When George Rácz opened Las Vegas Distillery in 2011, he wasn’t able to legally offer visitors so much as a taste of the company’s products. In fact, until recently, the system in Nevada prohibited the Hungarian-born Transylvanian transplant from selling his craft spirits to the public or to a retailer without going through a distributor first. He lobbied for and even co-wrote an early version of a bill that would outline how a local distiller could operate outside that very limiting system. Now, almost three years later, with the passage of Assembly Bill 153, Rácz’s distillery can offer tastings to visitors, sell a limited quantity to the public and sell directly to retailers. The distillery can even operate an in-house bar.
We celebrated by assembling a motley crew of artists and musicians (with a known fondness for the hard stuff) to taste the distillery’s spirits and give their opinions on the valley’s first legally distilled hooch since before Prohibition.
Our distinguished liquor swilling panel:
Rich Coffee, the snake-handling preacher and front man of The Swamp Gospel;
Clay Heximer, drummer, The Mapes;
Mathew Dittenberm, sculptor;
Charlie Christians, sculptor.
We thought the good preacher should do the pouring since it’s part of his shtick and we asked him to come in character.
NEVADA WHISKY FIRST HISTORICAL EDITION 90 PROOF
Charlie: The smell is different from the taste. I got a real smoky flavor from it. It had a nice bite to it, and then the smokiness afterwards. I’ll have to drink some more of that.
Mathew: It’s sweet but not too sweet, which, in my opinion, is the best kind of whisky there is.
Clay: I would say it leans toward bourbon more than anything because I like it, and I’m a bourbon fan. It’s really smooth considering what proof it is.
Rich: It doesn’t have as much character as a Kentucky bourbon, but, yeah, it’s got a good taste.
Hektor: I say if this is hard liquor, then it’s not very hard. It’s soft and easy on the palate and the throat. No problem drinking it straight.
NEVADA GIN 90 PROOF
Charlie: I liked it, and I usually don’t like gin. You can taste the juniper berries, but not too much.
Mathew: It’s got a bite, and I wouldn’t even say it’s a throaty bite but more on the front of the palate. I taste the juniper, but it’s softened quite a bit. Very clean. It goes down nice.
Clay: I taste vanilla. It has some licorice. It’s good, and I am not typically a gin kind of guy. I always think of a Christmas tree when I think of gin, and I don’t get that here.
Rich: It’s sweeter than most gins. It’s easy to drink.
Hektor: It’s light, airy and very floral. It would be great in mixed drinks. More of a fruity, modern gin than the stuff your grandfather drinks. I can dig it.
NEVADA RUM 80 PROOF
Charlie: It really hasn’t had any time to age. But it’s surprisingly good for how young it is. Rum especially needs time to age, but this works.
Mathew: I like that it’s not sweet at the front. A little coconut but not suntan-lotion flavor. I am curious about how this will age. Would that subtle coconut taste stand up? Does it get enhanced, go away or what? There’s no way to know. But it’s good now, so drink it now.
Clay: It’s good, and it’s not too sweet. And the impressive thing to me is that everything that went into it all of these is locally sourced.
Rich: It’s definitely not candy. It’s good liquor.
Hektor: I prefer a sweet rum. I like that I can taste molasses but would prefer a little more sugar up front.
NEVADA RUMSKY 80 PROOF (DISTILLED FROM A BLEND OF INGREDIENTS USED IN THEIR RUM AND WHISKY)
Charlie: If it had a little age, it would be awesome. It’s kind of odd as it is.
Mathew: I think it tastes a little like tequila and agree it could use some age.
Clay: I think this is not made to be drank straight but would be good in the right cocktail. In about four years it will be great.
Rich: I’m not sure what you would do with something like this.
Hektor: I agree with Clay about finding a good cocktail for it and giving it some time. It’s got a really great name going for it, that’s for sure.
NEVADA MOONSHINE WHISKY 100 PROOF
Charlie: I’ve had rougher, harsher moonshines before, but I expect to be shitting corn tomorrow.
Mathew: The alcohol content, ridiculous. The taste, not bad. And it goes down very smooth. I’m drunk already, so this tastes like sweet, sweet victory to me!
Clay: It’s a little rough, but considering the alcohol content, this is pretty OK.
Rich: It’s gritty, but the flavor’s not bad. There’s some smoothness there. But then again, I believe we can drink poison with impunity if we have faith!
Hektor: I love this stuff. After the second shot it tastes just like sweet corn cakes in liquid form. After the terrific gin, this is my second favorite.
We all acknowledge that most of these spirits would benefit from some aging, as they are just over two years old at best. But we also agree Las Vegas Distillery is off to a great start. I took the gin to a party, and it was a hit straight up, on the rocks or in cocktails, especially with the ladies. I kept the moonshine around my desk for a week, and I hope to get my Mason jar refilled soon.
Las Vegas Distillery, 7330 Eastgate Road, 629-7534. For more info, visit www.lasvegasdistillery.com.