The visionary behind Bently Heritage Estate Distillery, Christopher Bently, grew up in Minden. As a child he played inside the Flour Mill and Creamery buildings. He understands that these structures are part of the heart and soul of our small town, and his goal is to safeguard that history.
And that history makes Minden’s future bright: whether it’s the rosy glow of an old oak balustrade, dusty old red bricks, or an antique piece of machinery, these are the things that resonate with people. These small icons add up to create the place we call home, and they’re the reason visitors travel here to witness our history. It’s our heritage, and we’re proud to be its stewards.
After the restorations are complete Bently Heritage Estate Distillery will begin operations. The Minden Flour Mill will create single malt whisky, using handmade stills imported from Scotland. The Creamery building will distill vodka and gin, using stills imported from Germany. And as one of two true estate distilleries, all of the ingredients will be grown locally on Bently Ranch.
Something Worth Saving
While the Bently Heritage construction process is intensive, it’s being carefully orchestrated to minimize waste and preserve everything we can — right down to the bricks of the buildings themselves. In addition, the Heritage District will be pedestrian friendly, so that a very dangerous part of Highway 395 will be walkable by everyone.
History that’s worth preserving might depend on the eye of the beholder, but to Christopher Bently every tangible connection to our roots is worth saving. From a building’s old bones to the original artifacts left from a time and place long gone by, we believe that these things inform our identity, and provide opportunities for our community’s future.
Preserving the Past, in all its Forms
We’re working closely with the Nevada Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks Service to follow their Historic Preservation Standards and Guidelines. This is about respect for our own heritage, and we’re thinking carefully about the architectural history and the cultural role these buildings played in Carson Valley.
The word “preservation” isn’t just about sustaining a building’s existing form, but protecting it for future generations. We’re focused on repair rather than replacement; on maintenance rather than remaking. This might sound simple enough, but it means that some structural pieces of the building must be removed or rebuilt in order to fully update mechanical, electrical, support, and plumbing systems.
Wherever we rebuild we carefully remove the original materials, get the work done, and then put the pieces back together. For example we had to remove the original roof in places, but we’ll be putting it back up, with all the original bricks that we could preserve, piece by piece. We’ll reuse all the old roof panels that we can, and recycle the rest.
Other original materials that are being preserved or reused include bricks, timber, railroad ties, rail line, and roof trusses. The process is a little like taking apart a jigsaw puzzle and then putting it back together.
When you deconstruct old buildings you’re never quite certain what’s been lost forever. Our sister companies in San Francisco have renovated several old buildings and discovered treasures like historic newspaper clippings, art, machinery, and more. The old Flour Mill is no exception: to properly save all of the mill’s original machinery we hired a historian who specializes in flour mills to identify, catalogue, and preserve more than two dozen pieces of equipment. The first rediscovery is the roller mill, a commonly used machine for milling flour that was made by E.P. Allis & Co., a famous Milwaukee machine maker. When our historian looked inside he found corrugated rollers, which immediately told him something about the mill’s history: they weren’t actually configured for rolling, but rather for feed grain.
Another surprise is the barley mill, which likely pre-dates the building; its presence here remains unexplained.
This machinery, among other pieces, are being carefully stored while construction on the building continues. When complete, we hope to display these pieces — and other artifacts — in the new distillery. After all, this old building will once again be processing grain just like it did in 1906, only this time as a sustainable estate distillery.
This project aims to return these buildings to their original carbon footprints — the energy usage of buildings constructed in 1906! — both in construction and operation.
Throughout the renovation process our goal is to meet or exceed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design target of 75% diversion of construction waste. We minimize the amount of construction waste produced on-site through a range of recycling, salvage, and reuse strategies. If we cannot reuse it, we recycle it. This includes:
- Drywall, lath, and plaster that doesn't contain toxic paints
- All metals, including sheet product, rebar, copper, metal stud scrap, screws, and nails