Travel Fuels Life Podcast and Show Notes
Hidden Gems: Carson Valley and Bently Heritage Estate Distillery (Ep. 37)
This week we're shifting gears a bit, heading into an area rich with old west history. So prepare for some stories, characters, and a much more laid back feel as we enter the high desert of Carson Valley.
And when you hear that term desert, don’t let it fool you, this is very fertile land full of ranches, farmlands, incredible scenery, and the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery where I’ll take you around this state-of-the-art soil to bottle eco-system that is unlike any distillery experience I’ve had.
And this combination of stories and whiskey distilleries will be a nice segue into Travel Fuel’s Life’s brand new Whiskey Lore podcast which I’ll have more details on, at the end of this episode.
Thanks to Carson Valley
This episode would not have been possible without the sponsorship and generous amounts of time and effort put in by Heidi Saucedo and her team in Carson Valley and Jenn Boyd and her team working with Tahoe South in Nevada. As you’ll hear, I was guided around Carson Valley and Bently Ranch and the distillery by some very passionate and knowledgeable people.
And what I was most thankful for was them giving me the ability to relate all of these experiences through my own lens without any direction or oversight. So it’s time to make my way down the Kingsbury grade from Tahoe South to Carson Valley.
Arriving in Carson Valley from South Lake Tahoe
And what a drive it was - It’s a 9% grade down Nevada 207 to reach Carson Valley. I had a beautiful sunny day and I was ready to slow the pace down a bit. As for scenery, there was this notch in the mountain to the right and a cabin nestled inside it like the mountain was cradling it and then everything opened up to an incredible sweeping view with houses and ranches below.
Unlike Tahoe where I was on my own, on this leg of the trip I would have Heidi and Angela from Carson Valley at my side guiding me and giving me history and background on the first day. On day two Wes and Woody from Bently Ranch and Heritage Distillery would take the reins.
Why Carson Valley?
To get a sense of the area, I asked Heidi about the different activities here and what drew people from Tahoe. She mentioned that some people will hike down the Tahoe Rim Trail to Genoa, and then get shuttled back up.
She mentioned it was one of the top 2-3 destinations for Glider Soaring. Airplane like gliders make their way over a 25 minute ride down into the valley. Based in Minden, Soaring Nevada provides a variety of experiences, including over Tahoe.
She also said that, being 20 minutes from Tahoe, skiers looking to escape the snows and add diversity to their trips come down to golf, ride the trails on mountain bikes, or just soak in some history. Personally, I could definitely appreciate the large amounts of free parking! In other words, it was a break from the touristy side of things.
Eagles and Agriculture
One event that really captured my attention was the annual arrival of the eagles. Around the end of January, the ranchers begin their cattle birthing season, flocks of eagles swoop into feast on the cow’s afterbirth. Heidi said it was quite the spectacle seeing coyotes and eagle fighting over who gets the afterbirth. Not something you see every day.
Location: Genoa, NV
Our first stop was the town of Genoa, where old west history was about to come alive. The town was settled in 1851 by Mormon pioneers as a trading post and rest stop on the California Trail. That was gold rush time and everyone was looking for a path to the next Sutter’s Mill. Originally known as Mormon Station, it was the first settlement in what was to become the Nevada Territory ten years later.
It was named after Genoa, Italy, but like the pronunciation of Nevada, the name was pronounced Ge-NO-a by locals and you may get reminded of that.
Our first stop was the statue of Genoa’s most famous former resident Snowshoe Thompson. Snowshoe had moved from Norway to the US with his mother at age 10, then looking for adventure he rode out with the Pony Express and delivered mail between Placerville, CA and Genoa, NV - an 88 mile trek across snow-covered mountains.
Don’t let the name fool you, Snowshoe is actually considered the father of modern skiing. He wore 10 foot skis and carried a single pole in both hands. He was renowned for his ability to navigate the mountains even in the worst weather. He claimed to have never been lost, and is credited with some amazing rescues. The locals say he would ride through a pack of wolves with no issue. Sadly though, the grave maker apparently wasn’t quite as trusty with his spelling as Snowshoe was with the mail, the “p” in Thompson is missing from his headstone.
In 1960, when the Winter Olympics were in Squaw Valley they held a ceremony in his honor.
Candy Dance and Mrs. Lillian Finnegan
A little further down the street is a brand new statue of Mrs. Lillian Finnegan that was erected for this year's 100th anniversary of the Genoa Candy Dance. Apparently in 1919, the ladies of Genoa said they were tired of walking home in the dark, so they held a dance to raise money for street lights. After they were installed, they realized someone had to pay to power them, so the dance has continued to this day - and the money raised still goes to powering those lights, of which 9 out of original 10 still work. In the 70’s they added a craft fair. About 40,000 people show up during the last full weekend in September and consume the two tons of candy created by volunteers.
Across the street from there is a state park for recreation of Mormon Station, where Rose Mary gave us a little bit of the backstory for the building. They had a picture of the original trading post, built in 1851, it was considered the first building built in Nevada. It served nearly every purpose for the town in it's early days. Unfortunately, in 1910 a man staying in the hotel across the street thought he had bed bugs, set his mattress on fire and burned many of the buildings in town to the ground including the trading post. The building I was standing in was recreated in the 1940s using the original plans.
The fire had a major effect on the stature of Genoa. The nearby town of Minden began in 1906 and because the railroad went through Minden, rather than Genoa, the town was no longer a center for ranchers and growth came to a halt.
I also learned a bit about the Utah War. Apparently the Mormons were pretty set on setting up their own country called Deseret. This answered a mystery that went back to childhood. We had two Mormon families that built houses behind our property and they named the road to it Deseret Drive (we used a more French pronunciation for it, incorrectly). President James Buchanan in 1857 was having none of this secession movement and it was stopped before it ever evolved. Then in October 1864, Nevada was separated from Utah and became its own state..
Rose Mary also mentioned the popularity of Wally’s Hot Springs, still in active use. It became a tourist resort in 1862 started by David and Harriet Wally. If you ask me, that would be the best place to be hanging out during the Civil War!
Genoa Museum Courthouse
I walked down to the Genoa Museum Courthouse. Built in 1865, this was the county seat, with a jail and courthouse and was the center for the Pony Express. A casualty of the 1910 fire, it was rebuilt. However, in 1916 the county seat was moved from Genoa to Minden and the courthouse became a school. By 1956 the school outgrew the building and it now stands as a museum. It’s filled with photos and artifacts from the bygone era when Genoa was in its heyday.
A story that caught my attention was the one of Charley Parkhurst. Apparently this stagecoach driver who frequently came through Genoa spent an entire lifetime pretending to be a man. When she died, to the surprise of her friends, the truth was discovered. The interesting fact about her is, due to her deception, she may have been the first woman to vote in the United States. https://www.tanqueverderanch.com/the-disguised-life-of-charley-parkhurst/
We went a little further down the street and popped into an Italian market called Sierra Chef and had a nice chat with the owner Cynthia. They do cooking classes there, and they serve different meals every night for dinner. Cynthia said the locals call in to find out if they like what is on the menu and show up when it's something they are in the mood for. She offered us a cookie called a Pignoli, which reminded me a little bit of a sugar cookie with orange zest and pine nuts. Heidi was excited to buy a pumpkin, which she got to carry around for the rest of the journey - getting comments along the way. They were the only store where they pronounced the town name in the Italian fashion.
