A badly planned Ikea trip turned into a stop in Verdi for lunch instead. Always on the hunt, my alcohol radar alerted, reminding me that there was a distillery nearby. I’ve had brief encounters with Verdi Local Distillery—bottles at the supermarket, a taste at a special event. I’d flirted enough, it was time I got to know her better. Alas, a look at the website revealed the hours to be utterly impossible for me—Tuesday through Thursday, entirely within my working hours. The saving grace was a tasting event. (They’re held on the first and third Friday of each month.) I marked my calendar.
The first Friday arrived, and my wingman (father-in-law) and I saddled up (got into my Toyota) on a cold Northern Nevada evening for the short ride out to Verdi. I wondered if they would wrap up early due to low turnout from the icy roads and very low temperatures.
My fears were entirely unfounded. Wandering into what appeared to be an old house, it was like something out of the movies—the rustic, small Western town roadhouse, filled with jovial faces, laughter and song from a guitarist off to the side. Friends clustered at the lone table, among the distilling equipment, and behind the bar. It was hard to tell who was staff and who wasn’t, the crowd spilling into every corner of the small space—they’re seeking official Guinness recognition as the smallest distillery in the world—enjoying beverages and conversation with fellow Verdi-ans and whiskey drinkers. Approaching the little two-stool bar, a friendly face explained that the bimonthly tasting events offer complimentary tastes and cocktails, “just tell all your friends about us.” You had me at free whiskey. Friends, I’m telling you.
Despite feeling like we were crashing a house party, we felt welcome to ask for tastes of any the bottled spirits and cocktails made to order. We started with sips of Hoppymess whiskey. An almost clear spirit, Hoppymess is made from distilled Mammoth IPA beer. I enjoyed it enough to bring a bottle home—a nice hop flavor neither dominates nor hides behind the alcohol. Before diving into mixed drinks, we tasted the Mahogany Whiskey, a corn/rye whiskey aged for two months with mountain mahogany in stainless tanks. It was so smooth I would have thought it spent years in a barrel. Struggling for what to order, I asked and our host suggested her own concoctions, mixing the spirits with ginger beer, soda and orange or lime. I was embarrassed by how quickly I drained the cup. But my embarrassment quickly faded enough to ask for a taste of the Yeti Jackalope, a lovely gin made with orange peel and juniper, certain to be quite nice with tonic in the summer.
While the other spirits—most in 750 ml bottles and 200 ml flasks—didn’t appeal to my taste, I know how popular Bloody Marys are, so you should know they sell a spicy mix and a garlic flavored whiskey that must go really well with it. An apple cinnamon whiskey rounds out the core lineup. The current seasonal release is a also appear, a black licorice whiskey—in flask size only.
After tasting all we wanted, we purchased our bottles and shuffled into the snowy night. From worrying we’d be the only ones there to experiencing a uniquely local night, a good time was had and good spirits consumed.