How local are Nevada’s spirits?

Nevada spirits

A collection of several Nevada and California liquors. Photo by Mike Higdon

In Nevada, ‘made local’ is not just a marketing ploy, it’s the law, sorta

It turns out, many craft distilleries in the United States use neutral spirits from a large producer in Indiana instead of making their own from scratch. In Nevada, it’s illegal for a craft distillery to use neutral spirits from anywhere but their own stills. But “craft” is not a required designation to produce spirits in some fashion. A business can either be a craft distiller or an alcohol manufacturer that bottles or blends. So the state ends up with two different types of alcohol producers who follow different practices but only one is a “distillery” despite its name.

With the #buylocal movement, people want to know where their food and drinks come from, if not just to help the local economy but also for peace of mind and knowing the ingredients for health reasons. So where do Nevada’s spirits come from?

Frey Ranch Estate Distillery

Frey Ranch

Frey Ranch Estate Distillery harvester cutting down two-row malting barley for the distillery. Photo provided by Frey Ranch.

The Frey Ranch Estate Distillery in Fallon is as local as it gets. Frey Ranch is one of two only estate distilleries in the United States, meaning every part of the process happens on the property. Frey Ranch grows and harvests corn, barley, wheat, rye and grapes, then distills, ages and bottles its current brandy and future vodka, gin and whiskey all on property. Farm tours allow anyone to watch the process, play in the fields and if you’re really nice, you might get to sit in a tractor.

Seven Troughs Distilling

Seven Troughs Distilling

Tom Adams, owner of Seven Troughs Distilling Co. shows off the 153-gallon open fermenter 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.

Seven Troughs Distillery in Sparks uses multiple sources for its moonshine, whiskeys and rum. All corn comes from Winnemucca Farms. Some wheat comes from Winnemucca and Woodland, California at Adam’s Grain Products. Malting barley is the biggest problem for Seven Troughs to keep consistent. Some of it comes from Lance Jergensen’s Rebel Malting using Pigeon Head Brewery owner, Eddie Silveira’s land while some of it comes from Frey Ranch. Their rum molasses came from Honduras this time because you can’t get it in the U.S. according to Seven Troughs. And just this week, Tom Adams picked up a ton (like, an actual ton) of rye from Frey Ranch for a new rye whiskey.

“If we can’t get it locally, we try to stay with Great Western Malting company in northern California,” Owner Tom Adams said. “It probably also comes from Oregon and Washington. We try to steer clear of Briess from Idaho and Wisconsin. Gotta stay as local as possible because it’s the right thing to do and hip thing to do but it’s also economical.”

Las Vegas Distillery

Las Vegas Distillery

Nevada 150 Bourbon. Photo by Las Vegas Distillery.

Las Vegas Distillery is the only distillery in Southern Nevada, producing whiskey, gin, vodka, rum and straight bourbon. With less access to the fertile lands of Northern Nevada, their ingredients come from more locations. Las Vegas Distillery also uses 10 grains to add a “spice” flavor, compared with others who use two or three grains.

Las Vegas Distillery’s corn and wheat come from Winnemucca Farms and triticale comes from Orovada, Nevada, north of Winnemucca. Their oat, spelt, kamut and millet come from Montana as well as rye when it doesn’t come from California. The malting barley comes from various sources in California.

Francovich Distillers

Francovich Holiday Nogg

Francovich Holiday Nog. Photo by Francovich Distillers.

Francovich Distillers in Reno is a blending distillery. They do not distill neutral spirits for their two liquors, Francovich Manhattan and Francovich Holiday Nog. Instead, Francovich blends Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, California sweet vermouth and bitters from New York. The four companies have a non-disclosure agreement and cannot legally divulge the origin of these ingredients. The cherry syrup comes the Monan Corporation out of France.

But the ingredients in the Holiday Nog don’t have the same agreement. The milk, cream and eggs come from Model Dairy, a Reno dairy company. The spice blend comes from Elite Spices in Reno. The Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey for the Holiday Nog comes from four or five major distillers in Kentucky and the rum comes from Florida.

Francovich blends both drinks in 300 gallon stainless steel vats then bottles and sells them locally.

Old Tahoe Distillery

Old Tahoe Distillery

Bottles of Old Tahoe Distillery Rye and Honey Rye. Photo provided by Old Tahoe Distillery.

“We’re a mystery company,” said Mark Taverniti, owner of Old Tahoe Distillery rye whiskeys.

Before the craft distillers law passed last year, Mark said he had no reason to produce in Nevada but recognized the growing craft spirits scene and wanted a brand here. He worked with Oregon and Idaho distillers to put down rye whiskey, which takes four to five years to age into their straight rye whiskey and honey flavored rye whiskey.

Older bottles of Old Tahoe Distillery read: produced in Portland, Oregon, bottled in Carson City, Nevada. Newer bottles are produced and bottled in Idaho. Next year, they will all be produced and bottled at Frey Ranch in Fallon, using their rye and distillery, Mark said.

“I like the market, I the like relationship I have in Northern Nevada,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being there indefinitely.”

Clarification and correction added Aug. 15 at 1:30 p.m.: Tom Adams names was spelled incorrectly in the photo caption. Sentence was added to the first paragraph to clarify the legal distinction between a craft distillery and a non-craft distillery.

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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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