There's a New Distillery in Town
Great Scott, there’s a distillery in Carson Valley?! Who would have thought there would be one out here in this small, beautiful Northern Nevada valley? We must go.
If you're lucky enough to come across Bently Heritage Estate Distillery, located only a short drive from South Lake Tahoe, you’ll be in for a quality visit at one of the more unique distilleries in the world, not just Northern Nevada.
Before you go, and this is not a requirement, you may want to do just a little bit of homework to get the most out of your visit. Here are the kinds of terms that you’ll probably be hearing when you visit the Estate Distillery:
Estate: It’s a big deal. Bently Heritage is growing their own grain and it all goes into their spirits. In fact, to use the term estate, by law, at least 85% of the grain that comprises their spirits must be grown on land owned by the estate. Right now they grow 100% of the grain used to create their spirits.
Non-GMO: The family is committed to high standards of quality, and one of these examples is their commitment to using grain that has not been genetically modified.
The Mill Building: This is the spot where the tours start and end. It’s also the location of the bar, featuring craft cocktails that can only have spirits from our property; it’s another part of the estate definition. Bently Heritage is not allowed to bring in any outside spirits and so all the cocktails are made using spirits crafted right here in Minden, NV, at the estate. Beyond being the site of our tours, tasting room, and retail space, the Mill Building also houses our American single malt whiskey facility, and when you get to the second floor you’ll have an unprecedented view of the entire distillation process….although tasting it will require some time and patience.
The Forsyth Stills: The two stills visible from the bar on the second floor were imported from Scotland and made by the Forsyth family, who’ve been making hand hammered, handmade stills, like these, for five generations. One is the wash still and one is the spirit still, and they are the stills that allow us to make our single malt whiskey. I know, I know, there are a lot of terms to become familiar with, but all you need is more time with the material, and that’s not a bad thing.
The Spirit Safe: You’ll notice the rectangular shaped box that is centered between the two Forsyths. This is where the distillers make some particularly important decisions. The safe is used to make the cuts. You’ll learn more on that on the tour or from your bartender.
Other things to look for from your second-floor vantage point: the Lauter Tun, the Washbacks, the Lyne Arms, and, although it’s not visible, the Oil Calandria system of heating the stills. There is more going on in here, but you’ve had a big bite and you still need to get some exposure to the Creamery.
The Creamery: Located across the compound from the Mill Building, what used to be the Minden Butter Mfg. Co. Inc., is now home to another entirely different distilling process and system. This is where Bently Heritage makes its bourbon, rye, vodka (Source One Vodka, and Source One Vodka Rested is Sherry Oak Casks), Juniper Grove gins (American Dry, Atrium, and Alpine), and Hecate Liqueurs (coffee, cacao, citrus, and honey). Unfortunately, you can’t cheat the time in the barrel; so although it’s being made, there is no rye or bourbon to taste. Tom Petty said, “The waiting is the hardest part,” but he sure wasn’t thinking about bourbon and rye.
Carl and Carlito: These are the names of two of the three stills that reside in the Creamery building. Both were manufactured by the Christian Carl company of Germany, and they look beautiful but do quite different things. Here’s a bit of trivia: Carlito is named after the Bently family dog.
The Headframe Still: This is the continuous still that was made by Headframe Spirits Manufacturing out of Butte, Montana. All the spirits in the Creamery make their way through the Headframe still, but it has a different function than Carl and Carlito.
Fermenters: There are both American oak fermenters (built by Foeder Crafters of America out of St. Louis, MO.) and stainless-steel fermenters (manufactured by Briggs of Burton, UK), and you’ve got to see them to believe it. Again, they are beautiful.
Storage, Blending, Barreling, and Bottling: The Creamery also functions as the hub for much of our detailed work, and there is a separate room dedicated for all these functions.
There is an awful lot to see at Bently Heritage and there has been no discussion about barrel storage, the history of the property, LEED certification (both the Creamery and the Mill Building are LEED Gold certified), the ranch, or the Bently family ideals and vision.
All in all, the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery is a very pleasant addition to the Sierra Nevada region and well worth a visit, even if it’s just for an estate cocktail. We promise, you’ll be tempted to stay and to return often!