Globetrotting San Francisco environmentalists Christopher and Camille Bently are seeking to make one of the world’s finer single malt whiskeys, not by way of their beloved Scotland, but by way of an Irish pub in Mexico, where they hatched the plan while sipping Japanese whiskey.
“It was one of those nights,” says Camille, the wife of Chris, the founder of Bently Enterprises, which owns and manages historic and architecturally significant properties in San Francisco, and a cattle and agriculture ranch in Minden, Nev., a half-hour east of South Lake Tahoe, California.
The duo, who collect Scotch whiskey, found the state of American single malt whiskey lacking, and created Bently Heritage (bentlyheritage.com), a farm-to-flask operation, to fill the gap. Their distillery sprang from the town’s turn-of-the century creamery and flour mill. Grains for their liquors are grown from non-GMO seeds on part of the 60,000-acre Bently Ranch. Spent grains are put into the ranch’s compost facility. The stills employ heat recovery systems. And materials from the old buildings were repurposed for staircases and architectural details in the distillery’s Public House, a cultural hub where tastings and food are served up with sweeping views of the eastern Sierra.
The couple’s multi-year effort recently yielded the newly launched Juniper Grove Gin (750 ml, $47) and Source One Vodka, (750 ml, $42), the first of many products that will eventually include bourbon, rye whiskey, wheat whiskey and sherry-rested vodka (in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks). The estate single malt whiskey is targeted for release in 2030. “We’ll appeal to those people,” says Camille, “who want to know how their spirits are made, and where they’re coming from.” Notes Chris, “We’re not a craft spirit maker―we avoid the word 'craft'. We set out to do something unique and create a paradigm shift. It’s been an adventure.”