Bently: Distillery could open by November
The Bently Heritage Distillery could be open to the public in November, owner Christopher Bently said to a crowd in Minden on Thursday.
“Now that I’ve said that, there’s a chance it will be a soft opening,” he said at the Critical Issues Conference put on by the Business Council of Douglas County. “But we’re ready. We’ve wanted to be open for a year.”
Bently said his future plans are tied into the Heritage Distillery project for the foreseeable future.
“It took five years to get the project off the ground,” he said. “It has been the most ambitious project I’ve ever done in my life, and the ongoing plans go 20 years out.”
He said it will be 10 years before some of the project’s premier whiskeys are ready to come out of the barrel.
“It’s a long-term investment,” he said. “We’ll have some American whiskeys, bourbon and rye, in five years.”
The project got a head-start when the company built a small distillery three years ago.
“We started doing batch testing and cracking open some of those barrels to see what we were in for,” he said. “Wow, they were beautiful.”
Bently said plans are to distribute the distillery’s product far beyond Carson Valley.
“This is not a small craft distillery,” he said. “This is for Los Angeles, New York and London.”
Estimates are the costs of renovating the Minden Flour Mill and Butter Manufacturing building have cost $100 million.
“My choice in picking historic properties for this effort is not the most financially viable,” he said. “It’s twice as expensive. It’s twice the effort. You have a lot regulation, but that’s kind of why you do it in the first place — is to preserve that history, to preserve our culture at the same time.”
Bently said that if they’d decided to build the distillery on the ranch, it would have cost a fraction.
“But we wouldn’t have this incredible place that we have in downtown Minden, which has been a magnet for people who can’t wait to see what it will become,” he said.
One of the reasons he chose a distillery was he felt it would add to Carson Valley without changing it.
“I wanted something more refined where you can have craft cocktails,” he said. “That level of sophistication is something I want to bring up here without tainting the community, without changing who we are up here, because I love this area so much.”
He said when it comes to the Bently Ranch and the distillery project, he wants to sell products people trust.
“People care about what they’re drinking, they’re enjoying themselves but they want to know where it comes from, not just something sourced and bottled and sold,” he said.
He said he wants to keep the 50,000 acres of Bently Land in ranching through his life and for generations after that.
A fan of beef, Bently said that his goal is to make the cattle operation as environmentally sound as possible.
“You’re going to leave a carbon footprint no matter what you do, the point is try to minimize it as much as you can,” he said. “I’m a beef eater, I love beef. So I want to make sure our practices are as environmentally conscious as possible.
“We’re trying to do it in the best, cleanest and most humane way possible.”
Bently said that while playing in the old buildings as a child he first thought about creating something from them.
“Now it has a purpose, it has a new life, yet architecturally it looks as it did,” he said.
Bently grew up in Carson Valley and said he was committed to preserving its character.
“We had all these wide open places to play,” he said. “I was a skier and snowboarder, and I loved the small-town feel and nature. I think it’s very important to keep this place intact.”
The conference was held at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden.