Director of Stillworks Ryan Montgomery and Tasting Room Director Jenny Montgomery grew friendly in the early 21st century over many memorable single malts. Their consulting careers took them them throughout the Middle East and Africa before they determined to downshift, their infant son Heath having joined the show. In 2009, they began planning in earnest to establish a traditional, small-batch distillery in Missoula. In 2010, they traveled to Scotland. There, Ryan studied under Frank McHardy at Springbank Distillery, where centuries-old distilling techniques still endure. During visits to craft distilleries in the US, they sought out and worked alongside both master distillers and brilliant upstarts. Jenny obtained a certificate in herbal studies with Elaine Sheff of Green Path Herb School, which informed her choice of botanicals for Whyte Laydie gin and our tasting room cocktails. Today, the two aim to achieve a seamless blend of tradition and innovation at the distillery. Their passion is interpreting Old World spirits from around the globe using ingredients from the Montana landscape.
Sales Managers Chris and Tom Montgomery: Tenacious descendants of 19th century Montana homesteaders, Ryan’s parents enjoy life to the fullest and believe that if you work hard enough, you can do anything. Ostensibly retired, they are busier than the rest of us put together. Tom and Chris travel throughout Montana spreading the good word about our spirits and enjoy meeting folks wherever they go — though they already know most of them. Tom was District Director of the USDA Farm Services Agency for 31 years, getting to know farmers and ranchers and their stories all over the state – then coming home to work his own cows in the dark. Chris taught fourth grade in Lewistown for many years. If you are a former student, she will still call you “Sweetie” when she sees you.
Chad Larrabee, Head Distiller: Chad Larrabee, AKA Yukon Cornelius, has a large, transatlantic mustache. It often speaks without being spoken to, but never interrupts. The pride of Danville, Vermont, Chad traveled to Scotland at 15 with his mother to spread his grandmother’s ashes. One stop at Glenfiddich distillery and a great love of whisky was born. After a harrowing experience aboard an Atlantic fishing vessel, Chad decided to leave the open seas behind and head for the Rocky Mountains to look for gold in the form of a political science degree. (He promises he isn’t using it on us.) Following a short stint in a South African jail, he was inspired to found The Yukon Cornelius Subterranean Institute of Mechanical Innovation. There, the Yuke fashioned an array of scary looking instruments in his quest to master the black art of beverage production. In 2009, a botched thirty-gallon batch of Flathead cherry wine became the inspiration for his investigations in distilling. When not dancing solo in the stillroom, he can be found cheering wildly at the Augusta rodeo, jumping from a moving car onto the back of a running moose, cultivating his penicillin colony, and relaxing in a sarong in his leisure hours. Mr. Cornelius drinks mostly whisky, but is always on the lookout for a sublime spirit. He is mildly attracted to quicksand.
Christopher Conley, Distiller: Chris “Montucky Ninja” Conley emerged from the sticks of Aurora, Indiana with a a plastic skateboard under one arm and an enlightened glint in his half-lidded eyes. After moving to Ohio, where his father was employed by Seagrams, Chris fell in with a Breakfast Club-esque group of youths. Amongst them, he met his Irish soul match, Bridey. Shortly after gaining acceptance of his post-pubescent role in society, Chris had the opportunity to move to Oregon and took it. Realizing he had no idea about his role in society, he noticed it rained a lot in Portland and left. In 1996, he gave a friend a ride to Missoula and never found a reason to leave. Employed as a vintner for several years, Chris was happy to make the leap to distilling spirits, which he classifies as both science and magic. He can be found skateboarding around the stillroom murmuring koans. ”It is as it is…”
Tad Hilton, Tasting Room Manager and Head Bartender: Tad Hilton is a man of the law. He believe it exists for one reason: to be surveyed from all angles and shattered with one tap of his ice pick. Born in the Florida swamplands, Tad moved to NYC to attend Hunter College and serve as bottle saberer at the reputable ABC Kitchen. But all roads eventually lead west, so Tad has been wrench-deep in motorcycles and Montana mountainsides for the last fistful of years, where he spanks rosemary and macerates cherries at Montgomery Distillery. His classical culinary background reinforces his artist’s knack for fashioning life-changing cocktails. When the rye is finished aging, Tad plans to drink most of it – on the rocks. When not hiking, fishing, foraging, or rafting, Tad can be found drinking French rose around a campfire with a Desert Eagle strapped to his side.
Tara Maus, Mixmistress and Giving Captain: Tara Maus grew up chasing pterodactyls and velociraptors with her Waldorf classmates in the lush underbrush of the Hawaiian islands. After a collegiate stint in Portland, Tara decided to give loans and incessant rain the brush off and head east to find the true West: Montana. During the daytime she mothers two wonderful boys and runs our charitable giving program, but the night is deepest before the dawn and Tara loves her some fine Scotch. She often leads and hosts tastings with fellow Scotch Gal Jennifer Hurley, letting the peaty plumes waft forth over Missoula like liquid pearls. When she’s not flipping cocktails or hand-making our syrups, shrubs and liqueurs, she’s outside with a saucy novel or a presidential biography. Put a Boulevardier in front of her and she’ll be positively copacetic.
Kira Bassingthwaite, Bartender and Cocktailer: Kira was born in Iowa, but grew tired of the corn fields by the age of six months and encouraged her family to wander West and settle in Missoula. There, she filled her time running around Glacier, playing cello, and signing up for every sport a tomboy could hope for. One day, Kira dusted herself off and decamped for the Culinary Institute of America in New York. There, she completed a fancy degree, met Martha Stewart, and took a month-long wine course which triggered an important life interest — makin’ booze! While food filled her days, drink filled her nights. Kira found herself brewing impressive amounts of mead, cider and Kombucha in her basement. Soon, Montana called her back home, where she now brings her culinary genius to mixing cocktails. She loves our cocktail, The Dude Abides.
