Seven Troughs Distilling represents Nevadan’s radical self-reliance

Seven Troughs Distilling

Tom Adams, far right, owner of Seven Troughs Distilling Co. shows off the open 130-gallon barrels to a group of tourists from Wisconsin. In the barrel closest to him is a drill used to stir grain into the barrel of water.

Distillery looks to George Washington to blaze Nevada’s whiskey future

In a small warehouse garage barely big enough to fit four delivery trucks, barrels bubble vigorously with fermenting whiskey mash. In the corner, a small pot still sits atop a brick stove ready to distill moonshine, rum or vodka. This modern distillery uses the same methods as America’s first distillery operated by President George Washington. If “bootstrapping” seems difficult to visualize, this is what it looks like at Seven Troughs Distilling Co.

“We have to make the choice every day whether or not to put something in the bottle and more often than not, we don’t,” said owner Tom Adams.

The distillery only produces 40 gallons of moonshine whiskey a week, so dumping an inadequate batch represents a huge decision for the staff of four. But ultimately, Tom dedicates the distillery to making consistent, good tasting liquor so these decisions must be made.

A batch of Recession Proof Moonshine ferments in open 130-gallon wine barrels and once distilled produce only 12 gallons at a time. No fancy bottling equipment automates the last step, instead Tom and his staff — and sometimes their wives — hand fill and label each mason jar. From barrel to bottle, each batch takes seven days.

At the end of the cycle, the distillery recycles its spent grain by giving it away to hog farmers from Yerington. Some of that grain comes from Winnemucca Farms and eventually more will come from Churchill Vineyards.  The methanol-rich, make-you-go-blind head cuts go to someone who uses the ethanol as an additive to his hot rod and tractor fuel. This is Seven Troughs’ circle of life.

When he’s not distilling, feeding pigs or fueling hot rods, Tom continues to help shape the artisan distillery bill in Nevada that gives Seven Troughs and so many others the chance to make their own spirits.

The original proposed bill, pinned to Tom’s wall, allowed more freedom for artisan distilleries in Nevada than what actually passed. For example, the version drafted by Tom and George Racz, owner of Las Vegas Distillery, allowed each distillery a separate tasting room and the ability to sell an unlimited number of bottles to anyone. But instead, they must maintain on-site tasting rooms and may only sell two bottles to each visitor per month.

But laws are meant to be broken. This year, Tom and others will propose changes to the law by showing that certain provisions damage business, such as preventing people from buying in bulk directly from the distillery. Tom also wants to lower the amount of cases an artisan distillery is allowed to produce in one year to make sure the number is truly “artisan” and doesn’t allow big businesses to crush new start ups. He welcomes competition but not the type that destroys Nevada’s craft movement overnight.

Between the small size, 18th century methods and involvement in the community yet discontentedness with laws, Tom and Seven Troughs Distilling represent Nevada libertarianism at its best. But don’t take my word for it.


Seven Troughs Distilling Co.’s new rum is made for the playa

The first artisan distillery in Northern Nevada will release a white and dark rum and a gluten-free vodka in June, just in time for Burners to bring to Black Rock City. The Black Rock Rum and Pow’ Vodka will add three new spirits to the small-scale distillery in Sparks, Nev., in addition to the current two versions of Recession Proof Moonshine.

Seven Troughs Distilling Co.’s Black Rock Rum tastes and smells like butterscotch with a strong molasses and cane sugar backbone, finishing with a chewy, bready mouthfeel coming from the use of bread yeast. The Pow’ Vodka will fit traditional definitions of an odorless, tasteless vodka.

If you go

Current offerings: Recession Proof Moonshine, 80-proof and 125-proof (Barrel Proof)
Tasting room hours: 
Fridays: 3-ish – 6-ish, Saturdays: 11-ish – 6-ish or by appointment. Call 775-219-9403 or 775-843-8229 for more details.
Address: 1155 Watson Way, Suite 5
Sparks, Nevada 89431

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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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