Genoa Bar - Nevada's Oldest Thirst Parlor
Location: 2282 Main St, Genoa, NV 89411
The next stop was the Genoa Bar. Okay, how important was the saloon to a community? Imagine, almost the entire town burned down in 1910, but somehow this place filled with flammable liquids survived.
I heard plenty of country music beaming from inside, a doggie bowl in the doorway and a very eclectic collection of decorations on the wall, from an old dusty buffalo head to very real cobwebs in the corners. The owners Willie and Cindy weren’t in, but I hear Willie is quite the character.
For being one of the oldest bars surviving in the west, circa 1853, it is brimming with old west charm and some very unique features. One of which is the diamond dust mirror that came from Glasgow, Scotland and has its companion mirror. The bartender demonstrated it by shining a light on it so we could take a video (look at my Instagram story for Carson Valley on my profile). An old oil lamp hangs above the bar and on New Years they shut the power down on everything except the musicians' amps and they light all the lamps. No horses allowed sign and the doorknob was (were) around my knee level.
Bellying up to the bar I chose a corn whiskey from down the road. It was pretty aggressive whiskey, a bit young. I’d like to say it would put hair on your throat. I ordered it neat, but when Heidi saw me suffering through it, she made the suggestion that I suck it up and get some ice cubes. Good call!
Another feature of the bar is the safe brimming women’s bras. The story goes that Raquel Welch came into the bar and saw a bunch of bra’s hanging there. The owner asked her to add hers to the collection and she said she’d only donate hers if they took the others down. So there her’s hanging with her autographed picture right behind it.
Plenty of other dignitaries made their way into this bar from Clint Eastwood to Willie Nelson. Teddy Roosevelt also visited here, as well as a famous drinking General and President U.S. Grant. Another frequent guest was one Samuel Clemens - better known in his later career as Mark Twain - he wrote for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in 1863. We never did figure out if Wyatt Earp had stayed there, Angela has a thing about going to bars he's visited.
J.T. Basque Bar and Dining Room
Location: 1426 US-395, Gardnerville, NV 89410
Our next stop was to be the town of Gardnerville and a restaurant called J.T. Basque. I wasn’t familiar with the Basque culture, but I’m sure I’ll get to know it better on my trip to Spain next spring. There are Spanish Basques and French Basques in a shared region around the Pyrenees mountains. In the United States, many of the Basque population were sheepherders and made their way to this region at the turn of the 20th Century, setting up boarding houses. These boarding houses served meals and became restaurants serving peasant food served family-style. They sit you down at your own table. Then you get a choice of main course. Meanwhile the bread, stew, your meal and dessert all come in waves to your table throughout the evening. And all accompanied by a nice table wine.
When we first walked in, I got to meet the co-owner, Marie Louise. She treated us to a Picon punch, a traditional Basque drink that was originally made with Picon liqueur. However, France won’t export it anymore, so a different liqueur Torani Amer has been substituted. It is an acquired taste for some, but drink enough and you get used to it. It reminded me a bit of plum.
We started with a tasty sourdough bread, Then the server came over and gave us our main course choices and I ordered a medium rare sirloin. Next, they brought us some beans and beef stew. And as for the steak, they seared it on the outside but it was lightly cooked on the inside which was a nice cook.
At the end of the meal, they brought over coffee and ice cream. Apparently there is this strange tradition of pouring some red wine into the ice cream after you’ve scooped some of the ice cream into your coffee. Not sure what the appeal of red wine in vanilla ice cream is, but the ice cream in coffee is genius.
Before we left, I was told I could have a chance to throw a dollar bill up on the ceiling. There are hundreds of them up there. I gotta say, I was feeling a bit apprehensive. I know I’m closer to the ceiling than most, but that was just adding to the pressure. I signed it and put the date, then they put some kind of weight on it and a pin. My attempts were pretty sad. I had great instruction on form, but it just wasn’t working. I was using my old baseball techniques of watching all the way through the motion. Insider tip, don't look - use the Force Luke! I just looked straight ahead, tossed it up and it stuck.
Holiday Inn Express Minden
Location: 1659 NV-88, Minden, NV 89423
Big full day and headed back to the Holiday Inn Express where I was staying in Minden. I was very happy to see they had dumped the single-use plastic shampoo and body wash in exchange for dispensers. Putting it on the guest to be kind to the environment by only using towels once was sounding a bit hollow. It was good to see a hotel being proactive and doing their part to keep the environment clean.
I slept very well and the next morning I was up, enjoyed a very nice continental breakfast at the hotel - oh the cinnamon rolls - and the headed into Gardnerville for some fresh local coffee. Day two was going to move from history to the discovery of Bently ranch and Bently Heritage Estate Distillery. I was excited because these were the major reasons for my trip to Tahoe and Carson Valley. Having toured over 40 distilleries in 3 countries, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical with all the hype I was hearing and it was time to see it for myself.
Location: 1089 Stockyard Rd, Minden, NV 89423
For a little background, in 1960 Don Bently came from Iowa with an incredible background of science and engineering. He started buying ranch land in Carson Valley wanting to take a scientific approach to a vertically integrated ranch. Vertical integration basically means they control all aspects of the farm from start to finish. By 1997 they had alfalfa fields and started a cow-calf operation selling cows to Whole Foods.
Don’s son Chris asked why they couldn’t start selling their own meat. And this resulted in the development of their own on-site butcher shop. With this vertical integration, they are able to control their own grains and cattle and make sure sustainable practices are used throughout the herd and the 50,000 non-contiguous acres of farmland.
For me, not being a farmer or very familiar with seeing ranches as part of a distillery, I was going to need some help from someone who knew the ropes. So we first met up with Woody Worthington, who does marketing for the Ranch and Distillery and he spent his morning giving us a tour around the ranch and farms.
He took us out to see the cattle, then talked about growing alfalfa, their greenhouse project, and their sustainability practices.
He also talked about Chris’ passion for Scottish single malt whiskey. And it was this passion that lead to some of the lands being converted over to grains so they could evolve into the spirits business, making bourbons, ryes, and single malt whiskey. It wasn't long after this, they realized that they could also create some very unique vodkas and gins.
The distillery officially opened in February 2019 under a newly formed license that Bently played a role in creating. It is Nevada’s Estate Distillery designation and it basically says 85% of the grains used in the whiskey-making process must come from the ranch. Bently goes one step further and uses 100% from their own lands.
In fact, I’m told only the really tough to grow items like the invasive Juniper Berry are brought in for their gin. An on-site greenhouse is used for all of the other botanicals.
Woody drove us by the ranches composting facility which is the largest in Nevada. He said their goal was to make sure to keep things out of the landfill and always be sustainable.
Our next stop was the building where they did all of the milling. Here we attempted to have a conversation over the very loud hammer mill. They they took me in the back where they have their on-site malting floor. Very Scotland indeed - actually more so, since many Scotch distilleries have moved to outsourcing their malting process.
Then, Woody introduced me to the Bently Ranch’s General Manager Matt McKinney. I asked him, so how does a ranch suddenly go from growing alfalfa for cows to malting and distilling spirits? He said when they decided to go this direction, he went to Canada to learn all he could about milling and malting.
One of the major challenges they took on was milling oats. Most vodkas are made from potatoes or wheat but oats create a superior creamy mouth-feel for the spirits. However, they also clump up very easily during the malting and distilling process, so they have to take extra care to make sure the system doesn’t get clogged.
