The Booze Is Cookin’

As George Rácz’s first batch of vodka poured from one of his two 170-gallon artisan pot stills into a vat during its second round of distillation on April 1, the Las Vegas Distillery founder brushed off a comment that he was making history.

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “But I’m very happy.”

He should be. Since being featured in Vegas Seven [“Spirit of the West,” March 17], Rácz’s Henderson-based operation received the final approval needed from the state to open Nevada’s first legal distillery.

The smell of corn mash filled the air as the pot stills, nicknamed the “Copper Angels,” cooked Rácz’s first two recipes: a wheat vodka and a white wheat whiskey. Rácz distilled the vodka three times, with the still producing about seven gallons per hour. He intends to bottle about 100 cases from the initial batch, and working with distributor Wirtz Beverage Group, he anticipates the final product will be on liquor store shelves in about four weeks.

The Romanian-born Rácz is just beginning to learn what his equipment can do, following a two-year journey to get to this point, and is excited about playing with different recipes to come up with the highest quality spirits he can produce. Most of his ingredients are grown in state at Winnemucca Farms.

“We are very small,” he said. “We can do many interesting things.”

Rácz decided on the white whiskey in his initial distillation because of the quick turnaround in producing the spirit, which remains clear because it isn’t aged in barrels, the step that gives traditional whiskey its color and much of its flavor.

The final hurdle Rácz needs to clear for his business is the passage of Assembly Bill 542, which provides for the licensing and operation of distilleries in Nevada. With Rácz essentially creating the industry, he drafted the bill and is going to Carson City on April 8 for its presentation. Once passed, he will be able to host tastings and sell individual bottles at the distillery.

With traditional whiskey, bourbon, gin and rum also slated for production in the future, Rácz is excited about being a pioneer in Nevada.

“Nobody is so crazy as to start a distillery in the middle of the desert,” he said. “We are the first to start in this type of climate.”

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