Montgomery Distillery Making Headway in Missoula

By RYAN NEWHOUSE

If all goes as planned, the Montgomery Distillery will begin construction next month to turn the 1920’s car dealership (formerly the Firestone tire building) on the corner of Pattee and Main the first micro-distillery in Missoula. Construction will continue through the fall, hopefully allowing the distillery to open its doors before the holidays. The forces at work behind this new and tasty venture are Ryan and Jenny Montgomery, who have brought their passion, precision, and family to our Garden City.

Ryan was born just south of Missoula in Florence but spent most of his life in Lewistown, where his family still farms. Both Ryan and Jenny have traveled the world, but when their son, Heath, was born just over two years ago, they decided it was time to settle.

Opening a distillery wasn’t a decision drawn from a hat. It was hatched over the course of years of appreciating and imbibing some of the finer spirits the world has to offer, such as Scotch whisky.

In 2010, Ryan studied the art of distilling in Spokane before touring and continuing his studies in Scotland last winter. There at Springbank Distillery, on the Kintyre peninsula, Ryan was immersed in every step of the Scotch-making process in a distillery that opened its doors back in 1828. In fact, the Springbank Distillery is one of only two distilleries in Scotland that performs every step of the whisky-making process, from floor malting the barley to bottling its spirit.

Ryan intends to use this age-old knowledge at Montgomery Distillery, but with a dedication to what already Montana has to offer, which is great water and ample agriculture.

While producing whiskies takes years and producing good Scotch takes at least a decade, Ryan will start out with two spirits that are ready as soon as they are distilled – vodka and gin. These two clear high-alcohol spirits will be available for purchase on-site for off-site consumption (two bottle limit per person per day), as well as in liquor stores around the state.

Samples will also be available, limited to 2 oz. per person per day. With their state-of-the-art 450-liter copper still (currently being built in Germany), Montgomery Distillery will be able to produce up to 3,000 cases of spirits every year.

All of the grains used at Montgomery Distillery, at least for its vodka and gin, will be Montana-grown, and most of the botanicals used in its forthcoming Whyte Laydie Gin, such as juniper, will also be from local sources. The story behind Montgomery’s Whyte Laydie Gin can be found on the company’s Facebook page.

Ryan tells me that he favors the beauty of a small-scale production, as it allows him to experiment with a wider range of ingredients and techniques. So the possibility of spirits like un-aged rye whiskey, moonshine (aka. white lightening) and other unique concoctions are definitely in the realm of Montgomery’s future.

When asked what spirit ultimately tipped him over into the world of distilling (pun half-intended), Ryan’s reply was Scotch, but not just any Scotch; we’re talking about smoky, peaty, seaside Scotch that “tasted like a campfire,” says Montgomery. That, coupled with the fact that there is a clear resurgence in the U.S. for classic cocktails and fine mixed drinks.

Ryan’s own favorite cocktail, and one he turned me onto, is a 1920’s classic called “Blood and Sand” (recipe below), named after the movie starring Rita Hayworth and Rudolph Valentino which is made with Scotch (here’s where the purist Scotch drinkers collectively gasp).

So keep a close eye on the corner of Pattee and Main. There is much anticipation for the opening of Missoula’s first micro-distillery. Until then, however, drop by the Montgomery Distillery Facebook page and let them know you’re raising a glass to their forthcoming success.

Blood and Sand

1 ½ oz Scotch (Islay scotches highly recommended, such as Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Lagavulin)
¾ oz Cherry Heering
¾ oz sweet vermouth
¾ oz fresh-squeezed blood-orange juice (can substitute navel oranges when blood oranges are not available)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel or cherry (or both).

Like this Drink It blog?  Chances are you’ll like these blogs by Missoula’s Drink It expert, Ryan Newhouse:  Flathead Lake Brewing Company – Beer Pairing,  Tamarack Brewing Company, Montana Whiskey and Vodka.  And check out our Missoula Restaurants and Dining and Missoula Nightlife sections.

Click here to see Ryan’s “Drink It”archive.

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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 WildGame.