Whitney Bergum, Cocktailer and Barback: Before Whitney Bergum turned five, she picked wild snozberries and sniffed for moose prints in the Beartooth Mountains, a pastime we often see her returning to. Having spent the remainder of her wonder years in Great Falls re-enacting Lewis & Clark expeditions, most consider her to be more al fresco than al dente. It’s this infatuation with pioneering the unknown that led her to pursue and collect a degree in Ecology and Organismal Biology from the University of Montana. In essence, Whitney’s studies prepared her well for the subcellular mysteries of the cocktail trade. Ask her to slap some basil, crush some ginger, and voila, you’ve got a botanical sonnet and Montgomery classic: the Go Gingerly (her favorite cocktail). When she’s not muddling herbs she’s cuddling critters,as she’s also a full time veterinary technician. The girl doesn’t sleep, but with nursing school on the horizon, why bother?
Greta Garr, Bartender: G.G. is a native Missoulian, cocktailian, and part-time amphibian. She received her degree in media arts from the University of Montana while co-running one of Missoula’s hipp(i)est venues with her family. Thrice voted Missoula’s favorite bartender, we were thrilled when G.G. decided to illuminate the tasting room at Montgomery Distillery, where the charm now rides in her headband. In addition turning cartwheels, she can often be found adding to her 141 known ways to drink tequila. G.G. is a music lover and aspiring animal communicator (“Fluffy, do you read me?”). A certified yoga instructor, she hopes to open a tree-house studio where squirrels and humans can meditate as one. She is a lover of all things living (not exclusive of zombies) and is a true Georgia peach in a Montana town.
Christine Gill, Cocktailer and Barback: A nomad by nature, Christine Gill has resided in California, Portland, NYC, and the volcanic plains of Venus, though her roots lie in the South Side (Billings). Pursuing a degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Montana, she is interested in the varying ways humanoids can continually and progressively look like their feelings. It’s curious, considering Christine is an acro-yoga instructor and can often be found flying through the air in a twisty Lotus pose. Maybe labyrinthine is a new emotion, maybe she just likes throwing pretzels. When she straightens out, she’s a switch hitter for Montgomery, as she can tend bar, cook up kickin’ syrups, and carry a full tray above her head like it’s nothing but a hypnotized audience member. To unwind, Christine will slap Hamiltons on the bar and sip gin ‘til the moon goes blind. Then ask you how you’re feeling.
Evan Holmstrom, Cocktailer and Barback: After eighteen years of timidly peeking out onto the rest of the world, Evan Holmstrom migrated from Alaska to Missoula to wrangle a Bachelor’s Degree in Japanese. He subsequently taught English in Japan, where his unrivaled street fashion sense cut a still-smoking swathe through downtown Tokyo. He now leads groups on thrilling adventures, both in the Montana wilderness and in our stillroom, where he conducts our weekly bottling parties. Riding a lifelong appreciation of art as an undercurrent, Evan is an accomplished illustrator and muralist. Whether plastered to a rock face, bicycling in subzero temperatures, nursing a Dark and Stormy, or drawing profound meaning from comic books, Evan finds wonderment in the stardust kaleidoscope we call life. He is tantalized by the thought of another voyage to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Michael Lattanzio, Bartender: Hailing from the Constitution State, Mike Lattanzio marched to Missoula in 2005 with a huge crush on Phish. He puts family first, prefers to catch the food he eats, and develops a rainbow colored aura when boogying to his favorite band in the Gorge. Becoming fast friends with anyone who owns a river boat, Mike long ago decided he would rather pursue environmental studies experientially than academically. He led youth groups for the Montana Conservation Corps before pulling up to our bumper with a smile on his face and a few twigs in his sweater. He cleaned up nicely. A passionate scholar of cocktail history, Mike loves leading distillery tours and transmitting the arcana of spirits and mixed drinks to fascinated customers. He swoons for most any variation of the Negroni.
Jessie Lewis, Bartender and Cocktailer: Crosshatch Bear Grylls with a medieval metalsmith and you’ll find whistling in your palm the inimitable Jessica Lewis. Born in Hollywood, raised in Montana, she’s like Brad Pitt but can actually fly-fish. A proficient plane-jumper, Jess has touched down in New Orleans, Alaska, and Japan without a poke in her parachute. And that’s no metaphor; she uses her long, brown hair as paracord. A lover of aged, brown spirits, Jess can be found bouldering, backbending, or hammering gold into talismans while sipping bourbon, with or without the cube. So stop by, have her make you a necklace from a bullet shell, a martini from wormwood – it’ll hurt so good you won’t even feel your knees getting weak.
Philip Schaefer, Bartender: Philip Schaefer is a Midwest mongrel with a heart full of wild wheat. Bred and buttered in Missouri, he’s also lived in Nashville and Chicago, where he discovered bourbon, rye, and the art of sleeping in. After tending bar at Girl & the Goat, he (and his new bride, Natalie) decided to head west in pursuit of an MFA in poetry through the University of Montana. Lately he’s been writing about bionic rain and Elvis Presley. The king is not dead. Long days of hiking, disc golf, and poor attempts at fly fishing lead him to the deep, peptic waters of a Sazerac or Manhattan – stirred in spitfire, palmed with purpose. He has seen a bear.