Montgomery Distillery co-owner Ryan Montgomery figured he had the perfect birthday gift idea for distiller Chad Larrabee this summer: a distiller’s bung mallet made specially by a Los Angeles-based wood shop. Now that mallet is being marketed by none other than Nick Offerman, the mustachioed comedian who plays Ron Swanson on NBC’s hit series “Parks and Recreation” and who also happens to own the Offerman Woodshop—the very outfit Montgomery commissioned.
“We’ve always teased Chad that he resembles Ron Swanson in many ways,” Montgomery says. “He’s about the manliest man we know. On the weekends he’s always off hiking or chopping wood in the mountains or rescuing animals from trees or something. And he had a mustache for a long time too.”
It’s a strange twist for Missoula’s year-old distillery. What started as a gift is now officially billed online as the Offerman Bung Mallet, “the perfect companion for all manly folk, male and female.” The wood shop is selling them for $125 each. Montgomery isn’t sure how many Offerman’s shop will actually move. But he says Larrabee’s made good use of the original so far.
“We had actually just barreled whiskey that week,” Montgomery says, “and we’d said something about having a cool bung mallet to finish off the whiskey and put it to sleep for a number of years.”
Montgomery adds the deal with Offerman Wood Shop came with a Swanson-esque stipulation: Send along some whiskey, once it’s aged.
Random celebrity ties aside, Montgomery Distillery has been preparing to roll out several new spirits this fall. Among them is a beer schnapps made from distilled Big Sky Belgian Pale Ale. Bigfork’s Whistling Andy became the first Montana distillery to produce a beer liqueur with its Hopschnop, made from distilled Blackfoot IPA. Montgomery decided to age its own Big Sky concoction in a used bourbon barrel purchased from the brewery.
“So it’s kind of a mix of the original bourbon, the imperial stout, the barley wine,” Montgomery says, “and then there’s this strong flavor of the Belgian Pale Ale.”
The distillery hoped to release the schnapps to coincide with the Montana Brewers Fall Festival in late September, but is still awaiting labeling approval from the federal government. In the meantime, Montgomery says he’s in preliminary talks with Draught Works to produce a similar liqueur using one of its brews.