The American Craft Spirits Association poured on the awards for local distillery Trailhead Spirits this Wednesday at its third annual convention and trade show in Chicago.
The Billings spirit-maker and tasting room nabbed a gold medal for its Healy’s Gin and bronze medals for its Healy’s Reserve Gin and Great North Vodka in the competition, which had 450 entrants.
The biggest honor of the night came when Healy's Gin won a "best in category" award for the contemporary gin category.
"A gold medal that also takes best in category, that just puts us on top of the world," Joseph Henan, the distiller at Trailhead Spirits said.
The Best In Show award went to Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Distilling for Maggie's Farm Single-Barrel Rum.
Healy’s Gin takes its name from Mike Healy, a prohibition-era bootlegger in Butte and the great-grandfather of Casey McGowan, who owns Trailhead Spirits with his wife, Steffanie McGowan.
Contemporary gin usually has less juniper than classic gins, McGowan said, which subdues the traditional "piney" flavor and allows the flavor of other botanicals in the gin to come through. McGowan said Healy's, an 86 proof gin, has 14 different botanicals, including four found in Montana. Additionally, the gin is made from wheat grown on Healy's family wheat farm in Highwood.
McGowan said when he got the news by text that the gin had won he was drinking a glass of wine. He promptly switched over to a Healy's Gin martini. "Then I had a glass of Scotch and then I called it a night," McGowan said.
In the three years since Trailhead Spirits released its Healy's Gin, McGowan said the liquor has won bronze, then silver and now gold awards.