I asked about their water source and he said it was provided from Minden’s well #1. Actually, he said that’s where they got their name for their vodka, Source One. Their water is processed through reverse osmosis and comes from the snowy mountains.
Also knowing that a single malt whiskey could take a decade or more to mature, I asked what age statement they were aiming for on the whiskey. Matt said, “when it’s right.” I think more than any other thing I was told on this tour, that one statement spoke volumes for their commitment to doing things the right way. So many American single malts are sold too young because the companies need to get a return on their investment. That leads to an inferior product - like that corn whiskey that I had the day before I thought was going to grow hair on my tongue.
The next stop was over to the grain silos. Woody told me I could climb the ladder for a better view. One to challenge that so-called fear of heights.
Okay, I sort of made it! I got to the first level at least.
I asked how they were going to do the tours of this ranch and distillery pair and Woody said they had two 1931 Yellowstone National Park buses they had purchased to give a limo-type experience. Very cool. Although I must admit, it was just as impressive from the seat of a pickup truck.
To add to the experience Woody pointed out a young coyote that crossing the field, I did my best to capture him on video. He said when the windrows were all cut down, the mice would lose their shelter and the coyotes would feed on them. All part of the eco-system they are training to maintain - in fact, he said that while they had a 4-cut process normally, if there was a pest problem they would cut sooner to avoid the use of pesticides.
Bently Butcher Shop
Location: 1350 Buckeye Rd, Minden, NV 89423
Our next stop was the Butcher Shop, which he said was LEED-certified Gold in 2009, a certification given for their green design and environmental standards. Even more impressive, it is the only such awarded butcher shop in the entire United States. As I understand it, the main distillery building is also in consideration for this significant achievement. Again, attention to detail and showing their commitment to sustainable practices.
At the Butcher shop, we saw the beef aging process. He said many were aged 21 days or longer. All of it grass-fed beef. Woody gave me some packages of their Bently Beef Jerky. It was the most tender moist jerky I’d ever had - no breaking the teeth on this stuff. And it was definitely flavorful. According to Woody, they make their jerky in 30 lb batches instead of the industry standard of 300 lb batches. Whatever the technique, this was definitely a quality product.
What was even more interesting was the beef packaging material he showed us. Rather than Styrofoam or plastic, they used a corn-based packaging that melts in water.
Minden Meat and Deli
Location: 1595 U.S. Hwy 395 N, Minden, NV 89423
Our morning over, we headed down the road to Minden Minden Meat and Deli for lunch. They were doing a bustling business. Along the ceilings they had all of their old beer taps. I checked them out while enjoying my Reuben and pasta salad.
Now it was time to move from ranch to distillery and our tour guide Wes.
Bently Heritage Estate Distillery
Location: 1601 Water St, Minden, NV 89423
And my first surprise, there are actually two different distilleries here on the Minden property. First, there is the column-still facility that produces the bourbon, rye, gin, and vodka. Then, inside the Visitor’s Center is the single malt pot still facility, where Woody said we’d see a bit of Scotland’s Glenfarclas as an influence.
Located in the old Minden Butter Mfg Company creamery building (it is on the National Historic Register of historic buildings), the main spirits facility takes on an impressive “Oz” kind of feel when you first walk in the door. The towering and glistening copper column stills rise up and sparkle with spirits shooting off like fireworks through the glass portholes. Sometimes these “oh wow” moments are hard to capture in a photo, this one worked out nicely.
Not only is this German still completely impressive, but the entire facility is meticulously designed. Even the piping that runs through the building seems to minimize space and flow in an artistic fashion across the building. We viewed the bottling line where they fill their uniquely shaped bottles and saw the sour mash fermenters where the yeast does the job of feeding off the grain sugars that are so vital in the creation of alcohol.
Next, we entered the Visitor’s Center that normally features a gift shop on the first floor, but they had it cleared out for an event. We walked up the stylish glowing spiral wooden staircase to the second floor where the cocktail bar and view of the single malt pot stills awaited us.
They are serious about honoring the Scottish tradition. The pot stills looked very similar to Glenfarclas’ pot stills I’d seen in Scotland. What I love about pot stills is that unlike those long, tall column stills that are used for mass production, pot stills, with their elegant curves, create a very unique product where the flavor of the spirit is affected through the slight variations in the base, body and neck size and length of the still. When a pot still hits the end of life, the replacement needs to be a duplicate, or it will change the flavor and character of the end product. Both of their pot stills were handmade in Scotland by Richard Forsythe, a 7th generation pot still manufacturer.
Wes said that in trying to recreate the Scottish tradition of pot stilling, they ran into a roadblock because it required direct flame heating of a pot still which is not allowed in the US, so they pressurize mineral oil to help the pot still get the amount of heat it needs to get heated to 600 degrees, the same temperature achieved with the direct flame. And something I’d not seen before, these stills are self-cleaning, which reduces safety issues.
And in respecting tradition, they have a Scottish spirit safe which is totally unnecessary, since it was created to let the Scottish government measure product for tax purposes. But it definitely adds to the esthetic. It’s the first time I got to stick my nose inside of one.
The room that houses the pot stills was built out of flour silos and the stairs built to curve into them. It’s a wonderful presentation and you can see it all from your bar stool while enjoying some of their products.
After I stopped geeking out on the single malt facility, I had a chance to taste some product. We started with their Source One Vodka. Made of oats and wheat, it came through with that nice mouthfeel I was told about. Bottled at 40%, it was described as flavor-forward with a creamy vanilla flavor. For tasting a straight vodka, it was a soft, not harsh experience.
The second vodka we tasted was aged for a month in an Oloroso Sherry Cask - it added color to the vodka and makes it very much into something I could see sipping on its own. It pulls out the sherry characteristics out of the barrel and could be great for making an Old Fashioned. It reminds me of a light whiskey, but not a bourbon, as it doesn’t have any burn on the finish, aka the Kentucky hug.
The last item we tried was the Juniper Grove American Dry Gin, their flagship gin featuring 5 botanicals including organic lemons and limes, juniper berries that are outsourced, coriander, angelica root, and Lime zest.
Wes said there were 2 More Gins coming out, with one featuring 10 botanicals.
After the tasting, we got word we were going to be the first civilians to see the new rickhouses. Even Wes and Woody were excited to be getting a chance to do this.
But before we rode out to them, we got a chance to see one of those 1931 Yellowstone Buses they had converted into luxury coaches and painted white. These vehicles were very unique for their day. The tops can be rolled back so you can stand at any point to get a 360 view. But unlike the original configuration which consisted of bench seats, this had seating along the sides. Good news for the drivers too, they added power steering and a more modern braking system. I’ve seen them drive these in their original form and you’ve got to have some muscle to make a turn.
We reached the first of the rickhouses that they affectionately call Scotland. But it really is like Scotland, with a cool mist when you walk in the door. It is a dunnage warehouse, just like the traditional one's in Scotland and it is even climate controlled to the temperature of the Speyside area of Scotland. A dunnage warehouse only stacks barrels three high and they must have air around the barrels. We saw their experiments as well as their aged vodka and their single malt (currently some stored in Buffalo Trace barrels). When they get their first batch of bourbon finished, they will be able to reuse their own barrels for the single malt. Brilliant.
