Montana’s distilled spirit industry continues to grow

Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 18, 2015

HELENA — From Triple Divide Vodka and Gin, to Montana Mountain Moonshine, to Orphan Girl, liquor is flowing in Big Sky Country.

Montana’s latest micro-distillery industry resulted from state legislation in 2005; tasting rooms came about two years later.

Now Montana has 16 distilleries, including Triple Divide Spirits in Helena.

Owner Karen Powell and her husband JP Crowley already owned a business before raising their glass to their new venture more than two years ago, making vodka and gin from Montana wheat with variations offered in their tasting room.

Karen noted, “We do a really great toasted oak vodka and toasted oak gin, and so those are soaked products that are a little bit more similar to a whiskey style.”

About 20 miles east off of Highway 12, in Winston, stands a historic storehouse, the inspiration for Montana’s newest micro distillery.

Owner John Grahlert and his wife Snehzi began their liquor making journey four years ago after being disappointed in alcohol offerings while on vacation.

Their new venture took them to John’s native Germany, to a monastery that makes brandy in Snehzi’s Bulgarian homeland, and to a distillery in Scotland.

After completing the regulatory steps, Storehouse opened for business in July.

What they’ve been doing so far is making white rum and moonshine, with rye and wheat whiskey and aged rum and possibly even Brandy on the horizon.

Triple Divide has ordered a third still that will greatly increase production and they too plan to one day offer rum.

When it comes to expansion, one of the state’s most ambitious distillers is John McKee who owns Headframe Spirits in Butte.

McKee said, “It’s the biggest distillery west of the Mississippi, is the best way to put it, and by the time it’s all said and done we’ll put another 50 to 75 people to work in Butte.”