Owens Valley Distilling Co. opens quietly in Bishop
Walk into Owens Valley Distilling Company on South Street in Bishop, and you may have to remind yourself what town you’re in.
Dave and Brittany Holman, the distillery’s owners, have kitted out the tiny warehouse with vintage Globe Electric bulbs, sleek copper piping and wrought iron and wood tables.
Even the bathroom, which you have to exit the building to access, is decorated in their signature style.
Dave says the interior of the Distillery’s tasting room is about 60 percent recycled materials, salvaged from the Owens Valley and points beyond. He knows interior design—for years, he worked as the general manager of “a big box store in Chicago,” he says.
But in 2006, Brittany and Dave decided they’d had enough of the midwest and the rat race. The couple sold
their belongings, bought an RV, and headed west. They were both avid climbers, and they’d visited Bishop before, so they figured that’s where they’d start.
“We said, if it’s too hot, we’ll go north, and if it’s too cold, we’ll go south,” said Dave as he stood behind the wooden bar he crafted at their hip new distillery, which opened quietly in January. “We’ve been here ever since.”
For the last 12 years, the couple have run a recycled and refurbished furniture business in Bishop, and Brittany worked as a dental assistant, which had been her career in Chicago. And they climbed—a lot.
But Dave’s passion was always fermentation. “I’m pretty sure I was the only kid in 7th grade with wine fermenting under their bed,” laughs Dave. He won an award in high school in Illinois for making his first still. “It was under the guise of an energy project,” he said (the state has since put the kibosh on high schoolers dabbling in distilling).
Luckily, Dave got a head start, and he’s now churning out small-batch, artisan spirits along with his production manager and part owner Adam Floyd, a Mammoth local who relocated to Bishop for the business.
Owens Valley Distilling serves a bevy of gorgeous, fresh cocktails for Bishop, its denizens, and anyone lucky enough to score a bottle elsewhere (Bleu Market & Kitchen in Mammoth carries their Quintuple Rum, which is made with 100 percent molasses and Belgian ale yeast). They’ve currently got a vodka, with a gin on the way, and another rum (the Argentum), with which they make their cocktails.
There’s more in the works. Eventually, Dave says, a whiskey will make a debut. The rate of maturation is faster in the desert, says Dave, due to extreme temperate swings. He thinks they’ll manage to come up with a whiskey sooner than expected. And they’re currently barrel-aging a rum. Yes, you heard that right.
Their rum is smooth, delightful, and a surprising choice for a modern distillery. They’re often told by their customers that they “aren’t huge rum fans.”
“Well,” says Dave, “no one’s a huge rum fan, because it went out of style. But it’s making a come back!”
Their Rum Punch ($10) is just gorgeous, served with bright citrus wheels and a purple orchid. The John Daly ($5) is a wallet-friendly Arnold Palmer spiked with vodka.
They’ve got Mountain Rambler’s beers on tap (they’re just up the street and around the corner) and even a few lovely mock tails (the virgin mojito, lime wheels intermingling with muddled mint while condensation beads outside the glass, is going to be delightful on a summer day on their tiny patio).
Also, to the delight of any midwest transplant, they’ve got Chicago-style food on the menu.
Brittany grew up in a family pizzeria, she said, and she was adamantly against serving food at the distillery. “I never saw my dad growing up, and I didn’t want that to end up being our reality,” said Brittany. But Dave won her over with the food’s simplicity—they order beef and hot dogs from Vienna Beef (delicacies of Chicago-style hot dog and Italian beef restaurants and stands), heat them in some simple warmers, and voila—the food they need to serve to comply with their liquor license.
The Sheet took a Chicagoan along for a taste, and he was impressed, though he did say the dishes were a little spicier than usual, though the pickle spear served with the hot dog was very much on point.
Dave and Brittany are poised to make a big splash in little Bishop. So poised, in fact, that they’ve held off on much fanfare until they get their sea legs. “We don’t want 100 people to come here on a Saturday and be disappointed,” said Dave of their cozy space.
So maybe don’t bring the whole office—yet. Dave nods knowingly when asked about a possible future expansion, but for now, the couple are keeping their hours limited (they’re open for food and drinks Thursday from 12-7 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 12-8 p.m.). They moved here to climb, after all.
Owens Valley Distilling Company is located at 237 E. South Street, Unit E, in Bishop. 442.228.5041. Check out their website at www.owensvalleydistillingcompany.com or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ovdcompany.