Next, we went over to the Kentucky warehouse, which definitely mimics Bardstown, Kentucky. Apparently the Blue Grass State was experiencing a bit of a heatwave as it was steamy hot in that warehouse. It was made up of a network of barrels stacked to the ceiling just like Lux Row, Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, and many other Kentucky warehouses I’ve walked through. The only thing that was missing was the smell of the angel’s share. Instead, the aroma was fresh-cut wood. We got to see them roll the first few barrels in - a lot of hot sweaty work. We were told it’s probably going to be about 2 years before tours will be able to visit. There will be a tasting area there as well, according to Wes. It was very cool knowing we’d be the last people to see this warehouse empty.
The most ingenious thing about these two warehouses is, they actually mimic the weather of these two locals in real-time. That means when Kentucky or Scotland are having unusual weather years, the same will happen in these rickhouses, creating variations in batches that will give each vintage its own special character.
If you want to see the pictures of this amazing facility (all except the rickhouses which we were told not to share) just go to Whiskey-Lore.com and click on the social media links to see what I have posted and watch for more this week.
We thanked Woody and Wes for an amazing tour and then before heading out to dinner, I was told I should visit a really knowledgeable whiskey and wine guy who owned the Battle Born Wine Shop in Garderville, so the Carson Valley team dropped me off and I had a long chat with Troy Phillips, Battle Born's owner and certified sommelier.
Battle Born Wine and Whiskey
Location: 1448 US-395, Gardnerville, NV 89410
When Troy asked me how I liked Bently, I told him how impressed I was. He said they’re basically a team of rock stars: no short cuts and everything is done with a purpose.
I took a look at his selection and we talked a lot about peaty whiskies, like my favorite Laphroaig 10 or about Irish whiskey and how adding a few drops of peated Islay whiskey would make them more smokey and add complexity. We talked Speyside scotches, the brilliant concept of Bottled-In-Bond bourbon, and I asked him for advice on Canadian whiskies, which have been a mystery to me up to this point - he pointed out a 12 year old called Three Fingers High.
Troy also does tasting classes at the shop and gave me a sample by letting my try my first Rip Van Winkle 12 year, Compass Box’s Peat Monster (a blended peaty whiskey from London) felt like I’d just smoked a cigar...touch of ash at the end, and one he wanted to introduce me to - an American Single Malt from Oregon called McCarthy’s where they bring over peated malt from Scotland to make this 3 year old whiskey. All 3 were great. I really liked the nice smoke in the McCarthy’s. It made me feel like there is definitely hope for American single malts. Even more so after having seen Bently’s operation.
While I was there, I’d been chasing a story for my upcoming Whiskey Lore podcast, trying to figure out how saloon’s really served whiskey in the old wild west days. Did they just pour shots and everyone knocked them back? Troy gave me some great leads and also dispelled some concepts that I was questioning myself. I could have talked to him for hours. It’s definitely worth stopping by his shop if you get a chance.
The Pink House
Location: 193 Genoa Ln, Genoa, NV 89411
The last stop of the trip was in Genoa, in a home built that was built 1855 and boasted the likes of Lillian Finnegan, the Candy Dance woman as one of its inhabitants. Known as the Pink House, it would be where I’d settle in for a nice dinner. And it’s also the place where Nevada got its statehood.
I was joined by Jan Vandermade of the Carson Valley Visitor’s Authority and Carlo Luri who helped negotiate the Estate Distillery designation for Bently as well as Angela DiLoretto who handles Carson Valley’s social media.
We enjoyed a nice plate of cheeses and meats to get started, and I had my first beer of the trip. We talked about Bently, the 6 year process of getting the distillery to where it is now, and about the future of the distillery.
I specifically wanted to ask Carlo about another subject I was working on for Whiskey Lore podcast, finding out about odd alcohol laws in different states and he mentioned that Nevada does not allow distilleries to outsource their whiskey from out of state, so while a lot of distilleries go to Kentucky or Indiana for their initial spirits, that can’t happen here - by law.
He also mentioned that up until 2015’s Craft Distilling Law, distilleries could not have tasting rooms or sell products from their location. With that law change, Bently could look to build out the tasting facility.
When it came time to order, there were specials like Chicken Parmesan, Bouillabaisse, and I felt the need to sample a Bently Ranch Skirt Steak after touring the facility. It was flavorful and not too tough, which is good for a rare to medium-rare skirt steak. They are flavorful but can usually be a little work for the knife.
Carlo went on, talking about how restrictive the Craft Distilling law was on the output of a craft distillery, so he lobbied for a new license in 2017 for the Estate Distillery designation. Nevada’s legislature loves farming, ranching, and tourism, so it unanimously passed both houses and became an official Nevada designation.
As we walked out of the parlor of this 19th Century home, I bid farewell to my new friends here in Carson Valley - a place I am sure to visit again.
Everybody and welcome to Travel Fuel's Life, the show we share stories, tips and inspiration to help you live a travel lifestyle. I'm your Hanish and rounding out season one. I've got a special episode for you. Last weekend we talked about Lake Tahoe gonna be driving down the Kingsbury grade and headed into Carson Valley. It's gonna be a little bit different. We're heading for stories, characters, old West history, and a really cool distillery on the high desert of Carson Valley. And when you hear me talking about a term like high desert, don't let that fool you because this is a very fertile land full of ranches, farmlands, incredible scenery. I kept pulling my camera out over and over again. I'm like, you guys are so used to this mountain ridge, but it just looks so really cool. So I'm gonna be sharing all of that with you and it's gonna be an interesting episode because I'm gonna be taking a couple of months off after this and I'm working on my podcast Whiskey lore and that podcast is going to be built around stories and whiskey.
So we're gonna start the first half of this episode with stories. We're gonna end it with talk about whiskey and I'm really looking forward to sharing a whole lot of this with you. And by the way, stay tuned for details on whiskey lore and the podcast coming up at the end of the episode. And when we'll kick into season number two of Travel Fuel's Life. By the way, this episode would not have been possible without the sponsorship and the generous amounts of time put in by Heidi Sto and her team at Carson Valley and Jen Boyd and her team working over at Tahoe South in Nevada. And as you're gonna hear, I was guided around Carson Valley and Bentley Ranch and the distillery by some very passionate and knowledgeable people. So thank you to you guys. And what I'm most thankful for is the opportunity to share these experiences through my own lens with no direction or oversight from those guys. So it is time to make my way down the Kingsbury grade from Tahoe South to Carson Valley. My initial impression is I'm driving down into this valley, wow, man, the view from the side of this mountain, but looking at the mountains that are just doffing, this valley. And yeah, I'm really looking forward to this.
It is a great contrast to what I just came out of,
Very well rounded trip and what a drive it was. It's a 9% grade. You drive down Nevada 2 0 7, you're heading into Carson Valley. It was a beautiful sunny day. The pace, it felt slower right off the bat. There was a little notch in the mountain if you looked over to the right and a cabin was nestled in there, you looked out ahead of you and you just saw these sweeping views, a valley with houses and ranches. If you felt claustrophobic at all in Tahoe, you lost it once you started coming down the side of this hill. And unlike Tahoe where I was completely on my own and kind of got a chance to do things at my own speed, which was pretty fast cuz there was a lot to do on this leg of the trip, I was gonna have Heidi and Angela along from Carson Valley.
