Nevada’s first bourbon from its first distillery on its 150 birthday

NV 150 Bourbon

Nevada 150 Bourbon after being labeled. One of this is for Governor Brian Sandoval. Photo provided by Las Vegas Distillery.

Las Vegas Distillery releases the first official straight bourbon made in Nevada

Two years ago, the Las Vegas Distillery filled 20 new, white oak barrels with American whiskey. That American whiskey matured into the first, desert-aged straight bourbon whiskey. Last week, the silver state’s first modern distillery used 10 of those barrels to fill 2,014 bottles with the first Nevada bourbon. Today, that bourbon is available for Nevada’s birthday — its sesquicentennial — aptly named, Nevada 150.

“Two years ago we hoped we wouldn’t be bankrupt by now and started making (the bourbon),” said George Racz, owner of Las Vegas Distillery.

Bourbon has a very strict definition compared to American whiskey (see below), making Nevada’s entry into the bourbon category significant for the state’s growing craft liquor movement. In the last four years, bourbon’s popularity increased, spurring many states and distilleries to offer their own local versions of the barrel-aged spirit. In Northern Nevada, Churchill Vineyards and Seven Troughs Distilling can help build the craft community like in New York and Washington, George said, and the bourbon will continue to add to that community’s success.

“We didn’t know what the desert climate would do to it,” he said. “In Kentucky they have four seasons, in Scotland they have salt air, but here we have one season and it’s hot. We just started and didn’t know what we were doing. We hoped something good would come out.”

The Las Vegas heat caused the wood to swell and open up, speeding along the aging process. George said any feedback will help them improve the next batch and he wants to hear from people who know whiskey. For the 10 remaining barrels and 20 barrels they filled a year later, they may not be able to change anything at this point since most of the flavors already started to mature.

“If someone says to me, ‘George, this is fucking awesome!’ I don’t know how we did it,” he said. “Or if someone says ‘George, this is fucking awful!’ I don’t know what I can change.”

But over time, George thinks they can compare different batches to see what’s affecting certain flavors.

“It’s all just part of the journey,” he said. “Maybe my kids will know what they are doing.”


Nevada 150 Bourbon

Promo shot of Nevada 150 straight bourbon. Photo provided by Las Vegas Distillery

How to get Nevada 150 Bourbon

Order online here or visit the Las Vegas Distillery and buy a bottle and swag in person. The bottles will not be shipped or distributed and can only be picked up during business hours.

Recipe: 60% Nevada Yellow Corn, 20% Nevada Soft White Winter Wheat, 16% Malted Barley and 4% Rye.
Grain Source: Corn and Wheat was grown by Winnemucca Farms, Barley from California, Rye from Montana
Distilled: October – December 2011
Barreled: December 2011 – January 2012
Barreled Proof: 120
Barrel size and wood type: First used, 53-gallon barrels, American White Oak
Cooperage: Brown-Forman Cooperage, Kentucky
Bottling Proof: 90

Special treated bottle numbers

Bottle #1: Will be auctioned for charity
Bottle #2, 777, 1000, 2000 and 2014: Will remain in the Distillery Musem
Bottle #7: Xania Woodman
Bottle #100: Mr. Cresent Hardy
Bottle #150: Governor Sandoval
Bottle #922: Tom Heyn, Winnemucca Farms

Bourbon’s legal requirements

  • Produced in the United States
  • Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
  • Aged in new, charred oak barrels
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol)
  • Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume)
  • Bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume)
  • Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period. Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon. The exception is straight bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. (Nevada 150 bourbon is straight bourbon)
  • Any straight bourbon aged less than 4 years must state the age of the spirit on the bottle.
  • Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years and does not have added coloring, flavoring or other spirits may (but is not required to) be called straight bourbon.
  • Bourbon that is labeled as straight that has been aged under four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
  • Bourbon that has an age stated on its label must be labeled with the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle (not counting the age of any added neutral grain spirits in a bourbon that is labeled as blended, as neutral-grain spirits are not considered whiskey under the regulations and are not required to be aged at all).
  • Bourbon that is labeled blended (or as ‘a blend’) may contain added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits (such as un-aged neutral grain spirits); but at least 51% of the product must be straight bourbon.

Source. List of non-Kentucky bourbons.

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Mike Higdon

Editor & Publisher at Drinkable Reno
Mike Higdon is a journalist passionate about beer and cocktails. He started the site because no one else covered Reno's growing craft scene at the level of detail required to stay in the know about all things drinkable in Reno.

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