WINE & SPIRITS
Great Grains Bently Heritage Estate Distillery captures the spirit of the High Sierras. BY KELLY MAGYARICS
t a winery, it’s likely the fruit from the rows of vineyards visible from your sunny patio table is what’s in your glass. However, it’s not quite as common to belly up to a distillery’s tasting bar and sip a whiskey made with estate-grown grains, and those hefty burlap bags stacked floor to ceiling may have been shipped from a farm hundreds of miles away. According to the American Distilling Institute, less than 15 percent of American craft distilleries grow their own grains. But at Nevada’s Bently Heritage Estate, terroir is as important as technique. Located about 30 minutes east of South Lake Tahoe, the grain-to-glass distillery sustainably farms 2,000 acres of winter rye, wheat, oats and barley that’s malted, fermented and distilled on site. The estate’s 4,600-foot elevation equates to a fleeting 90-day frost-free growing season, while ample, pristine snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains augments the region’s measly 10 inches of annual rainfall. The distillery was founded by the husbandand-wife team of Christopher and Camille Bently, who gleaned inspiration from the reverence and time-honored traditions of single malt whiskey during trips to Scotland. They set out to create a world-class American single malt truly expressive of its terroir. Its LEED Goldcertified facility, housed in handsomely restored 100-year-old brick buildings previously used to manufacture butter and flour, opened to the public in early 2019. A striking design aesthetic retains an agricultural, industrial vibe, with high, wood-raftered ceilings and what appears to be miles of artistically installed exposed pipes that serve as form every bit as function. An elevated, shiny copper German Carl hybrid pot flanked by two curved staircases stands in as the altar in this veritable cathedral of whiskey. (It’s joined by a much smaller version dubbed “Carlito,” used for experimental spirits.) Master distiller and general manager John Jeffery said they continue to ramp up whiskey production each year, yet he’s tight-lipped about the initial release date. Of course, any serious whiskey distiller not keen on buying, barrel-finishing and relabeling someone else’s stock while waiting for their barrels to age in the rickhouse faces the challenge of offering something authentic to pique guests’ palates in the meantime. Here that means smooth and creamy Source One Single Estate Vodka, made with wheat and oats, and three iterations of gin: juniper-
forward American Dry Gin; floral-esque Atrium Gin; and Alpine Gin, whose inclusion of piñon pine is expressive of its mountain home. There is also a cacao liqueur and a boozy coffee collaboration with a local roaster. The distillery’s Public House — which peers into the single malt production area and its ingenious thermal fluid-fueled stills — is open for tours, tastings and cocktail experiences. As for that whiskey, it’s resting until it’s good and ready. When it eventually finds its way into bottles, expect a single malt that transcends and reimagines the category, melding old-world tradition with a distinctly American pedigree.
Grain to Glass: Source One Vodka (top), building exterior (bottom left), and tasting room (bottom right) PHOTOS: © BENTLY HERITAGE ESTATE DISTILLERY
NOVEMBER 2021 globaltravelerusa.com