They were gonna guide me through the history and some of the background on day one. And on day two I was gonna have Wesson Woody from Bentley Ranch and Heritage Distillery along to give me some of the lay of the land with the facility and with the ranch itself. So when I joined up with Heidi and Angela, the first thing I wanted to do was figure out what some of the different activities were that would draw people here from Tahoe. So Heidi mentioned that there's hiking trail that comes down from the Tahoe Rim trail, which I had been on just hours earlier. And that goes all the way down into Genoa and then you can get shuttled back up the mountain. And she also said that this was one of the top two to three destinations for glider soaring. And when she first said it, I was like, what is that gliders?
Oh, okay, it's it's like airplane gliders and you can take these 25 minute rides down into the valley. The company that does that is called Soaring Nevada and they are based in Menden. So it's a pretty cool idea to be able to do that. She also said sometimes skiers are just kinda looking for a getaway, a change of pace from the snow and from what they're doing, just add a little diversity into their trips so they can come down to the valley and they can golf or they can ride the trails on mountain bikes or they can soak in some of the history in the area. And I could definitely see that as a change of pace. And the thing I appreciated the most was the ample amounts of free parking in the valley. Yes, that was very nice. In other words, it's a break from the touristy side of things.
Now one event that really captured my attention when Heidi was telling me about it was the annual arrival of eagles. Apparently at the end of January the ranchers are out, cattle birthing and flocks of eagles will swoop into the area all just a feast on the cows after birth. Yeah, it doesn't sound that appealing, but I would imagine seeing a spectacle of all of these eagles around. And actually Heidi said when you see an eagle in a coyote fighting over an after birth, that is really something to see. So not something you're gonna see just every day of the week, my friends. So that might be something worth checking out. So we headed into the town of Genoa, and this is where history was about to get very, very real. In 1851 the Mormon pioneers came in, they set up a trading post and then this was a rest stop on the California trail.
Everybody was headed. This was just two years after the discovery of gold at Southerns Mill. So everybody was looking for their piece of the pie. And the Mormons were the ones that really settled this area. They were kinda looking to make the money, I guess, as a trading post for all those people coming through. And this became the first settlement in what was gonna be called the Nevada Territory in about 10 years later on they renamed it Genoa and they named it after Genoa Italy. But in true Nevada tradition, they had to pronounce it a different way. So if you're around a local and you say Genoa, they're gonna say no, it's Genoa. Get it right and you'll just have it. So you've heard it here folks, when you go Genoa, that's how you say it. So you're gonna start out in the center of town and you're going to immediately see a statue of Geno's most famous resident, snowshoe Thompson, now Snowshoe.
He had moved from Norway all the way to the United States with his mother when he was 10 years old and then went out looking for adventure as he grew older and joined the Pony Express and was delivering mail between Placerville, California and Genoa Nevada. Now that's about an 88 mile trek across snow covered mountains. And don't let the name fool you. He was not doing this with Snowshoe. He's actually considered the father of modern skiing. He had 10 foot skis and he carried a single pole like a cross country skier. And he was renowned for his ability to navigate through those mountains even in the worst of blizzards. And he claimed he had never been lost, which is amazing. And if you ever have a white out or something like that in a blizzard, you would think there would be a chance that at some point he could have gotten into trouble.
But he was great at rescuing people and the locals had this lore around him that said he could even ride through a pack of wolves without being bothered. The only sad news about Snowshoe is that apparently as he was, he didn't hire quite the best person to make his headstone because he forgot to put the P in Thompson. So if you go to the cemetery in town, you're gonna find Thompson without a P. But Snowshoe did get his due in 1960 during the Winter Olympics in Squa Valley, California. They did have a ceremony in his honor and he's got a nice statue now if you add a little bit further down the street, you're gonna see another statue. And this one is brand new and it was erected for the hundredth anniversary of the Genoa candy dance. And it is a statue of Miss Lillian Finnegan.
Apparently in 1919 the ladies of Genoa said, we've had it not walking home in the dark anymore, we gotta put up some street lights, so why don't we have a dance? And this was the brainchild of Lillian Finnegan. And next thing you know, they have raised the money and they have put up these street lamps, but they gotta be powered. So the next year they had to do another dance to raise money to keep the power on with those lights. Out of the 10 lights that they put there, nine of those are still working and they are still funded by the candy dance across the street. There's a state park and we headed over in that direction. It's a recreation of Mormon station, which was the original trading post. And Rosemary was in there and she gave us a bit of the backstory on the building itself.
There was a picture in there actually on the wall of the original one that was built in 1851 that was considered the first building ever built in Nevada. And that building served tons of purposes, but unfortunately in 1910 some guy across the street was staying in the hotel, thought he had bedbugs and set his mattress on fire. <laugh> not good cuz he burned down just about the whole town, including this trading post. And so the building that they have there now was rebuilt from the original specs in about 1941. So if you go see it, lots of cool stuff inside there. I learned a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't know about the area and one was about the Utah War where the Mormons were pretty set on having their own country. And so they were going to take this whole big area of Nevada and it's, they got a map there, it'll show you how it's all kind of drawn out.
And they were gonna call it Desiree. And I find this fascinating because we used to have a Mormon family that lived behind us and they had a road that went out to their property and I thought it was called Desiree, but now I, it's like light bulb goes off. Okay Desiree, I get that now that makes sense. And so Desiree did not happen because in 1857, president James Buchanan, probably the only thing he ever did during his entire presidency was push to get this Utah war taken care of. And it just fizzled out. And a few years later when Abraham Lincoln was president was nearing the end of the Civil War, Nevada was made a state, it was pulled out of Utah. Now Rosemary also mentioned the popularity of Wally's Hot Springs and that is still in existence today, but it started in 1862 as a tourist resort.
So I said Tahoe was the place that I thought was touristy, but apparently Carson Valley had its own little tourist destination all the way back here in the middle of the Civil War. I'm thinking that in the middle of the Civil War, I think I'd like to be hanging out at the hot springs myself. So we walked down to the Genoa Museum and courthouse and that was built in 1865. It was the county seat, it had a jail, it had a courthouse, it was the Center for the Pony Express and then it became a casualty of bedbugs and the fire of 1910, they did rebuild it. However, the city of Genoa lost favor as the county seat. It was moved over to Menden and they turned this once courthouse into a schoolhouse and it served that purpose all the way up until 1956 when they outgrew the school and then they turned into a museum.
So if you go in there now, you can see a lot of photos and artifacts from those bygone days of Genoa during its heyday. Another story that caught my attention was the one of Charlie Parkhurst. Apparently this stage coast driver who frequently came through Genoa, spent an entire lifetime pretending to be a man. And when she died, her friends were quite surprised to find out <laugh> that she was not in fact a man. And the interesting thing to connect with this is that due to her deception, she may have been the first woman to vote in the United States. So if you wanna read more on that story, go out to the travel fuels life.com/podcasts. Show notes page for this episode. I got a link out there that goes through her entire story. It's fascinating. A little further down the street, we passed by some skulls in window, which I'm not sure what that was about.
And we got to the Genoa bar. Now how important is a saloon to a town? Well, not only is it usually the first thing built, but imagine that an entire town has burned to the ground and somehow this place filled with flammable liquids did not <laugh>, where was the fire team? I think they were all hanging out there making sure that that was not gonna go up. It's also possible that that was used for a brothel. So there may have been some important people inside as well. No telling it was the old West, but I heard plenty of country music coming out through the modern version and a very eclectic set of decorations once you walked in. There was an old dusty buffalo head up there wa that real cobwebs everywhere. And for being one of the oldest surviving bars in the west dating back to 1853, it's just got a bunch of old west charm to it.
