Sipping Montana Moonshine at Whistling Andy.
This grain to glass distillery was founded with the aim of crafting small batch spirits that reflect the character of Montana.
Whistling Andy creates moonshine, whisky and gin with ingredients from local farmers at Bigfork, Montana; a town where glacial melt water cascades into the largest freshwater lake West of the Mississippi River.
While visiting Glacier National Park last year, we decided to visit their distillery to sample some moonshine. we were fortunate enough to get more than just a tasting, we were treated to a distillery tour and some of their custom cocktails.
VISITING THE WHISTLING ANDY DISTILLERY
The small building houses their entire operation and is dominated by a large copper still in the back.
The distillery uses corn, rye and wheat grown just mere miles away, and the tour-guide explained how they’re used to create Whistling Andy Straight Bourbon and Whistling Andy Harvest Select Whisky using age old recipes.
We then headed to the barrel-room where the spirits mature slowly in charred barrels rested on their sides. While most of these are virgin American white oak barrels, there are a few that have been used to age other spirits in the past like Port and Chardonnay.
The bar upfront is decorated with Western themed art and solid wood furnishings. The highlight is a huge slab of wood cut from a single tree that serves as the bar counter.
The friendly staff is also more than willing to let you sample some of their spirits (even before it’s bottled!) so you could decide on your favorite bottle to take home.
WHISTLING ANDY SPIRITS
Of course we took up their offer to “meet the perfect spirit” and had a sample of everything that was in stock that day!
Their Straight Bourbon and Harvest Select Whisky are excellent for sipping side by side and comparing their similarities and differences.
Whistling Andy Straight Bourbon; sweet corn notes are made more complex by notes of rye and fresh cut grass.
Harvest Select Whisky; compared to the bourbon, this whisky has more of a dried fruit sweetness with a finish dominated by pleasant oaky flavors of vanilla and caramel.
Both whiskies lend themselves well to the Old Fashioned Cocktail; in fact the Whisky West is just a variation of this drink with agave nectar instead of sugar.
It was no shock that I would find great craft distilled whiskey in Montana.
The surprise was the two uniquely flavorful gins; the smooth and vegetal Whistling Andy Cucumber Gin and the complexly curious Pink Peppercorn and Pear Gin.
Martini lovers have more than just gin to work with since their Hopschnop, distilled from a Blackfoot Brewing Company IPA actually creates the perfect Montana Moonshine Martini.
As a rum lover, I had mixed feelings about their Hibiscus Coconut Rum; on one hand I was really looking forward to a rum aged in the Rocky Mountains in barrels that previously held their whisky.
So I was a bit disappointed at the fact that their only rum offering was flavored;
But it was unique among flavored rums; there was no cloyingly sweet fake hibiscus flavor or “tropical-kitch” coconut sweetness.
Notes of fermented tropical fruit and toasted coconut had me thinking about how well this rum will work in a daiquiri or a Mai Tai.
All in all, the Whistling Andy Distillery has something for any responsible drinker, from the casual drinker who simply wants to enjoy a few cocktails after a day on the lake, or a whisky connoisseur who enjoys sampling the local tipple in every new city or town.
Check out their cocktail recipes to try out some of the drinks that we sampled.