The World Series of Poker can be a grind, so whenever a rare day off rolls around, I tend to stay away from anything that remotely resembles poker. On Monday, June 9, one such day came and went, but not before I made the most of it by paying a visit to the Las Vegas Distillery.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I like whiskey, so a quick Google search turned up two interesting results. The first was the Whiskey Attic, something I experienced the first week I was in Vegas, and the other was this distillery that had somehow escaped my attention since 2011, the year it was established.
Nevada isn’t known for their spirits; in fact, the Las Vegas Distillery is the first in the state dating all the way back even before Prohibition. The business was the brainchild of George Racz, who emigrated from Transylvania to New York in the mid-2000s after meeting his wife on a Hungarian website (she was working in New York). After working odd jobs, Racz visited a distillery in New York and decided to open his own. With the support of his wife they selected Las Vegas for no other reason than it was a market without competition.
Of course breaking into a new market, which wasn’t regulated, was no easy task. Racz had to go through a prolonged licensing process and even had to write the Nevada Craft Distillery Bill, which was signed into law by Governor Sandoval on June 10, 2013.
Speaking of the Governor, he was actually played a part in the release of the first straight bourbon whiskey in Nevada. That’s because in December 2011 the Las Vegas Distillery barreled – using 53-gallon America white oak barrels – their exclusive first historic edition of “Nevada 150,” designed to celebrate Nevada’s Sesquicentennial (or 150th anniversary of their admission to the United States).
The Governor himself visited the distillery in 2011 and personally signed a barrel. Two years later he returned and signed again to kick off the bottling process. Only 2,014 bottles will be produced, and they go for $100 a pop and won’t be available in stores (you can only get them online and at the distillery beginning on Saturday, June 14). You better believe I got myself one on reserve, but I know I won’t be getting Bottle #150 as that’s been set aside for Governor Sandoval.
Anyway, back to my story. Along with my friend and colleague, William Powell, I paid a visit to the distillery on Monday, June 9. It took awhile to find the place, as it’s about 20 minutes off the strip in a very nondescript office/industrial complex. Once we arrived, a stillman by the name of Sid dropped what he was doing and welcomed us. When we told him we were there for the tour, he set aside whatever he was working on and spent the next hour giving us the lowdown.
I won’t go into specifics, but suffice it to say the place was top notch. Their stills looked and actually were expensive, and while their operation was fairly small, you could tell they were building and gaining momentum. Of course a distillery is less about its equipment than the quality of its products – in this case it was a variety of whiskey, rum, gin, vodka and more. So how did it stack up?
At the end of the tour Sid offered us the opportunity to try anything we wanted. Obviously I wanted to sample the Nevada 150, and it reassured me that I’d made the right decision in reserving a bottle. I also tried their seven-grain whiskey, which I enjoyed so much I bought a bottle to take home. Likewise for the rum, which was good but far from my preferred Havana Club (I think it may be impossible to best Cuban rum).
The gin was ripe with juniper, and it’d have gone excellent with some tonic, though there was none to be had. Finally, I had to sample the “Rumskey,” which was a white mixture of whiskey and rum concocted by Racz. Whiskey and rum purists would find such a spirit an abomination, but as I’m a fan of both I couldn’t resist.
I’d say the Rumskey was more rum than whiskey, and that’s no doubt due to the latter being minimally aged before the blend. The Rumskey isn’t something I would sip on its own, but I must admit after tasting it my mind filled with the various drinks I could create. The Rumskey seemed like a great mixer that would go with just about anything. I’ve always tried to find something that’d mix well with root beer, and the Rumskey fit the bill. I bought a bottle to take home, so once I get back to Wisconsin I’ll set aside a Saturday night to do some experimenting.
The Las Vegas Distillery turned out to be a much more enjoyable experience than I anticipated. I’ll definitely be paying it a visit every time I come to Vegas, and if I bring friends with me I’ll insist that they come along. It’s a fun, unique, and clandestine attraction perfect for anyone looking to wet his or her whistle.
Here are some pics from the adventure:
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