There's lots of unique features in there. It actually has a diamond dust mirror, which I didn't know what that was until somebody put a light on it and you could see the flex of diamond dust coming through the glass. And it was apparently made in Glasgow, Scotland and it has a twin in Glasgow somewhere. So I'm gonna have to see if I can track that one down. And then when you look over your head, there's this old oil lamp that hangs up above the bar. And apparently during New Year's, that's the one time per year that they will actually light up this old chandelier oil lamp. So something to check out. And they have a no horse's a loud sign when you walk in the door, which I think is pretty funny cuz the door handle is down around my knees. So guess that was a deterrent to keep anybody from doing what they weren't supposed to do.
So I beed up to the bar, I decided to drink local. I found a corn whiskey from down the road. It was pretty aggressive. It was very young. In fact, I would like to say that I think it put hair on my throat <laugh>. It was hot, let me tell you. So I ordered it neat as I always do. I mean I'm in an old west bar, I'm not. I should have ordered a shot is what I probably should have done and got it over with. But Heidi saw me suffering with it and she said just suck it up and put some ice in there. And that my friends was the best call of the day. Another interesting feature of this bar is a safe that's on the floor that is brimming with women's bras. And as the story goes, Raquel Welch came into the bar one day and someone said, why don't you go ahead and put your bra up there with the other ones?
And she said, only if you take all the other ones down, will I leave my bra? And she was a woman of her word. She left it there, they took them all down and hers is the only one that hangs there now. And it is so dusty, I don't think anybody's touched it since the day that she put it up there. And behind there there's a picture of her from her heyday in the background autograph. So something to see for sure. And there are some other dignitaries that have come into the place as well. From Clint Eastwood to Willie Nelson going back in time, Teddy Roosevelt was there and Ulysses s Grant who was famous for drinking was there. And one of the most famous guests that they had was Samuel Clemens. He would later go on to be known as Mark Twain, but he wrote for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper back in 1863.
So he actually was living in the area at that time. We tried to discover whether Wyatt IP actually stayed there, cuz for some reason Angela seems to go to every single Wyatt IP bar but we never could quite confirm that. So after a really nice afternoon in Genoa, we decided to head out and get some food in Gardnerville and we stopped at a Basc restaurant called JT bas. And I knew nothing about the Basque culture and I'm sure I'm gonna learn about it when I go to Spain in the spring. But up to this point I didn't really know much about them. And so it is a culture that is on both the Spanish and the French sides. And they came over to the US and a lot of them were sheep herds. They made their way to this region of Nevada and it was around the turn of the 20th century.
They were setting up boarding houses, serving meals, family style, peasant food, and you get your own table and they just keep bringing waves of food over to you. So it started with bread, we went to beef stew, we had our main course ended up with dessert of ice cream. There was table wine there for you. And when we first got into the place, I met the co-owner, Marie, and she was very nice, introduced me to this bas drink called Pecan Punch. And I you heard that right pecan. And it's not a punch made out of the nut <laugh>. It is a punch made out of a lacore called pecan. Unfortunately though France does not wanna ship out any of that pecan lacore to the United States. So the locals have had to adapt and they've moved over to a California lacore called to Amir and they use that instead.
So I think it, it's an acquired taste. It was okay, as I said, if I had a second one, I probably would like it even more <laugh>. But it reminded me of Plum for some reason and everybody kinda looked at me like, plum, where are you getting that from? But hey, everybody's pallet's just a little bit different. And speaking of having different pallets at the end of the meal after I had a nice medium rare sirloin steak, the ice cream was brought to us, some coffee was brought to us and they have this strange tradition, the beginning of the tradition's not too strange. Take a scoop of your vanilla ice cream and put it into your coffee. Now go over and grab the red wine and pour it over your ice cream. Well, not too sure on that part, but I definitely think the first part is genius.
So I had a really nice meal, I enjoyed the conversation, but before I left I was told that I had to throw a dollar bill and hit the ceiling and it had to stick there. Now this is a lot of pressure for a tall guy because I'm closer to the ceiling than everybody else. So I feel like I'm supposed to get it. The first time did not work. I tried and I tried and I tried. I was getting great instruction, but I'm just like, I can't do this. I kept watching my hand as I would throw it up at some kind of baseball technique or something that I was using. Keep your eye on the, except I wasn't keeping my eye on the ball, I was trying to watch the thing as it flew to the ceiling and that wasn't working well. So finally,
Speaker 3 (21:34):
Right, I'm gonna will it up there,
Speaker 4 (21:38):
Speaker 3 (21:38):
Speaker 4 (21:45):
Okay, but keep your foot. So I'm like tweaking. You just,
Speaker 3 (21:51):
Yeah, okay. That time I didn't look up that time I just went,
You used the force Luke, I put it in that palm and I just concentrated and I did not watch it. I just threw my hand up in the air and it made it so, hey, that four stuff really works. And then after that it was time to head back to the Holiday Inn Express where I was staying in Menden. And I mentioned them because I am very happy to see whenever there are hotel chains that dump the single use plastic shampoo and body watch and get rid of those little bottles and replace them with these dispensers that are so much better for the environment. How many times have we been told that you need to use your towels more than once? But then they put all these little plastic bottles all over the place. Yes, hotel chains. I'm shaming you now the Holiday Inn Express and Menon did it the right way. So hopefully it starts seeing a whole lot more of that in the future.
So I slept really well, grabbed myself some cinnamon rolls off the buffet in the morning, got some coffee and then just stared out at those beautiful Sierra Mountains. Gorgeous, great way to start day two. And this was a day I was really looking forward to. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to this area cuz I had heard so much about this Bentley Ranch and the Bentley Heritage Estate Distillery. And today I was going to get to see it for myself. So it was all starting out on the ranch side of things. And for me not being very familiar with ranching, this is gonna be quite an education. So Heidi, Angela, and I, we all met up with Woody Worthington from the ranch and he gave us a nice tour of the entire facility. He talked a lot about the scientific approach they have to vertical integration and their dedication to maintaining the natural ecosystem and producing soil to bottle sustainable practices for their farming, the cattle and the distillery.
Now there's a lot of buzz words in what I just said, and of course sometimes I hear buzz words and I think, okay let me see the proof behind the pudding. Well we got to see that throughout the day. So the first thing we saw were the cattle. And he mentioned that they were running a cow cap operation, which I didn't really understand that terminology, but basically what he said was, you have a permanent herd of cattle, they produce calves and those calves are what are sold off to the market. And in their case, the market was Whole Foods. He also mentioned that they grew all of their own high protein alfalfa onsite and that helped them control the diets and the health of each and every cow along the way. Now this really fits with that whole vertical integration term that I mentioned before.
Vertical integration basically means that you control all aspects of the process from the start to the finish. And this is how you guarantee that you're using sustainable practices throughout. Next up, Woody drove us over to the butcher shop, which is on site and he said that it is lead certified gold. And that certification apparently comes about when you are deemed green and environmentally sound using good environmental practices. And in fact, Woody said this is the only butcher shop in the United States with that certification. And I could see some of that put into practice when they showed the packaging material that they put their beef in. It's actually put into a corn based packaging that looks like styrofoam, but when you stick it in water, it dissolves. So I mean talk about making sure that you are not putting hazardous things into the environment. And he ended up giving me a care package of some of their beef jerky. And I gotta tell you, all four packages were gone in four days <laugh>. And that's cuz I held myself back. It was tasty, it was moist, it was meaty, it was not that hard stuff that you break your teeth on. Excellent, excellent beef jerky.
