe), or scale Mount Whitney to the highest point in the contiguous U.S. 

As far as Kris is concerned, there is no wrong way to experience the mountain range. “Whether in Yosemite, Tahoe, or Truckee, the mountains of California are some of the most epic and serene wilderness I’ve ever seen.”

It must keep delivering incredible experiences too because Kris goes back regularly. “So many trips I’ve had backpacking and mountain biking in the summer and many snowy days snowboarding the world-class resorts around Tahoe,” he reminisces. “The Sierra Nevadas are mountains that I love and try to get myself out to them as often as I can.”

Clare Goggin Sivits

As a marketer with a strong writing background, Clare Goggin Sivits has worked in the beer, spirits, and wine industries for nearly a decade. She oversaw digital marketing for a small wine startup as well as a craft brewery and distillery with a nationwide footprint. A Florida ex-pat, Clare now lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to write about craft beverage marketing and the industry as a whole.

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