Nic Lee has spirits down to a science. As a North Carolina native with an intuitive penchant for moonshine, it was only natural when the Glacier Distilling Co. founder repurposed his chemistry degree accordingly, swapping white lab coats for whiskey barrels in an equally meticulous endeavor.
Since the winter of 2010, Lee and team’s operation has been a fixture in the small community of Coram, Montana. With the western reaches of Glacier National Park at its backdoor, the distillery and Whiskey Barn tasting room serve up a seriously robust lineup of geographically inspired spirits. Many begin with pure Glacier water, and by the time a product makes its way to the glass, it’s bound to be either refreshingly straightforward or infused with any variation of hyper-local infusions — like Glacier County honey, Flathead Lake cherries, Washington State Bartlett pears or Gewürztraminer grapes, wild berries, or any other mixed-and-matched treat.
Though it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a new creation could be in the pipeline by the time you’re done rattling through the extensive offering list, highlights include several flagship whiskeys (rye, malt, bourbon, un-aged white… you name it), brandies, liqueurs, two renditions of Grappa, gin, vodka and a pear eau de vie.
Read on for some of the founder’s favorites and more production floor insights.
1) Which of your own current offerings are you digging the most?
This time of year I’m really into the fruit spirits. We have a 3-year-old apple brandy called Gold Miner, and that is my favorite substitute for a whiskey. Fall is also a great time to sip our pear eau de vie. It pairs perfectly with pies and fruit crisps.
2) Any distilling pipe dreams you’re dying to make a reality?
I’d love to see a time in which all types of alcohol are treated equally between beer, wine and spirit, and that the arcane rules and stigmas surrounding distilled spirits are revisited from a modern perspective. I’d like to think that we, as craft distillers, are able to educate and demystify distilled spirits so people can make a more informed decision on their responsible enjoyment of them.
3) What non-spirit beverage is in your glass most these days? What is your favorite way to enjoy it and where?
Gold Peak Tea in a plastic bottle on the production floor. Always unsweetened.
4) Favorite song, album or artist to jam out to while throwing a few down the hatch?
I’m a sucker for ’90s pop, but it’s partly because the modulated auto-tuning is crucial to accelerating the aging process in a barrel.
Four Questions is a bi-monthly call and response singing the praises of handmade beverages region-wide, disguised as a plainclothes Q&A series. We pose a fixed set of questions to a different producer twice each month with the intention of revealing an expression of personality as varied as the unique offerings they create.