Whiskey maker seeks scientific corn study

According to whiskey-maker Tom Adams, Lovelock has the best water for whiskey and Pershing County could have the best corn for whiskey. The Seven Troughs Distillery owner would like local farmers to help him find corn varieties that produce the best tasting whiskey on the market.

“We want to experiment locally and find out what corn varieties work, what tastes good and what gives us a reasonable yield for a reasonable return,” Adams said. “That’s going to be a process that will never stop.”

Adams has asked Steve Foster of the Pershing County Extension Service for help with organizing the study. He has already reached out to local growers about wheat and barley for his future distillery and tasting room in downtown Lovelock. Adams said there has been some interest from local farmers in growing specialty grains that could improve their bottom line.

But, due to this year’s drought, farmers may have little or no water this year for normal crop production so the research idea will probably have to wait, Foster said. At an earlier meeting, farmer Anthony Moura told Adams that water is the determining factor for Lovelock Valley farmers and that some “water years” will be better than others for specialty grain production. 

The whiskey business is a waiting game so Adams is willing to wait for a good water year. The research study may indicate there are better, more drought-tolerant grain varieties for the valley.

“We’re extremely interested in varieties that are both more climatically tolerant for our area and also produce better flavors for our product,” he said. “The raw materials are really important.”

Adams hopes scientists with the University of Nevada will organize the crop study. 

“I am going to look for adult supervision. I am not a farmer,” he said. “It would be an experimental program designed in conjunction with the university and some of the local growers. I would imagine it would test out three or four different types of grains. There’s a scientific method to it. If I were to do it, we’d probably get a bunch of junk information.”

Beyond statistics such as crop yield and costs, the ultimate test will be the taste test.

“More than yield, we are looking for flavor,” Adams said. “There’s a huge difference between grains when you mash them and distill them and we’ll know pretty soon after we harvest whether we like a variety. I don’t really have to wait five years for it to age out. We can tell a lot from the raw spirit as it comes off the still. Each grain has its own character and we want to try grains that will work better for the community.”

As for the future home of his new Lovelock distillery, Adams said the 75-year-old Windmill building needs more improvements than he previously expected but “it hasn’t scared me off yet.”

“Slowly but surely, we’re finding out what we didn’t know,” he said. “It is an old building and it has character. We’re finally figuring out what it does in fact need and it does need some love.”

As for financing his expanded whiskey operation, that’s also still a work in progress.

“We’ve had some good indications but it’s a little more tenuous now that we’ve got this war going in Europe,” Adams said. “I think folks are playing a little more of a wait-and-see game. But, we’re getting some good commitments on funding and a lot of positive energy coming out of the community of Lovelock and the state in general so we’re really happy.”