Willie’s Distillery in Montana's Magic Town

Discover bootlegging, women’s rights and of course, whiskey.
Author:
Publish date:
Barrel house at Willie's Distillery

It’s a common misconception that distilling is a male-dominated industry. You might be surprised to learn that there are a lot of women making whiskey, bourbon, moonshine and other spirits today. Robin Blazer, president of Willie’s Distillery in Ennis, Mont., is one of those women.

“It’s just like farming,” says Blazer, who grew up on a wheat farm not far from Ennis. “Nobody cares if you’re a man or woman, as long as you get the job done well.”

In fact, the history of women making spirits in Montana goes back more than 100 years. During prohibition, women often dominated bootlegging because it was illegal for police to search them. Male bootleggers often sought out women to do business so they wouldn’t get searched, and many women opened their own operations. A woman was even behind the now iconic design of the Maker’s Mark wax-sealed bottles.

Yet, Montana’s women have also made history in another realm: politics. Women in Montana got the vote in 1914, five years before it became legal on a federal level. A Montana woman was also the first female in Congress in 1917.

Robin and Willie Blazer of Willie's Distillery

Robin and Willie Blazer

Blazer and her husband, Willie, opened Willie’s Distillery in Ennis in 2012. Today, their spirits can be found all over the West including Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. They’re also available for purchase and shipment online, but to really experience a drink made with Willie’s, you have to head to Ennis.

“You can’t put a finger on what makes Ennis so special,” muses Blazer. “This place is magical. You can’t understand it until you drive through it.”

Blazer is adamant that Willie’s wouldn’t have succeeded and grown the way it has in the last seven years without the Ennis community.

To experience the magic of Ennis, you’ll want to start at Willie’s Distillery. Time your visit to coincide with the annual pig roast that usually happens in June and which started as a thank-you to the community and has grown to more than 1,000 visitors each year. There’s a 5k, live music, and of course, whiskey. Schedule a distillery tour to see how the spirits are made and then head to the tasting room. There, your bartender will show you how to craft a simple cocktail out of spirits. Why go the extra mile? The staff at Willie’s focus on education and want customers to know how to mix their own drinks when they get home.

Beesting drink at Willie's Distillery

Bee Sting

Blazer suggests trying the Bee Sting, a concoction of their Montana Honey Moonshine and lemon San Pellegrino with a fruit garnish.

After an afternoon of tasting at Willie’s, the next morning is definitely going to call for a good breakfast. Head to Yesterday’s Soda Fountain in the Ennis Pharmacy building, 124 E Main St, and try the breakfast burrito. Don’t forget to order an old-fashioned soda.

To learn more about Willie’s Distillery, head to www.williesdistillery.com

Related

Headframe Spirits serves up whiskey, liqueur and gin at the tasting room in Butte, Montana. Courtesy photo

Headframe Spirits in Butte, Montana

A side trip on your Yellowstone vacation - head to the tasting room of an innovative distillery of whiskey, liqueur and gin in a historic mining town.

Downtown Ennis, Montana

Ennis is Montana’s Drinking Town With a Fishing Problem

Halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, this colorful town holds on to its western roots.

The tasting room at Bozeman Spirits.

Bozeman Spirits, Award-Winning Montana Distillery

Located in historic downtown Bozeman, the distillery produces whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum, distilled and bottled on site. Proud to support Montana farms.

Night sky in Medicine Rocks State Park in Southeast Montana

Go Big in Southeast Montana

Big skies and big culture meet in these authentic Montana cowboy towns on the way to Yellowstone

Bison graze at the Roosevelt Arch entrance to Yellowstone in Gardiner, Montana

Charming Lodging and Fun Tours by The Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone

Stay right near the park action at Yellowstone's North Entrance with an onsite restaurant, lounge, casino and tours from Yellowstone Vacations.

Virginia City, Montana. Photo by Donnie Sexton

Visit a Ghost Town in Montana, Wyoming or Idaho

Visit the Yellowstone Park area for quaint ghost towns with empty streets, weathered buildings, tumbling tumbleweeds and abandoned mines.

Lake Hotel Dining Room.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel's Majestic Dining Room

The dining hall falls nothing short of the Lake Yellowstone Hotel’s elegance with breathtaking views of the lake from your dining room table.

The Calvert Hotel in Lewistown, Montana

History and Modern Luxury Meet at the Calvert Hotel

Between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, stay at this historic hotel beautifully remodeled to retain the classic design of the past.

Dude ranch cowboys on a trail ride east of Yellowstone at Crossed Sabres Ranch

Share a Cowboy Tradition at a Dude Ranch

Experience cowboy life firsthand at a dude ranch. It's the original all-inclusive Western vacation.