The spotted bear is a cub no more.
Spotted Bear Spirits has expanded its distillery in Whitefish to a new manufacturing facility in Columbia Falls.
“It’s been a year-and-a-half-long process,” said Lauren Oscilowski, the managing partner of Spotted Bear Spirits, who calls herself an “Architect of Alchemy.” The Spotted Bear Spirits team celebrated the facility’s grand opening with the public on June 19.
The popular tasting room and distillery opened on Railway Street in Whitefish in 2015. But Oscilowski said she knew it would only be a few years before the operation would arrive at a place where it needed to expand.
“It happened that we got there earlier than expected,” she said.
The additional space allows Oscilowski and her employees—Bo Matson, the head distiller, and Jon Peckham, the tasting room manager—to meet their growing demand, expand out-of-state sales and add new beverages.
“We’re releasing our first batch of barrel-rested agave spirit next week,” Oscilowski said, adding that there is a lot of excitement about new additions like this one. But before opening the manufacturing facility, they didn’t have space for the barrels necessary for barrel-rested agave or the ever-popular whiskey.
The large new facility, which is currently only about half full, offers space for the Spotted Bear Spirits team to store barrels, pallets, bottles and vats, as well as operate large machinery. This additional space gives them the opportunity to diversify production and ramp up sales and distribution.
“It’s allowed us to streamline our systems more efficiently so we can scale up,” said Oscilowski. “We’re effectively quadrupling our output.”
The new facility is necessary for the local distillers’ plans for growth. They hope to start making bourbon and single-malt whiskey and scale up their existing clear spirits. They are currently active in the Minneapolis market, and are working on growing into markets in Chicago and Los Angeles.
This growth is important for the company’s impact on the local community. The increase in distilling, distribution and sales will create new jobs at Spotted Bear Spirits.
“Whether we sell in or outside Montana, the money comes back into the community,” Oscilowski said.
The community has been excited about the distillery’s expansion, she added. The grand opening party was well-attended, and she said people are excited for whiskey, barrel-rested agave and oaked spirits. She also said, “They’re excited, happy and proud to see us growing.”
Opening the manufacturing facility has been a learning process. Oscilowski has been distilling since 2011, when she started at Glacier Distilling in Coram. But she said she has learned a lot about the logistics and operations of the manufacturing process to go along with her extensive distilling experience. “It’s been super fun, but it’s been a big learning curve,” she said.
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at email@example.com or 758-4459.