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.