Community spirits

Head Distiller Nick Bietz crouches in front of the flame pot still at Seven Troughs Distilling Co. in Sparks.

Head Distiller Nick Bietz crouches in front of the flame pot still at Seven Troughs Distilling Co. in Sparks.

Photo/Eric Marks

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I hadn’t been to Seven Troughs Distilling Co. in Sparks in a while, so when a deal for a tasting popped up in my email, it was time to revisit the first licensed distillery in our area. It’s been just about four years since I visited the then new establishment and cavalierly plopped down some cash for a bourbon to be released to coincide with Nevada’s sesquicentennial in 2014. The bourbon is long gone, but Seven Troughs continues its craft in an industrial space tucked away amid warehouses and manufacturing plants.

My wife joined me late Saturday afternoon to partake in tiny plastic tumblers of Seven Troughs’ current lineup. Business hours are limited, so we hurried to arrive before 6 p.m. closing. The tasting room is just that—a room in which samples are given to curious visitors in the hopes of turning them into customers. It’s not a bar where one goes for drinks, socializing or the jukebox. We took seats and head distiller Nick Bietz led us through each spirit, from its base ingredients to how it was made, talking at length about the art and science of turning agricultural products into strong, flavorful hooch. As Bietz spoke eloquently about boiling points and barrel production, closing time got closer and closer, and we felt pressed by the clock. But Bietz assured us he’d be there at least another hour, watching over a batch of moonshine, as it dripped out of the still.

We started with the Reno Rodeo Legacy vodka, distilled from sugar beets. From there, the spirits increased in potency, flavors and “specialness.” The Black Rock Rum was smooth and lighter in color and flavor than I expect rum to be. Argentum Gin was less pungent than expected. (I also learned the three types of gin and that native Nevada juniper berries are toxic.) We also sampled Recession Proof Moonshine—a potent, hot-white booze—and two whiskeys, a one-year-old single malt and a two-year-old bourbon, both quite pleasant and drinkable.

From there, we proceeded on a brief tour. Having visited a few distilleries now, the general operation seems to be the same. Seven Troughs does things a little differently, however, fermenting in open rustic barrels, old-West style. And there’s always something to learn, whether it’s the type of tree used for the oak aging barrels, or the dueling temperature needs of fermentation and aging barrels in the same space. The latter will see some relief soon, as Seven Troughs recently announced an expansion.

Beyond the science of fermentation, distillation, grains and wood, what really struck me was how rooted Seven Troughs is in the community. Naming the company and products with Nevada references is easy, but partnership with other local businesses takes commitment. A partnership with Nevada Brining Company puts the booze in that company’s Boozy Pickles. Great Basin Brewing provides unfermented malt that eventually becomes whiskey. Corn and wheat from Bently Ranch in Minden later feeds hogs at Girlfarm north of Reno when spent.

I’m not the ultimate connoisseur of booze, but the experience, liquor and lessons learned were certainly worth the time and price of admission.