The Missoula Spirit

Ryan Montgomery’s always been a fan of spirits. And he has grand plans for Missoula—plans that involve vodka, whisky, brandy and gin. At this point, simply sipping cocktails just isn’t enough.

Montgomery took possession of the keys to the Pipestone Mountaineering building on Front Street earlier this month, making it the official home of his Montgomery Distillery. The place needs some work, he says, and the still has to be shipped over from a custom manufacturer in Germany. But if everything goes forward without a hitch, Montgomery intends to start serving his first spirits—Quicksilver Vodka—sometime in April, under the same legal restrictions as microbreweries.

Montgomery and his wife, Jenny, first turned their minds to distilling spirits while living abroad. Montgomery works in emerging market finance, and the couple has traveled throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East over the years. But Montgomery’s mind always strayed back to Montana. When the time came to return home, he decided to meld a love of spirits with his family’s agriculture roots; Quicksilver will be made from Bitterroot wheat.

 “The idea just naturally came together, and Missoula seemed like the best place in Montana to do it,” Montgomery says. “It’s just a fun community to try weird shit in.”

Finding a location proved the major pain. Montgomery was eyeing the Firestone building on East Main last year. The deal fell through when the site proved “unworkable.” But the Firestone was a bit small anyway, Montgomery says. Now, with Pipestone, he has the opposite problem.

“For our tasting room, it’s too much space,” Montgomery says. “We can’t really conceive of having a 6,000-square-foot tasting room.” Montgomery says he intends to lease out part of the first floor.

He wants to flavor his spirits with regional ingredients like Flathead cherries and donate the still’s byproducts to a local company for use in non-petroleum-based cosmetics. He even has his eyes on national distribution. Eventually.

“Our goal isn’t to try to be in New York City bars and Los Angeles clubs right off the bat,” he says. “Our goal is to be embraced by Missoula and grow organically from there.”

The Independent – January 19, 2012