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Missoula's Serious Scotch Gals throw a killer party

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Saturday night, May 19, inside the Zombie Tools warehouse on Wyoming Street, Tara Maus and Jennifer Hurley are dressed in skimpy red and black clothing—like "sexy zombie warriors," Maus says—and they're standing behind a table with several bottles of Scotch lined up in a row. When no one's waiting for another pour, Maus pulls a 12-inch-long blade from the sheath hanging from her waist and admires its shape. "It will be mine," she says. "It will be mine."

On the other side of the table, the appreciation is for the Scotch that Maus and Hurley are serving. A couple dozen people sip some of the best they've ever had as they look around the warehouse, where Zombie Tools' handmade blades are on display, as is a lot of twisted artwork involving baby dolls, severed fingers and the bottom half of a female mannequin with a plastic duck bill protruding from the crotch.

This is the merging of one of Missoula's quirkiest institutions—Zombie Tools, which has made a legitimate, international business crafting "accessories for the apocalypse"—with the Serious Scotch Gals, a couple of connoisseurs who've made a hobby of spreading the gospel of single-malt Scotch whisky. They're calling this party "Swords & Scotch." Maus and Hurley are pouring eight kinds, most of which are smokey and peaty. One bottle, a Springbank aged 18 years, sells for more than $150.

Maus and Hurley acquired a fondness for Scotch a couple of years ago when the Rhino, a bar in downtown Missoula, hosted a tasting with distillers from Scotland. "We've always been whiskey girls," Maus says, "and obviously, after tasting some of the greatest Scotches that are out there, we were hooked and felt that everyone should understand that not all Scotch tastes like Band-Aids and smoke."

In February, the duo, both moms, began hosting monthly tastings at the Rhino. They also launched "50 Single Malts in 50 Days," a series of video reviews on their website, seriousscotchgals.com. "Our goal," Maus says, "was just to get people interested in single malt whisky—the idea that drinking shouldn't just be about getting completely obliterated."

As for their zombie warrior outfits, "It's not what we normally wear to our tastings," Maus says.

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