Since opening in downtown Missoula last year, Montgomery Distillery’s handcrafted spirits and cocktails have garnered a passionate following in Montana. Ryan Montgomery and distillers Chad Larrabee and Chris Connolly are milling, mashing and fermenting Bitterroot Valley wheat and distilling it into gin and vodka in their towering copper still. Jenny Montgomery and her skilled staff of bartenders are serving up those same spirits in the form of delicious, artisanal cocktails in the tasting room upstairs, where jars of fresh herbs and bottles of house made mixers line the bar.
Ryan and Jenny traveled to Scotland in 2010, where he studied traditional distilling techniques with Frank McCarty of legendary Springbank Distillery, where centuries-old distilling techniques still endure. Today, their passion is interpreting Old World spirits from around the globe, using Montana ingredients.
“Our Whyte Laydie gin is very similar to a Plymouth gin, which is also wheat-based,” said Ryan, “but it contains Rocky Mountain juniper as well as other locally harvested botanicals such as bee balm and elderflower.” The distillery is also at work on a limited edition release of aquavit (a Scandinavian spirit infused with caraway and other herbs), in addition to coffee liqueur made with Black Coffee Roasting Company beans, and a couple of other surprises.
Perhaps most exciting will be the whiskey: single-malt made from Montana barley sleeps in oak casks, awaiting its first bottling in three years. Bourbon and rye are also in the planning stages. “We’re looking for a rye farmer to work with,” said Ryan.
The Montgomerys received a surprising call from New York magazine editors in mid-March. The Black Diamond, a cocktail invented in the Distillery’s tasting room, was chosen for their article,
Montgomery staff were honored to be the only distillery included in the New York magazine feature, which sought out well-crafted drinks that were representative of their place.
The distillery’s tasting room is located upstairs from the traditional stillroom and pays homage to the cocktail traditions of 19th century Western saloons, with a fresh, local twist. Using seasonal ingredients, Montgomery Distillery’s bartenders interpret classic cocktails such as the flip, the rickey, the fizz and the martini.
The Black Diamond, created by Caroline McCarty, contrasts the warmth of freshly ground black pepper with the sweetness of house-made honey syrup and the refreshing taste of fresh-squeezed lemon and muddled rosemary. Montgomery Distillery’s Quicksilver Vodka forms the base of this cocktail.
Another favorite of Montgomery’s customers is the Rocky Mountain Flip, created by head bartender and former chef, Tad Hilton. Made with Whyte Laydie gin, the drink features a house-made fir-tip/juniper syrup and cardamom bitters, which echo the cardamom in the distillery’s gin recipe. A snowy layer of egg-white tops the surface, sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg.
Montgomery Distillery has a booth at the Missoula’s Clark Fork River Market this year, selling its syrups and mixers as well as refreshing non-alcoholic drinks, such as orgeat lemonade. Meanwhile, Jenny and Tad are at work on the summer menu, creating new cocktails for the summer heat. The Cucumber Cooler has been a hit so far. “On slower days, we love to take time to show customers how to prepare their favorite drinks,” said Jenny, who gives cocktail talks and classes in Missoula. “Mixing cocktails with fresh flavors you have handy is a real pleasure, once you know the principles of making a good drink.”
For more information, visit www.montgomerydistillery.com.