I love Whiskey. No doubt about it. So imagine my delight when, after 10 hours on the road driving from Seattle to Montana, I spotted the Glacier Distilling Co. on the way to our Glamp Site…and the sign outside that said ‘Stop by for a Whiskey Tasting.’ I filed it away for the time being and dreamed instead of the joy of finally not being stuck in the car. But, after a day of recovery and folly in Glacier National Park, a good night’s sleep, and a delicious (and large) breakfast at a local diner, it was high time to check out the whiskey barn.
When we walked in, the place was pretty empty (it was 2:00pm after all). There were a few guests and two bartenders who soon became our best buds. They promptly thrust tasting menus into our hands and started telling us about the distillery. I couldn’t help but notice how spectacular the distillery itself was. Big drums of whiskey and machines lined a separate tasting room and the bar had an interesting array of tasteful character.
A typical tasting at the distillery includes a flight of whiskey with four samples from their menu of close to 20 varieties of whiskey, vodka and gin distilled on site. With so many options, it was hard to choose, but the very detailed descriptions certainly made the task easier. I opted for the following:
1. Pear (82 Proof): 100% pure pear ‘eau du vie” made from Bartlett (Williams) pears from (their) neighbors in Washington. It takes 14 pounds of pears to make each bottle. The taste is strong but clean and leaves surprisingly strong pear finish. In warmer parts of the country and in the summer, it should be served slightly chilled.
My take: I like pears. I like whiskey. But….I absolutely did not like this. It was reminiscent of my days living in Poland where just about anything that could get you tipsy could pass as vodka regardless of how awful it tasted (or whether or not it was actually vodka). The taste was uninspiring, dry, and certainly lacked the “surprisingly strong pear finish.” The only thing surprising here was just how awful it was. In hindsight, I should have steered clear of well…clear whiskey. Nothing good usually comes of it.
2. Mulekick (80 Proof): An infusion of fresh jalapeños, garlic, and black peppercorn in Glacier Dew (locally distilled whiskey). A savory and spicy spirit that is perfect in a Bloody Mary or Caesar.
My take: The Mulekick caught my eye from the very beginning and it absolutely did not disappoint. I HIGHLY favor spicy libations and this is definitely a big and balanced whiskey that packs a punch but has some complexity in its layers. Two-thumbs up as it was definitely my favorite of the four.
3. Wheatfish (90 Proof): A malt whiskey based on the recipe for Great Northern Brewing Company’s Wheatfish Lager. Leads with a nose of honeysuckle and ripe pear from the malted wheat, layered with hints of butterscotch and vanilla. An overall lighter-bodied whiskey distilled in the Scotch tradition and aged in a used North Fork barrel.
My take: I was trying to diversify my flight and chose the Wheatfish since its description contended it was lighter-bodied and because it was derived from a local beer (another of my favorite things to try when traveling!). This ended of being my second favorite next to the Mulekick. It was quite smooth, had a nice finish, and I could really see myself pouring a finger or two to unwind after work.
4. Bad Rock (Cask Strength): Distilled from rye, rye malt, and corn. It is a deep, red-hued amber with a nose of salted caramel. The first taste is a bright spice that dances on the tongue leading to a burst of black pepper with hints of dried apricots, malt and black tea. Distilled for more complexity on the finish, this rye begs to be savored.
My take: The Bad Rock rounded out my flight and like everything but the pear, did not disappoint. The 50 Shades-ish product description aside, the thing that came to mind when describing Bad Rock was ‘the true essence of whiskey.’ It’s bold, spicy rye taste and oaky finish truly make this spirit stand out.
The flight contains four generous pours for a whopping $4! By the time we finished up our flights, the place was hopping and we weren’t quite ready to leave, so we cracked open the cocktail menu. That’s right, not only does Glacier Distilling have an awesome facility that offers whiskey samples, it’s also a full bar with a nice little seating area outside to soak up the sun and relax.
Like the whiskey menu, the cocktail menu was also full pretty interesting options. One of us opted for the Glacier Distilling take on the Bloody Mary while the other two opted initially for the Mulekick Margarita with ‘jalapeño-infused moonshine with blood orange puree and house made sweet & sour.’ DE-LI-CIOUS!
Traffic significantly picked up around 3:30 and cars started to flood the small gravel lot, everyone looking eager to wind down for the weekend. We decided to opt in for another drink and while my friends both repeated the Mulekick Margarita, I ventured out and tried the Kodiak: grappa shaken with iced coffee and house-made vanilla simple syrup. I enjoy a good coffee cocktail, but it was clear early on that this was no ordinary cocktail…this bad boy packed a punch that I was not prepared for. I eventually had to go back and ask for some more vanilla simple syrup and really struggled to finish it.
While we were getting our drinks, we met (read: were accosted by) a slightly inebriated local who was ‘stunned’ that Glacier Distilling made cocktails despite the fact that according to him, he had been coming there for years. We indulged his antics for a spell but things got weird when he not only asked my friend if he could taste her drink, but also asked if he could ‘lick her straw.’ Uhhhh? What? Lots of awkward turtles swam around the scene until his wife came over and he offered her a sip of my friend’s drink. Needless to say, his wife was mortified and shut the foolishness down pretty quickly.
After a healthy sampling of what Glacier Distilling had to offer and meeting some interesting characters, we closed out our tabs and then suddenly realized that they had wi-fi and we’d not bothered to take advantage of it the entire time we were there, despite having no service in the area. Grrrr….rookie mistakes. We hung around a few minutes to read up on some emails and headed out, happy as clams…and hungry again.
Overall, Glacier Distillery and their Whiskey Barn was a superb experience and I dare say a must-see if you ever find yourself in West Glacier. The atmosphere is conducive to the slow enjoyment of some fine spirits and the staff really shines and makes this place spectacular.
10237 HWY 2 East, Coram, MT 59913
Open Summer Months: 12:00-8:00PM
If you plan to visit in May, it’s best to call ahead!