Every October, the spirits awaken at the Frey Ranch Estate Distillery.
Two years ago, Nevada’s first commercial estate distillery debuted its brandy and almost one year ago to the day, the first batch of vodka was ready for an open house and tasting at the new 4,600-square foot facility. As fifth generation Nevadans, the Freys — Colby and Ashley — have an encore for this month as they celebrate the one-year anniversary since opening the distillery and presenting a new drink to Churchill County.
The distillery, which sits on land that was once the horse corral, is separate from the wine distillery, a short 50-step walk away. A tasting room decorated in wood trim, old photographs and a long, glass window adds a county ambiance to its western theme. On Saturday, the Freys’ first batch of gin was ready for taste and sale.
Located 10 miles south of Fallon on a 1,200 acre ranch, the distillery rolled out its latest libation at an open house with festivities Saturday where guests were invited for tours, tastings, specialty cocktails, lawn games and food provided by Taste of Chicago Food Truck.
Ashley Frey showed some visitors the first bottles of gin on Wednesday and allowed them to take a mid-day sample.
The distillery has become a labor of love, not only for proprietors Ashley and Colby Frey but also for distiller and vintner Russell Wedlake.
“The very first batch consists of 4,800 bottles,” Wedlake said, adding each sip releases a distinct taste of Nevada.
In addition to three basic ingredients grown at the ranch — rye, barley and corn — Wedlake lined up the other ingredients in a row on the bar. He said juniper berries and sagebrush, which he calls Nevada silver sage, are joined by coriander, Angelica root, cardamom pod, lemon peel and orange peel. From start to finish, Wedlake said it takes less than two weeks to make one batch, longer if more batches are involved.
“Next time we’ll do four to five batches at the same time,” he said.
He then raised a small shot glass to his nose.
“It does smell like a rainy day in Nevada,” he said.
Compared to vodka, Wedlake said gin doesn’t contain wheat because of its creamy nature.
Both the vodka and gin go through similar processes in a vendome that can produce about 10,000 cases of spirits a month. The setup also consists of four 5,000-gallon fermenters, one 5,000-gallon mash cooker, one 5,000-gallon beer well, one 500-gallon pot still and a 24-foot continuous still.
For Colby Frey, the entire process from beginning to end is both a love and profession.
“The craft distilling industry is one we’ve been working to be a part of for a long time and we are proud to carry the name of Nevada’s first,” he said. “We have had an incredible year since we first opened our distillery last fall and, as we continue to grow, we are excited to share our carefully crafted spirits with our community and the rest of the world.”
Wedlake predicts the Frey Ranch Gin will be as warmly accepted as was their brandy and last year’s vodka. Although the Frey’s brandy is only available in Fallon at the several stores, Wedlake said the distillery is waiting on a back order of brandy bottles.
“Brandy is really popular, but we need to get it to the distributor or there will be a revolt,” he laughed. “People want it for the holidays.”