MISSOULA — Montgomery Distillery, celebrating its seventh anniversary on Nov. 16, has attracted high-profile international recognition for its single malt whiskey.
The World Whiskies Awards feted the downtown Missoula distillery with a Gold Outstanding medal, describing the single malt as the “best of its kind; superior; best of the best,” according to awards organizer Douglas Smith.
“We were elated to be recognized alongside whiskies we admire so much,” said Ryan Montgomery, distillery owner and still room director. “Chad Larrabee and Christopher Conley, our distillers, should be extremely proud.”
That means the locally owned distillery is in great company. Only four other single malts, including esteemed Scotch whiskies Glenmorangie 18 and Glengoyne Legacy, placed in the same category.
“We were competing against some really good whiskeys, so that makes it all the better,” said Montgomery.
The award-winning single malt is the distillery’s third release, said Conley. Bottling timelines and release dates are an art in themselves in the distillery business.
“I’m thinking about what we’re making now that will be bottled 10 or 12 years from now,” said Conley. “This weekend we’re releasing what we made 5 or 6 years ago.”
Distillery staff expect Saturday’s limited release single malt of 2,400 bottles to sell out of the tasting room by year’s end. It includes five- and six-year-old casks, including ex-Oloroso sherry.
The distillery is quickly earning a name for itself across the industry, as its Sudden Wisdom 100% straight rye whiskey, released in 2016, also won a gold medal at the 2019 Sip Northwest Best of the Northwest competition. Last year’s five-year release sold out of the tasting room rapidly, though a few bottles remain at local liquor stores.
While none of Montgomery’s five full-time employees or 20 part-time employees attended the competition, the owner keeps a close eye on results.
“You enter by sending in a sample of your spirits and they judge by blind tasting,” said Montgomery.
Since the aging process is key to a good whiskey, Conley said the seventh anniversary celebrates the distiller’s ongoing learning curve and success.
“It’s something that we’re still learning, to be completely honest,” Conley said. “You almost have to create a game plan about what you will produce and how it will be affected by the aging process several years later.”
Since opening in September 2012, Montgomery Distillery has handcrafted over 200,000 bottles of vodka and gin, created dozens of original and award-winning cocktails and raised over $100,000 for local nonprofits.
National publications, including New York magazine, Outside, Playboy, Food & Wine, Motorcyclist and Redbook, have featured the distillery.
For 2020, Montgomery Distillery plans a new, limited edition releases of amaro, an Italian bitter liquor. Meanwhile, the distillery continues to introduce new botanical and fruit-based cocktails emphasizing fresh, seasonal ingredients.
All Montgomery spirits are distilled from grain and milled on-site, except for the bierschnapps, which is distilled from beer brewed at Missoula craft breweries, such as Big Sky Brewing Co. and Draught Works. The wheat and rye used in Montgomery spirits are grown at the Montgomery family farm in Heath, which is southeast of Lewistown in central Montana.
The distillery opens at noon on Saturday to start selling its whiskey, but the celebration starts at 6 p.m. at 129 W. Front St. In keeping with tradition, the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band bagpipers and drummers in traditional dress will entertain.
Officially, the distillery turned 7 in September – giving Montgomery two reasons to whoop it up.
“We’re already 7, but we saved the single malt for this occasion to celebrate both,” said Montgomery.
“If you compare what we’ll be releasing this weekend compared to three years ago, we’ve slowly made changes in projection to create different flavors years from now,” said Conley. “What we’re making this year will probably, hopefully not be bottled for 10 or more years.
“Everything we’ve made for the last six years has been bottled; some has been held back for aging.”
The distillery will also feature a classic cocktail, the Blood and Sand, made with single malt, the house Flathead Cherry Kirschwasser, orange juice and bitters. The cocktail was invented in London in 1922 to commemorate Rudolph Valentino’s bullfighter film of the same name.
In previous years, Kirschwasser and Sudden Wisdom whiskey both won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits competition, which Montgomery plans to enter again in April 2020.
Ever widening its market, Montgomery Distillery distributes its spirits in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Tennessee, Washington, Idaho, Colorado and Oregon.
But Montana remains near and dear to Montgomery and the distillery mission.
“We will continue to prioritize serving our local Montana market as we get closer to selling our full capacity,” added Montgomery.
Click here for a complete list of 2019 World Whiskies Award winners.
Contact Business Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and firstname.lastname@example.org.