On a snowy day in November 2020, John McKee—founder of Headframe Spirits in Butte, Montana—reached out to a group of his closest friends in craft distilling, who collectively call themselves the Good Guys. After months of isolation and social distancing, canceled events, and continuous disruptions to daily life, he missed seeing his fellow distillers, and he wanted to do something about it. So he sent a message to the group conveying exactly that, and within minutes, a conversation took hold and an idea was born. Under the name Good Deeds Spirits, the Good Guys would make a new whiskey—a blend of craft American single malts—and it would have a purpose. All proceeds would benefit the American Craft Spirits Association’s (ACSA) Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP) Foundation, a diversity and inclusion initiative.
Nine distillers, all members of the Good Guys, contributed whiskey for the project. Among them is Paul Hletko, founder and distiller of Chicago-based FEW Spirits, who’s eager to see a tangible change in the faces of the industry. “It’s really easy to say that diversity in craft distilling is important to us, but it’s a lot tougher to get out there and donate thousands of dollars of spirit,” he says. “That’s exactly what we did—we went out and put our money where our mouth is.”
And so far, Good Deeds’ efforts are paying off: After launching its inaugural malt whiskey in October, nearly half of the 1,000 bottles were sold in the first two weeks. Good Deeds is far from the only brand whose sole purpose is to give back, as plenty of whiskeys across the U.S. are contributing to charitable causes or organizations close to home and heart. Here are several whiskeys that can make you feel good about buying as well as sipping.
Words, Deeds, and Whiskey: Six Bottlings That Do Their Part
Good Deeds Malt Whiskey—46%, $75
The inaugural release of Good Deeds Spirits is a malt whiskey whose proceeds will benefit the STEPUP Foundation, a diversity and inclusion initiative founded by the ACSA. At its core, STEPUP is an internship, and its year-long program aims to provide underserved and underrepresented individuals—people of different races, color, national origins, genders, and sexual orientations—with training, encouragement, and opportunities to join the craft spirits industry.
Westward Whiskey Benefit Barrel—50%, $100
This whiskey helps two organizations that fight homelessness and hunger: Oregon’s Transition Projects and California’s No Us Without You. All sales made in Oregon will go toward Transition Projects, which gives individuals the resources and tools needed to help end homelessness. All sales made outside Oregon will go toward No Us Without You, a public charity created by bar consultancy group Va’La Hospitality that provides food to the most disenfranchised hospitality workers affected by the pandemic.
Parker’s Heritage Collection—61%, $140
Heaven Hill takes its coveted annual release of Parker’s Heritage and directs its proceeds toward a worthy cause. The distiller contributes a portion of the sales from each bottle of Parker’s Heritage to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, in honor of its late master distiller Parker Beam, who passed away in 2017 after a lengthy battle with ALS. Since 2013, Heaven Hill has raised over $1 million for ALS research and patient care from Parker’s Heritage bottlings—15 releases to date.
Get and give: Released annually
Learn more: als.org
Castle & Key The Untold Story of Kentucky Bourbon—53.5%, $150
A collaboration between Castle & Key and the Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild, this whiskey benefits The Diversity in Kentucky Distilling Scholarship program, with 100% of proceeds of the 425-bottle release going to the initiative. The program, which was established at Blue Grass Community Foundation by Castle & Key, aims to support students of color who are interested in working in the Kentucky distilling industry. Each scholarship provides $5,000 and can be renewed for one additional year of study.
Chocorua Rye—45%, $55
Made by Tamworth Distilling & Mercantile, this rye whiskey benefits the Chocorua Lake Conservancy (CLC), with $1 from every bottle sold going to the organization. The CLC is a volunteer-led, nonprofit land trust that owns or manages almost 1,000 acres of conservation land, and protects 3,000 additional acres through perpetual conservation covenants and easements. Under its purview, Chocorua Lake and its surrounding conservation lands have been kept clean and accessible to local residents and visitors.
Redneck Riviera—40%, $30
Created by country musician John Rich, this blended American whiskey benefits Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization founded by Lieutenant Colonel Dan Rooney. The military foundation provides college scholarships for children and spouses of fallen or disabled soldiers. Redneck Riviera donates 10% from every sale to this cause, which awarded over $60 million in scholarships last year alone. To date, Folds of Honor has given out 35,000 scholarships since its inception in 2007.