Keeping the Supply Chain Local–Purple Prairie Barley Whisky

By Gail Nickel-Kailing, Published by Good Food World 5 October 2018

Like most good ideas, Gulch Distillers’ Purple Prairie Barley Whiskey started with a conversation and the question, “What if…?”

In late 2016, Tyrrell Hibbard (co-founder of Gulch Distillers) and I sat down to talk about the newly-renamed company. It had been called Triple Divide Spirits when Tyrrell and his partner Steffen Rasile bought it in 2015 and then re-branded it a year later.

The discussion wandered, as interesting discussions are wont to do, and we covered some of the fine details about making spirits. To distill spirits, you work with a biological process to make an appealing product and each ferment is different from the previous one and the next one.

These are “yeastie beasties” working in the vats and differences in environmental conditions, cultures, and grain batches are just a few of the variables in the equation. The distiller has to manage the delicate balance between living creatures and chemical processes that can challenge the skills of a distiller. It’s in managing that balance that the distiller truly demonstrates his/her craft.

Like good bread and good beer, good spirits come from carefully managed natural processes. And the very best fermented food and drink comes from skilled hands using ingredients from known and respected sources.

Grain-based products – like whiskey – can be made with any cereal grain including wheat, barley, rye, and “wheat relatives,” like spelt and emmer. All of which are grown in Montana. However, Gulch Distillers uses only Montana-grown grains in their grain-based spirits.

My next (logical) question to Tyrrell was, “How about making some whiskey out of purple barley?” And the only answer could be, “Sure, let’s see what happens!” Timeless Seeds, Ulm MT, has grown, processed, and marketed barley with deep purple bran and a dark kernel for more than 15 years. I’ve worked for the company for the last 5 years, so I had to ask (of course), “How about partnering with Timeless to make whiskey out of our Purple Prairie Barley®?”

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790 Front Street, Helena Montana