Many brands – both in the spirits industry and beyond – claim to be committed to sustainability but haven’t taken the actions to be truly eco-responsible. Bently Heritage Estate Distillery just east of Lake Tahoe in Nevada is the very first estate distillery in the U.S. to complete the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification process.
Owned by Christopher and Camille Bently, the distillery went through a five-year restoration process before earning the prestigious LEED Gold distinction in March 2020.
In 2013, the Bentlys took a trip to Scotland, where they developed a love for the land and a true appreciation for single malt whisky. It was there while studying the distilleries of old, that they decided to open a distillery back home and help put American single malt whisky on the world map. The site for their distillery is the century-old Minden Flour Mill where Christopher Bently grew up and often played in the abandoned mill as a child.
Blending a passion for restoring historic buildings with a love for premium spirits, the state-of-the-art Bently Heritage distillery was built to create a whisky with all ingredients grown on the estate. But, whisky takes time.
“Whiskies are our passion,” says John Jeffery, Master Distiller for Bently Heritage. “We pull from both old world and modern technology, attempting to utilize the best of both. Our whiskies are currently resting and will rest until they are good and ready. Simply put, you can’t cheat time and we won’t. We will have our flagship expressions that speak to tradition and we’ll also release special barrels, single barrels, and special reserves. These will be pulled from exceptional barrels that we can’t bear to blend, and experiments that represent creative divergences from tradition.”
While waiting for the whisky to age, the team at Bently Heritage came up with an award-winning portfolio of spirits including Source One Vodka, Juniper Grove Gin, and Hecate Liqueurs.
In designing the distillery, Christopher and Camille focused on both creating a place to distill world-class single malt, and a place to create other spirits they are passionate about—be it gin, vodka, or whiskies. To ensure ample room to experiment, the Bentlys designed and built a separate distillery for each of the spirits in their portfolio.
Opened in 2019, the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery campus, consisting of the Creamery and Mill buildings, are LEED Gold certified. The Public House and single malt whisky operation are housed in the historic 1906 flour mill while the vodka, gin, and whiskies are produced in the historic 1916 creamery. Bently Heritage’s water comes from Well One, the first well built in Minden, which is fed by the high Sierra snowmelt and dedicated solely to the distillery.
To be considered an “estate” distillery in Nevada, 85% of the distillery’s raw materials must come from land owned or controlled by the distillery. 100% of the grain used in Bently Heritage spirits – including wheat, rye, barley, corn, and oats – are grown by its sister company Bently Ranch, which also experiments with cultivating some of its own botanicals in a climate-controlled greenhouse. Bently also operates another 2 acres of apple, pear, peach and cherry orchards. It has yet to yield fruit but they’re hoping to begin making some small batches of fruit spirits in the future.
The estate process allows Bently Heritage start-to-finish control of the entire distilling process and, in turn, they are able to produce ultra-premium spirits. Their spent grains are then returned to the land as compost.
Overseeing operations at Bently Heritage are General Manager Jason Tollmann and Master Distiller John Jeffery. Tollman is a management expert who has worked with companies like Nestle/PowerBar and Starbucks to oversee safe plant operations. Jeffery has a graduate degree in food chemistry from Michigan State University, where he focused on fermentation and distillation.
“Being able to lead such a passionate and talented team has been one of the biggest highlights of my career. You don’t get many chances to build a state-of-the-art facility and create a brand from scratch, and this only can happen by having a talented team and a great leader, Brady Frey – Bently’s COO, to lead us,” says Jason Tollmann.
Master Distiller John Jeffery
The malting and distillation processes at Bently Heritage share one goal: to embrace the techniques of old world masters and employ new technologies to keep operations safe, scientific, efficient, and sustainable. Using both traditional Scottish floor malting methods, along with state-of-the-art pneumatic malting systems, Bently Heritage relies on an assortment of old world wood fermenters and high-tech automation to keep a balance between beauty, craftsmanship, and efficiency.
With two expressions currently in the market, Source One Vodka is a versatile spirit.
• Source One Vodka Wheat and Oat Blend: Produced in small batches, this single-estate vodka has a rich mouthfeel and finishes clean and bright. Twice-distilled to perfection, the Source One Vodka wheat and oat blend is then finished in copper pot stills. This spirit has all the hallmarks of a classic vodka, with just a bit more body.
“Source One Vodka is made from wheat and oats, twice-distilled and produced in copper stills,” says Richard Allison, San Diego-based founder and creative director of Root Bitters. “If I had to describe it, it’s like brand-new-silky-sheets-on-the-bed smooth. A true gem in the Martini world. Bently Heritage Estate Distillery is stunning and is producing some great spirits. Owner and founder Christopher Bently restored an old flour and buttermilk factory into now one of the most stunning places. Keeping some of the original elements and structure in the building. He is creating some of the best spirits now.”
• Source One Vodka Rested in Oak Sherry Casks: This classic wheat and oat blend vodka is twice-distilled and aged for about 30 days in Spanish Oloroso sherry oak casks giving it a rich and deep color, similar to whisky.
“What’s cool about this vodka, is that it’s rested in Oloroso Sherry cask – not only giving it a unique color but also a unique creamy oat mouthfeel when sipped neat,” explains LA-based cocktail maker and content creator Saeed “Hawk” House, of Cocktails by Hawk. “On the palate, you get notes of ripe cherry, stone fruit, and raspberry.”
With three variants available — American Dry Gin, Atrium Gin, Alpine Gin— Juniper Grove Gins are regional expressions of the high Sierra.
American Dry Gin: Made from five botanicals, this is Bently Heritage’s take on a traditional London dry gin with bright citrus notes. Aromas blossom on the nose from a combination of botanicals blended into the distillate. The rich flavors on the first sip are enhanced by the oat-based spirit and soften into a pleasantly vibrant combination of citrus and juniper.
Atrium Gin: Made from 10 botanicals, this is a beautiful floral-forward, new-world gin. It’s produced in small batches, finished in copper stills, and triple-distilled to perfection. Juniper Grove Atrium has tasting notes of a bouquet of grapefruit and candied orange peel that hit the front of the palate, evolving into a flower-forward experience with hints of lavender, root, and spice.
Alpine Gin: A limited-production gin and tasting-room exclusive, Alpine is made with piñon pine distillate making it a true expression of the mountains and region that surround Bently Heritage. This gin is one to taste if you get a chance to visit the distillery.
“It’s always refreshing and fun to discover a new bottle that is so good, it catches you by surprise,” says Max from Bar Max in Los Angeles. “Juniper Grove Atrium Gin got all the subtle nuances that make a great gin perfectly right. A fantastic blend of botanicals brings this wonderfully smooth spirit to life and sets it apart from many of its peers.”
Hecate – pronounced “Heh-kuh-tee” – is the Greek goddess of magic, witchcraft, potions, and herbs. Hecate liqueurs draw inspiration from her potion-making prowess by delicately extracting the floral essence from the finest, sustainably sourced, raw ingredients. The Hecate collection currently consists of two tasting-room-only expressions.
• Hecate Cacao: A brilliantly pure expression of raw heirloom Criollo cacao nibs from Peru and Ecuador, and sustainably sourced bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar, this spirit is produced in small batches and finished in copper pot stills.
• Hecate Coffee: A sophisticated liqueur that combines the intense, rich pleasures of espresso with a burst of fresh lemon zest.
For more information on Bently Heritage Estate Distillery or any of their spirits, please visit www.bentlyheritage.com and follow along at @BentlyHeritageDistillery. Must be 21+, please. Drink responsibly.
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