So after that we headed on over, he wanted to show us how they renew the land by not using landfills. And instead they run things through their composting facility, the largest one in Nevada. And then we went over to the onsite greenhouse where they grow most of the botanicals for their gin and they're even attempting to grow some hops for some local breweries. I was definitely impressed by how Bentley Ranch was backing up all of their commitments through these kinds of processes. But I had to ask, where does the distillery fit in all of this? Well, we met up with Matt McKinney, who's the general manager for Bentley Ranch, and we were at the milling house and as you can hear in the background, it was pretty darn noisy. So I'll kind of relate some of what he told me and fill in a few gaps with what Carlo Lurie, the director of government Affairs for Bentley's told me later on in the evening.
It started off with Chris Bentley, the owner of this operation. He is a lover of scotch single malt whiskey with all of this land, he saw a great opportunity to create a world class whiskey right there in the high desert of Nevada and using the same exact commitment to quality and vertical integration that the ranch was using. But in this case it would be referred to as soil to the bottle. They started rolling over some of their alfalfa into grains that could be used for bourbons rise and single mal whiskeys. And as the plan started to unfold, they started to realize that they could actually create some very unique vodkas and gins while they were waiting for their age spirits to mature. So while that was going on, laws were having to be changed. At that point, distilleries could not sell their own whiskey on site.
They had to go through distributors and they couldn't do tasting rooms either, which was kind of a hindrance to doing tours. So they pushed to get the 2015 craft distilling law passed, which got them designated as a craft distillery. However, even that was limited because what would happen is if they produced over a certain amount, they would no longer be designated as a craft distiller and they'd be outside of that law. So Carlo Lurie went in and he said, why don't we create a new designation, a license called an estate distillery license. And with that license you would have to show that you were growing at least 85% of what went into your bottle. Well, this wasn't a problem for Bentley's because they had plans to use 100% of their own grains for making their spirits. So here I was standing in front of this milling facility and getting to take a tour of it and we actually walked back into the back and they showed me the onsite malting floor that they have, which reminded me of Scotland right away.
I mean it's very Scotland to have a malting floor. It's actually kind of old school Scotland because so many scotch distilleries now outsource that process. So cool to see them doing that here on site. I asked Matt, how does a ranch suddenly go from growing alfalfa for cows to malting and distilling spirits? And he said he actually had to head up to Canada and learn all he could in a very short period of time. And one of the major challenges he said was the fact that they chose to use oats. Now most vodkas, as you know, are produced from potatoes or wheat, but oats actually give a really nice creamy mouth feel. They are really great for spirits, they're just really hard to work with cuz they clump up and they can get clogged in the process. So they really did take on an extra challenge to do this, but they really wanted to create a unique and superior product.
I also asked about their water source and they said that it came from Mindin, well number one, which is right on site. And he said that's actually where they got the name for their vodka, which is called Source one. And that the water is processed through reverse osmosis and it comes from the snowy mountains. But the big question I had was how long would it be before they would actually get this product out on the market, this single malt whiskey? Cuz if you think about scotch whiskey, you usually see age statements that are eight years or longer on those whiskeys because the process to make them is a little bit longer because they don't tend to mature as quickly because of the climate. And the answer I got was when it's right.
That won me over right there. The fact that they're willing to wait out this product until it has matured to a point that they feel confident this is a quality product, they've tested it, they've tasted it, and they know it is of the highest quality. That is something you don't hear a lot of in American single malts. A lot of them are having to make their money back pretty quickly. So they're releasing three years, four years, or five years, and it's just great to see that they were going to take their time with this one and make it right. So the next stop over was to head to the grain silos and what he said, do you want to climb the ladder, get a better view? Well, I mean everybody likes to challenge my fear of heights, so what the heck?
Speaker 3 (32:00):
I don't like heights, <laugh>. So this is, well there's a cage. So yeah, so this is a challenge for me from Oh yeah, yeah, nope, I'll go up behind you. So right on me. Oh, okay. Alright. We both can tumble down at the same time. Excellent. Yeah. Well up is okay down when I look down and go, oh crap, what am I doing <laugh>, that's the challenge.
So if I haven't said it before, check out social media for travel fuels life.com and social media for whiskey lore.com and see if I got up that ladder. So after a nice lunch at the bustling Mindin Deli, I was really stoked to be seeing this distillery portion of the tour. And for that we went from Woody turning us over to West as our tour guide. And the first surprise I had was that there are actually two different distilleries on this Menden property. There is a column still facility that produces their bourbon rye, gin and vodka. And that is housed in the old creamery building of the Menden butter manufacturing company. And the second one is housed in the visitor center. That is actually the historic 1905 Menden flower company. And that is where they have the two Scottish pot stills and produce that single malt whiskey.
And that is a fantastic way to not only bring Scottish history in with those pot stills, but also preserve those great pieces of Menden history, the history that goes all the way back to the origins of the town. But what totally took me by surprise was when Wes opened up these doors to the creamery, it suddenly felt like we were in Oz. I mean these towering and glistening copper column stills rising up and sparkling with the spirits shooting through their glass portals like fireworks. Just go to travel fuels life.com/podcast. Look for the show notes for this page. I got a picture of it there. I did not think I was gonna be able to do these babies justice in a photo, but I'm telling you right now, they are two beautiful not to shine anyway, you take a picture of them. So not only are the German stills jaw dropping, but the entire facility is meticulously designed.
I understand from what Wes said that they actually had the guy that worked on the apple stores in California come out and work with them on this design. And you can tell attention to detail is evident everywhere. The piping that runs through this place, I mean you would think that well in a manufacturing plant, how exciting can it all be? But they minimize space. The flow of these pipes is almost artistic in some ways. It's just absolutely a beautiful facility front to back. And then we went back and we looked at the bottling line, we saw where they emptied the casks and they also showed us the sour mash fermenters. And it was just a great tour through that facility. The next place that we entered was the visitors center. And of course the visitors center usually is gonna have gifts and things down on the first floor, but in this case they were doing an event so they had it all cleared out.
So we had a clear path to walk over to this beautiful, stylish, glowing spiral wooden staircase. And that took us up to the second floor where the cocktail bar was and beyond this nice wooden cocktail bar behind the glass. It was like I was peering into Scotland. There they were those two beautiful pot stills from Scotland. Now what I love about pot stills and why I geek out whenever I see them is those long tall column stills. They are beautiful, but they are meant for mass production. Pot stills are going back to the tradition of making scotch whiskey and it is a much more laborious process. It also creates a situation where you are going to get different flavors from a pot still depending on how it is designed. So if a pot still goes bad, which they tend to go bad, maybe 60 years or so, when they replace it, they have to replace it with one that's built exactly the same way.
If there are any design changes, it actually can change the flavor and the character of the product. So it's fascinating. It's one of those parts of scotch whiskey that I just find. I mean when I go on a scotch tour, it's those pot stills that I wanna see. So these pot stills actually came over from Scotland. They were made by the Forsyth family and the Richard Forsyth is a seventh generation pot still manufacturer. So these are the real deal folks. Now trying to recreate the Scottish tradition here in the United States is not gonna be a hundred percent foolproof. One of the issues they ran into was direct flame heating. You cannot do that in the United States. So they came up and rigged up a pressurized mineral oil system that gets the same job done. So they did find a way around, it says no a hundred percent the traditional Scottish method, but they are so, so close, they even respect the fact that you should have a spirit safe in your distillery.
