Fresh Off the Still

Northern Nevada’s diverse distilleries make the spirits of the West

Frey Ranch gin

Frey Ranch gin

While distillers nationwide fight for market share of an audience thirsty for high-quality spirits, a growing number of Nevada distillers are making a move to slake that thirst. Book a tour and taste for yourself!

Experimentation at Verdi Local

Experimentation at Seven Troughs

Verdi Local Distillery

In a tiny 1940s ranch-style house just a mile from the California border, Jeremy and Katey Bauman opened their 744-square-foot micro distillery—possibly the world’s smallest—one year ago. The couple welcomes guests to sample their spirits following a brief tour; note the local brewery collaborations in the barrel room, and the pressurized stainless-steel casks of whiskey pulling color and flavor from the hand-harvested and charred local mahogany staves sealed within. Work your way from the apple cinnamon- and lemon-flavored white corn whiskeys before moving on to the Yeti Jackalope Gin and Mahogany Whiskey. Save the white whiskey flavored with Nevada-grown Basque garlic for last; it’s meant to pair with the couple’s own bloody Mary mix recipe. And if offered the experimental charred pine whiskey, say yes.

Charring barrels at Branded Hearts

Charring barrels at Branded Hearts

Branded Hearts Distillery

Stop in at the right time and you just might catch Ryan Cherrick out back hand-charring barrels while Josh Nichols stands ready with the water. Open since April, theirs is the state’s sixth craft distillery as well as its newest. A tour from either quickly reveals how far their research into distilling and heritage grains has taken them. In the bar up front or the new lounge in the distillery itself, sample their complex “whiskey lover’s rum” made from dark panela (an unrefined sugar) and their single malt. Ogle the experimental barrels of four-grain, bourbon and a second single-malt—they might just give you a taste.

Partial mashing at Seven Troughs.

Partial mashing at Verdi Local.

Seven Troughs Distilling Co.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Las Vegas Distillery owner George Racz in support of favorable craft-distilling legislation for Nevada is UNR engineering professor Thomas Adams. Now putting out some 15,000 cases per year from a tiny industrial space in Sparks, Seven Troughs is a history buff’s dream come true. Everything here is made according to late 19th-century practices. Grains from within 45 miles of the distillery are partial mashed in open barrels, their essence captured in flame-fired stills. Of note, the Old Commissary Whiskey is made with floor-malted barley according to a 153-year-old recipe, and is named for the state’s first federally licensed distillery at Fort Ruby. Adams also produces a vodka, two moonshines, a small-barrel bourbon and Black Rock Rum, which is popular among the Burning Man set.

The still at Depot,

The still at Depot

The Depot Craft Brewery & Distillery

Located in the heart of Reno, in the painstakingly restored brick train depot, this combination restaurant, brewery and distillery has the flashiest setup of the lot—a gleaming copper-clad Italian still that makes all the basics: a clean house vodka, perfume-y High Country Gin, award-winning Silver Corn Whiskey and a young bourbon aged in small charred, honeycombed barrels in the station’s climate-controlled attic. But it’s distiller Brandon Wright’s Blue Corn Whiskey that shines brightest. According to staff, “illegal” 500-milliliter bottles were accidentally approved (they shoulda been 750 milliliters), so pick one up for $28 before they’re gone.

Frey Ranch Estate Distillery (pictured above)

Farthest afield, in rural Fallon, fifth-generation Nevada farmer Colby Frey and family are still putting out one of the most delicious and character-driven vodkas to touch ice. But the family is growing steadily with the addition of its first gin, eventually to be followed by an aged gin and even an absinthe. It will be years still before Frey’s whiskeys—bourbon, rye, single malt, oat—come to market. But bars all over the state already have been quick to adopt the gin, which is made from estate sagebrush and Rocky Mountain juniper. In Las Vegas, try it at Oak & Ivy in Downtown Container Park. 


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