Nestled against the nearly 11,000-foot Jobs Peak in the Carson Range lies the small town of Minden, Nevada. While the community is only a 30-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe, its wide open skies and fields of grass-fed cattle reflect a very different way of life from the lake.
Minden is just one example of Nevada's important agricultural legacy and has been distinguished by a set of landmark brick buildings and four towering silos in the middle of town that once processed grain and made cream and butter for the area in the early 1900s. These two distinctive buildings now have a new life as the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery where grains grown from Bently's own ranch are used to produce gin, vodka, liqueurs, bourbon, and single-malt whisky.
The grain silos now house the whisky distillery, which can be seen from inside the tasting room.(Courtesy of Bently Heritage Estate Distillery)
Proprietors Christopher and Camille Bently split their time between San Francisco, Minden, and Scotland and rank Scotch whisky as one of their first great loves. They spent nearly seven years in the planning and construction of this property. Originally purchased by Christopher's father in the 1970s and containing the Minden Flour Milling Co. and the Minden Butter Manufacturing Co., it is now a LEED Gold–certified estate distillery and public house featuring craft cocktails and tours.
"There were really two things that Christopher and Camille were focused on: one was keeping these old buildings and putting them back into use and the other was having a business that would maintain the agricultural value of the Carson Valley," says John D.E. Jeffery, Bently's GM and Master Distiller.
"Christopher wanted to preserve the character of the buildings, bring them back to life, and put them into use that would have a long, sustainable future."
All the non-GMO grains and even some of the fruit for the distilled spirits come from the distillery's nearby sister company, Bently Ranch. Over 3,000 acres of grain are used to produce the award-winning spirits.
Currently, the distillery serves and sells two types of their Source One Single Estate Vodka: a wheat and oat blend finished in copper pot stills, and an umber-colored vodka finished in Spanish oloroso oak sherry casks.
"It has this sweet, oxidized wine character," Jeffery says. "It's really cool."
Bently Heritage's Juniper Grove Gin comes in three varieties: the classic American Dry Gin; the flowery Atrium Gin, made with 10 different botanicals including angelica; and the Alpine Gin, made with 11 different botanicals including piñon pine cones harvested locally by the Bently Heritage staff.
For a sweet and dark finish, Bently Heritage now offers liqueurs named after the goddess of magic. The Hecate Coffee Liqueur is made from Reno-based Magpie Roasters' Pica Pica coffee and invigorated with lemon zest. The Hecate Cacao Liqueur is made with sustainably sourced criollo cacao nibs from Peru and Ecuador and vanilla beans from Madagascar.
While sampling the spirits, visitors can sit inside the three-story tasting room among the mill's original timbers and next to the spiral staircase topped by a handblown, emerald-green Murano glass chandelier.
The tasting room features original timbers and materials from the former grain mill.(Courtesy of Bently Heritage Estate Distillery)
The cocktail menu is ever changing and Lucas Huff, Bently Heritage's director of brand advocacy, and his team are always experimenting with new spices and extracts.
"We are really focused on unique flavor combinations without going over the top." Huff says.
Some popular cocktail choices are the Good Omens—made with oak sherry cask–rested Source One Vodka and Hecate Cacao Liqueur garnished with a blood orange—and the Dusk Rising, with Juniper Grove Atrium Gin, grapefruit juice, elderflower tonic, and fresh herbs.
Besides the spirits and stunning location, there's another benefit to visiting this beautiful place with such a rich history: a tour and spirit tasting followed by cocktails or a tasting will run less than $40 per person. Welcome to Nevada. —Christina Nelleman
// Bently Heritage Estate Distillery offers one-hour tours, tastings, and craft cocktail experiences by reservation only; 1601 Water St,, Minden, NV, bentlyheritage.com