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Helena’s distillery is getting noticed on the national scale for its product and process. Last week, Gulch Distillers earned national recognition by winning a silver medal in the American Distilling Institute’s (ADI) Judging of Craft Spirits competition. ADI is the oldest and largest organization of small-batch, independently owned distilleries in the US with a mission to promote and defend the art and enterprise of craft distilling. This year marks the 11th annual Judging of Craft Spirits, making the event one of the longest running, largest, and most respected spirits competitions in the United States.
Gulch Distillers won the coveted recognition with their newest product, Burrone Fernet, a semi-bitter, herbal liqueur inspired by classic Italian bitters. “We are proud to win recognition for an obscure spirit—by Montana standards,” said co-owner Steffen Rasile, “although the spirit has a long and worldly history.” The digestif is Italian by origin and the national spirit of Argentina. Distilled from a base of Montana grains, Burrone Fernet incorporates a unique blend of herbs and spices including chamomile, myrrh, rhubarb, saffron, and mint.
“We found an old recipe–one of the original Fernet recipes–and worked with it through countless iterations to develop Burrone,” said co-owner Tyrrell Hibbard. “We were able to build off of that original recipe and create a bright, cool liqueur with a long, lingering finish.”
The judges noticed. Tasting notes from the competition remarked on Burrone’s long and bitter finish, its balance, and its big, spicy, assertive character. ADI’s judging panel is made up of distillers, journalists, bar owners, bartenders, retailer, wholesalers, distributors, and importers—a panel that draws from different disciplines to allow a fuller perspective of each spirit under consideration.
“Developing and producing a Fernet was a real risk for us, considering how little known the spirit is around here,” said Hibbard. “It’s a real niche product, so this award is very encouraging.”
The award-winning Fernet takes its name, Burrone, from the Italian word for “gulch,” linking the style’s origin with its place of production. With its base of Montana grains and incorporation of locally grown herbs, Burrone lives up to its name as a Western expression of a European classic.
Gulch Distillers is a grain-to-glass microdistillery located at 790 Front Street. They also produce Guardian Gin, Triple Divide Vodka, and Flintlock Spiced Rum.
There’s a hidden gem, tucked away in the side streets of Helena. No, it isn’t an undiscovered gold mine, but it’s close. Gulch Distillers is one of the most fascinating businesses I’ve visited here in Helena.
Starting its life as Triple Divide Spirits in 2012, the distillery was purchased in 2015, and rebranded as the Gulch Distillers in 2016. Distillers Steffen Rasile and Tyrrell Hibbard pursued their dream of distilling in college, and even studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland.
What happens when two friends start dreaming about opening a distillery and making whisky in central Montana? Mix in shared childhood memories, inherited Helena red hair, and a love for single malt whisky, and you get Gulch Distillers.
Helena’s micro-distillery has unveiled a new name and a unique new spirit.
“We’re pleased to debut our new name and new brand, Gulch Distillers,” said Steffen Rasile, one of the partners of Gulch Distillers, formerly Triple Divide Spirits. “This brand reflects our passion for Montana history and the Helena community.”
The new name acknowledges the tradition of spirits manufacturing in Last Chance Gulch. “We are proudly located in the former Montana Distillery and Bottling Warehouse,” said Rasile. Tyrrell Hibbard, partner, continued, “We renamed to Gulch Distillers to better reflect the rich history of agriculture and industry in Montana’s landscape, and the distillery’s place within the community.”
Gulch Distillers uses only Montana-grown grains in their grain-based spirits. “We are committed to this place,” said Rasile. “Since the beginning our aim has been to produce quality Montana spirits from Montana grains.” Each Wednesday the distillery hosts a “Community Cocktails” night to benefit a different local organization. “It’s been a great program for us,” said Hibbard. “It allows us to work with dozens of great organizations in this community and build awareness for all the important work being done here.”
The new brand also features Helena’s firetower on their “Guardian Gin” label, firmly rooting the new brand to Helena.
Along with the new name the distilling duo has released a new spirit, Burrone Fernet, a semi-bitter, herbal liqueur inspired by classic Italian amari. “Not many Montanans are familiar with Fernet,” said Rasile, “though the spirit has a long and worldly history.” The digestif is Italian by origin and the national spirit of Argentina. Distilled from a base of Montana grains, Burrone Fernet incorporates a unique blend of herbs and spices including chamomile, myrrh, rhubarb, saffron, and mint.
“We found an old recipe–one of the original Fernet recipes–and worked with it through countless iterations to develop Burrone,” said Hibbard. “We were able to build off of that original recipe and create a bright, cool liqueur with a long, lingering finish.”
To celebrate their new name and new spirit, Gulch Distillers invites spirit enthusiasts to a “Brand Re-Opening” party on Tuesday, November 15 from 4-8pm. Enjoy discounted cocktails, giveaways, and special refreshments.
Gulch Distillers is a microdistillery, located at 790 Front Street. Originally named Triple Divide Spirits, Steffen Rasile and Tyrrell Hibbard purchased the distillery in 2015. Their handcrafted spirits include Triple Divide Vodka, Guardian Gin, Flintlock Spiced Rum, and Burrone Fernet. The distillery tasting room is open Monday-Friday from 4pm-8pm and Saturday from 2pm-8pm.