Montana is beginning to stand up and ‘still. The Great Falls Tribune recently published a portrait of Montana’s growing whiskey distilleries, of which there are now 16. And though they each approach whiskey production uniquely, they each put great emphasis on using Montanan grains. Here are some exceptional new players.
Philip Sullivan (Wildrye Distilling of Bozeman) makes a corn whiskey from sweet corn mash, “It’s family-grown sweet corn… That’s not regularly done. It’s difficult.” Aficionados will be able to distinguish Wildrye’s white corn whiskey from Kentucky or Tennessee bourbons, but that’s just the point. It should taste like Montana whiskey. Wildrye Distillery also makes a rum, or rather, Ramsdell’s Parrot Brum, made from local sugar beets.
Robin and Willie Blazer, founders of Willie’s Distillery, subscribe to similar ambitions of locality. They source local grains and honey for their moonshine and bourbon mash and local chokecherries for their Montana Wild Chokeberry liqueur. The only thing that doesn’t hail from Montana is the still itself, a stunning copper pot still from Germany’s Bavarian Holstein Stills.
In 2005, Bryan Schultz founded RoughStock Whiskey, Montana’s first distillery in over 100 years. Schultz noticed that Montana’s breweries were using lots of local barley malt, but didn’t have much use for other local grains. RoughStock emphasizes its whiskies’ handmade quality, well aware that every batch will (and should be) unique. Look for RoughStock’s Spring Wheat whiskey, made using a genus of high-protein wheat rarely found in distilling..
The distilleries aren’t close enough for a tasting tour (Montana is a big state), but these three have tasting rooms nevertheless:
Wildrye Distilling: 101 East Oak St.; Bozeman, Montana. | Daily, 3 – 8 p.m.
Willie’s Distillery: 312 E. Main St.; Ennis, Montana | Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. ; Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
RoughStock: 81211 Gallatin Road; Bozeman, Montana | Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
[Great Falls Tribune] [Image: Flickr/kennwilson]