Thankful for Spirits – Montana Whiskey and Vodka


The spirits of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos may be behind us, but there are some spirits that are never far away, and for that I am especially thankful. The local spirits to which I am referring are whiskey and vodka, and Montana is now home to three distilleries that are producing these fine alcohols.

Roughstock Montana Whiskey (Bozeman, MT)

The state’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, Roughstock Distillery is also Montana’s first and only production whiskey distillery in the state’s history. The whiskey produced is handcrafted from barley grown on Montana farms, malted in Great Falls, married with snowmelt-waters from the Bridger Mountain Range and distilled in a custom 250-gallon copper pot still built in Kentucky.

Fourth-generation Montanans and Roughstock Distillery owners, Bryan and Kari Schultz, are producing a smooth, aromatic and bright young whiskey that noses of vanilla and finishes clean. Truly a fine spirit from Big Sky Country!

Vigilante Vodka (Helena, MT)

One of Montana’s two distilleries producing vodka, Vigilante Vodka is the brainchild of Mike Uda. Originally intending to produce vodka using Montana grains and sugar, Uda could not find quantities small enough for his operation, so he has turned to using molasses from Ohio for the time being.

Vigilante Vodka is produced in small batches, which equals about six gallons of ethanol per batch that is diluted down to 80-proof (netting 15 gallons of vodka). As a “microdistillery,” Vigilante Vodka can serve a patron two ounces of liquor per day at its establishment and sell up to one liter of its product for off-site consumption. Recently, Vigilante Vodka was approved to produce Gin and expects to begin production and distribution soon.

Flathead Vodka (Whitefish, MT)

Montana’s other vodka is distilled in northwest Montana (in Rexford, specifically). Flathead Vodka launched in October 2009 and is produced from Montana sugar beets grown in Billings. It takes roughly 500 pounds of processed sugar beets to create just 30 bottles cases of 84-proof Flathead Vodka, and since it contains no grain products it is gluten-free, which is something founder, David Lehenky, appreciates.

Wanting to capitalize on the microdistillery’s unique geographic location, Lehenky is planning for a Flathead cherry infused vodka variety in the near future.

Where to Find Them in Missoula

You can purchase bottles of the locally-produced spirits at Grizzly Liquor at 110 W. Spruce St. and Krisco Liquor at 1300 S. Reserve Street. Several Missoula bars and restaurants also keep a fresh stock, so ask for them by name – just don’t drown them out with too much “frou-frou” juice.

And as always, drink responsibly!


Ryan Newhouse has lived in Missoula since 2002 and has tipped his glass in most of the town’s establishments. He is a full-time writer, husband and parent (in no particular order) and a part-time zymurgist. He makes a mean hard cider and pairs his cocktails with dishes from his blog, Cooked Animals: Recipes for Wild Game.