And I love that they did because I have never actually gotten to stick my head in a Scottish spirit say before. So this was my opportunity and I took advantage of it. If you don't know what a spirit safe is, basically the idea here is is that the government wants their cut, they wanna make sure you're not cheating. And so every ounce of what goes through the system has to go through that spirit safe so they can keep control of it and they padlock it so that nobody in the distillery can open it. Only the tax man can open it. Of course in the United States that's not gonna happen. But it was really cool to see an authentic Scottish spirit safe right there. And by the way, if you want a good tongue twister, say Scottish spirit safe about 10 times fast and see what that gets ya.
So after I stopped gawking at the pot stills and the spirit safe, it was time for some tasting. And so we headed over to the bar and the ones that we got to taste, we tried three different things. One was the source one vodka. Now of course this is the first vodka guy I'd ever had that was made out of oats and wheat and it really did. It was soft. It was interesting how it had this creaminess to it. So something interesting to try and what I loved about this stuff was it was not harsh at all to drink the second vodka we tried, it actually gets aged for a month in an aroso Sherry Cas, which is something that you tend to do with bourbons or single malt scotches. And it was very interesting because it added a color to the vodka and it gave it a flavor and it was kind of a sherry infused flavor and I could see you using this in an old fashion, but I could also see you on a hot summer day saying, Ooh, let me pour a little glass of that and enjoy it.
And you don't want the Kentucky hug that little burning in your chest in the summertime. So this would be a nice way to cool off or maybe put a little bit on ice. Then the last product that we tried was the Juniper Grove American dry gin that they make that is their flagship gin. And it features five botanicals. They said it has organic lemons and limes in it. Juniper bees, those are outsourced actually. Coriander, angelica root and lime zest. Very good. I'm not a huge gin fan, but I did enjoy that particular gin and they actually have a couple more gins coming out with one that features 10 botanicals. So give that one a shot, see what you think. And I don't know what they'll have, they'll probably mix things up probably when you come on your own tour. But they are doing tours right now.
The tours as they said last from about an hour to an hour and a half. And I think this is a great facility for you to come out and see. So that would pretty much end your tour at this point if you were going because I was here on special assignment, was getting the opportunity to see a little bit more of the distillery and it was something I definitely wanted to check out cuz I heard some rumors about this place. And I wanted to know about the Rick houses. Rick houses, if you're not familiar with that term. Basically warehouses for whiskey. And they have two of them, one of them they refer to as Scotland and the other one they refer to as Kentucky. And I'm gonna tell you why they refer to them as those two names because geniuses that they are, they actually are climate controlling those two warehouses so that they have the exact same weather patterns as they have in Bardstown, Kentucky and in space side Scotland.
So if it is a humid day, it's gonna be humid in there. If it is a hot day, it's gonna be hot in there. And the genius behind these two warehouses is that if they were just trying to have one general temperature set throughout that entire facility, there would be very little variation from one year to the next. But instead they are making a natural process where if Scotland has a bad year, then the Scotland warehouse has a bad year. If the Kentucky warehouse has a great year, then the Kentucky bourbon industry is enjoying a fantastic year and this creates those little bits of variation from one batch to the other. And to me, if you try to get too mechanical about it, you're gonna miss that uniqueness of tasting these different whiskeys and getting them through different seasons. So there you are. Very cool.
We got to walk into both the Scotland one was a dunnage warehouse just like they do in Scotland. Dunnage warehouses basically can't stack higher than three casks high and they have to have space around them. And when we went into Kentucky, oh it was hot <laugh>, it was really hot in there. Apparently there was a heat wave in Kentucky at the time and I mean you just were sweating as soon as you walked into the place. They had actually just started rolling the very first barrels in there. So happy to say we will be the last humans to see that place empty. They are now starting to fill it all up with spirits and there should be some bourbon coming down the road from Bentley's. So I thank Wes and Woody for a fantastic trip through the distillery, through the ranch. You definitely have got me so interested.
I want to come back someday in the future, see it and especially taste that single malt whiskey when you come out with it cuz that is gonna be an exciting moment. I know cuz it takes a long time for that stuff to mature and there's no telling how long it's gonna be before that is out. But as I understand it, those warehouses actually will be open up in the next year and a half, two years, something like that probably. So if you go on tours now, you won't get the opportunity to see that, but they actually have a tasting room in Kentucky, so that will be something that you could take advantage of. And if you live anywhere around that area or even come across the country, I'm telling you, out of all the distilleries I have been to, that is a top three distillery for me just to see the amount of attention to detail that they are doing, the way that they are handling this soil to the bottle process it, it's something special to see.
So great time at Bentley's. And I have one more stop off before dinner and that was to go talk to a man I was told was the man about town to talk whiskey with. And that is Troy Phillips of battle born wine in whiskey in Gardnerville, Nevada. And I also learned that Troy does whiskey tasting classes in his shop and he was kind enough to let me try some different whiskeys that I had not had before. So I got to try Rip Van Winkle 12 year compass boxes. Pete Monster, which is amazing. And this American single malt from Oregon called McCarthy's. And what's interesting about that is they actually ship over peed malt from Scotland to make this three year old whiskey. And all three were great. I really like the smoke and the McCarthy's, something I will check out and I mean it's cool to see American single malts and what they're doing and of course I just gotten the face full of American single malt production in this particular day.
So it was a great way to round things out so it only made sense and was fitting that the last stop on my trip was in Genoa again and had dinner at the pink house. Now the pink house was built in 1855. It's all decked out with 19th century furnishings. It was the home of Lillian Finnegan of the candy dance. It's where Nevada got its statehood. So it was a cool place to just finish things up. And I was joined by Jan Vander, made of the Carson Valley Visitors Authority and also Carlo Lurie, who was instrumental in getting that estate distillery designation from the state of Nevada. Angela De Loreto was there also and she handled social media for Carson Malley. So we had a really nice dinner, had some nice cheeses there. We talked a bit about Bentley and their six year process of getting the distillery started. So very cool. I got to try some of Bentley's skirt steak. It was delicious, very nice and a perfect way to round up the evening.
Well that's gonna wrap up season one of Travel Fuel's Life and Never Fear. I will be back with more guests and more travel lifestyle stories and inspiration and it'll start December the second. So make sure you are subscribed. And in the meantime, I'm gonna be working on a brand new podcast series called Whiskey Lore. And unlike Travel Fuel's Life, this one is not gonna be a weekly instead every three months there's gonna be 12 episodes released. You can binge listen to them and get the stories behind the bottles. It's just gonna be a fantastic experience I think for me putting them together and hopefully fantastic for you to listen to as well. And make sure you sign firstname.lastname@example.org to become a founding member of the Whiskey lore Society whiskey lore.com. All it takes is an email address and you're gonna be the first one to find out what the storylines are that I'm following.
You'll be alerted before anybody else when the pilot episode comes out. And then when the series launches, you'll be able to get first dibs on that. So check it out. Whiskey lore, that is whiskey lore.com. All you gotta do is supply an email address and you are in. And thanks to all my great guests this year, travel Fuel's Life was truly a joy for me to experience as a host and it was a great year of growth and amazing travel for me. And I thank you so much you, the listeners, for subscribing and being a part of this journey. And until next season, safe travels and thanks for listening to Travel Fuels Life.