We can’t hike all the time. All three of these, though, involved some walking. And drinking. We do that too.
Recently I had the opportunity to tour and partake at three different spirit distilleries in and around Las Vegas. We’ll start simple, and let things escalate out-of-hand as they will.
Desert Diamond Distillery
Just outside of Kingman, AZ, towards the airport, you can find Desert Diamond Distilleries, [https://www.desertdiamonddistillery.com] which has a tasting room, distillery tours, and monthly dinners after which you taste whatever spirit the owners are most proud of that month.
The $7 tour is simple and straightforward: You learn how the bar came from a restaurant in Las Vegas, and the rat Pack leaned upon it, you see the giant copper still from Germany, you see the warehouse.
Desert Diamond mostly makes rum and that rum is worth the journey. They want $20-50 a bottle, and you are getting that quality.
They have been dabbling in whiskey, and that is quite good, but still quite pricey. I felt I paid $75 for a $50 dollar whiskey. But it is, by a good margin, the best whiskey I’ve found distilled in state.
They make a cheaper corn whiskey, and a vodka, neither of which I have tried.
Across the river in Las Vegas, the distillery experience gets bigger and crazier and more expensive.
The Mob Museum Speakeasy
In the basement of the Mob Museum, [https://themobmuseum.org] they have a “speakeasy”. This is a real bar, but you can only get into it with ($30) admission to the Museum. OK – there is some side door that you can get in with a password from the website, but we had tickets, so you are on your own with that. For an extra $15 you can sit in on the tasting and prohibition lecture. In that setting, we learned a little about the distilling process (they make some beer, moonshine and rum on site) and a good deal more about the birth of bootlegging in the US, and how this financed the first national crime syndicates. Or so I suppose. I couldn’t hear half of it over the music from the speakeasy next door.
The samples were microscopic, and unimpressive. Moonshine is just moonshine. The rum did not stand above any of its big-batch $20/bottle competitors. I’d tell you about how they tasted in the cocktails from the speakeasy, but we stood for 15 minutes without getting any staff attention and moved on.
Las Vegas has no shortage of places you can pay too much for cocktails. (We ended up at Circa where we were served within 5 minutes on a Saturday night.)
The museum (properly called the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement) itself is all kinds of clever, (it has won awards) but it is three stories (plus basement) of wall-wall crime and mayhem, and I burned out on which middle-aged white guy went to jail for shooting which middle-aged white guy.
Like most museums, the information comes in isolated paragraphs next to displays, but you can put together the narrative that Prohibition allowed street level gangs to become or become co-opted by national gangs, and how the feds ignored them until the 1950’s when congressional hearings (that’s the whole 2nd floor) forced them to do something. Portions of the Kefauver hearings actually took place in the very courthouse the central presentation is in. There’s a section on the mob in Vegas, and an equally large section of the string of cowboy sheriffs patrolling those same streets. By the time Whitey Bulger was leaving a trail of bodies around Boston I had lost interest.
You can buy the moonshine for just over $20/mason jar in the gift shop. I did not.
Lost Spirits Distillery
On a brighter note, across the freeway inside Area 15, (which is an experience all of its own) you can tour the Lost Spirits Distillery [https://www.lostspirits.net ] which tries to make the distillery tour into a Disneyland experience. The problem is that they are still in a converted warehouse, and while they are clearly trying their best the compromises, like having to ride the trolley across the parking lot to the second building, are unavoidable.
They still want $55 a head.
Lost Spirits claimed to have found a method to age spirits without actually aging them through the use of light. You can see on the tour the contraption bathed in the lights of what I happen to know are commercially made theatrical lights. However, I can’t say what sort of lamps they put in them, nor would they tell me. That’s the secret, I was told. You can also see more regular stills and get a sniff of the big barrel full of must that they keep in the open for visitors.
In addition to seeing some of the distillery equipment, there are themed rooms with tasting stations, where you can taste the various products, mostly high-proof rum. There’s a candle-lit forest, a Victorian “Dorian Grey” room, the Havana Hologram Lounge (which has some cool projections) and the submarine, which is legitimately a triumph of scenic design over budget.
Curiously, Lost Spirits does not directly sell the booze they just demonstrated on site. They will ship bottles, when available, starting at $30/ bottle plus, plus.
Even though I am a fan of museums, scenic design and giant copper pots in all shapes, I wouldn’t repeat any of these tours again. I will assert that the distillery tour of the Mob Museum is over-priced for what it is. Lost Spirits is worth it once, as a strange date night activity.
Now, I’ve been back to Desert Diamond many times. But that is because they will actually sell me booze.
Desert Diamond Distillery
4875 Olympic Way, Kingman, AZ
The Mob Museum
300 Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas, NV
(A block away from Fremont Street).
Lost Spirits Distillery – Area 15
3215 S Rancho Drive, Las Vegas, NV.
Check websites for times and prices.
All photos are from the websites of locations covered unless noted.
“We” for this article means Cheryl and myself. More on that on my personal blog: What Have We Learned? [https://padegimas.wordpress.com]
So, yeah, this might be becoming a more general travel site.