Butte, Montana, once the Richest Hill on Earth, owes much of its storied past to the three Copper Kings, William A. Clark, Marcus Daly and F. Augustus Heinze. These industrial titans fiercely competed over copper, shaping our economic and social landscape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

William A. Clark: The Wealthiest Man of the Gilded Age

William Andrews Clark transitioned from gold to copper mining during Montana’s gold rush, amassing immense wealth through mining, banking and railroads. A powerful businessman and U.S. Senator, Clark’s influence extended far beyond Butte, even though his Columbia Gardens amusement park gave everyone a reason to stay. Towns like Clarkdale, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada are named after Clark and his mining efforts. Addicted to the finer things in life, he spent his last days in his New York mansion on Fifth Avenue.

Marcus Daly: The Irish Immigrant Who Built an Empire

Irish-born Marcus Daly became a key figure in Butte’s mining scene in the 1870s. Leading the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, Daly’s strategic acquisition and development of the Anaconda mine turned it into one of the world’s largest copper producers. Known for his investments in smelting facilities and improved working conditions for miners, Daly’s contributions significantly boosted Butte’s growth. Montana Tech, the local Butte college, has a statue of Marcus Daly at the entrance of their campus honoring his work that put people over profit.


Fritz Augustus Heinze, a young engineer from Brooklyn, was 19 when he arrived in Butte in the late 19th century. Heinze’s innovative mining techniques and aggressive legal strategies allowed him to compete effectively with Clark and Daly. His use of the Apex Law to claim ore bodies led to numerous high-stakes courtroom battles, highlighting his relentless pursuit of success. By 1906, he too was tired of the Butte battles and left for New York where he passed in 1914.

The Battle for Butte: Competition and Consequence

The rivalry between Clark, Daly and Heinze was intense and often ruthless, spurring technological advancements and economic growth that transformed Butte into a bustling metropolis. Their ambitions and battles put Butte on the map, making it a symbol of the transformative power of industry.

Butte’s Copper Kings paved the way for those who continue to push forward. Clark, Daly and Heinze all knew that it takes raw effort, hard work and a willingness to risk it all to be a Modern Maverick of their time.

We take extra care with our Copper King Whiskey Collection, with every special barrel finish proving that it isn’t how you start, but how you finish. Hand-crafted in honor of history, Butte Mavericks get shit done.

Headframe Spirits, a distillery located in Butte, has been honored as the 2024 Montana American Single Malt Distillery of the Year. This accolade recognizes Headframe’s outstanding contributions to the American Single Malt Whiskey industry and its commitment to excellence.

“When you think of single malt whiskeys you probably think of Scotch or Japanese single malt whiskeys,” notes John McKee, owner and founder of Headframe Spirits. “Headframe would like to introduce you to American single malt whiskeys with the Kelley American Single Malt Whiskey.”

This announcement is confirmed as Headframe’s Kelley American Single Malt Distiller’s Select whiskey also received gold marks during this year’s spirits competition, scoring 95 points. 

“It’s an honor to receive a gold for our Kelley Distiller’s Select,” said Blake Mueller, head distiller at Headframe Spirits. “Each Distiller’s Select barrel is hand-picked by the distilling team and sold exclusively in our Tasting Room. Not just with our tastes in mind, but with attention to the differing pallets of everyone that comes to Headframe.”

The awards, bestowed by the New York International Spirits Competition, highlight Headframe’s innovative spirit, superior production techniques and the unique flavors that distinguish its American Single Malt Whiskey. 

With over +1400 spirit entries from 39 countries and 38 states across the US, Headframe notes it’s rewarding to see their spirits stack up against some nationally recognized distilleries – especially because whiskey production is a waiting game.

“We opened this distillery to make an American Single Malt,” said McKee. “At the time, 12 years ago, no one was doing this. As the largest American Single Malt distillery west of the Mississippi, Headframe is so proud to have won this award and we can’t wait for you to experience our American Single Malt whiskeys for yourself – both in the Kelley American Single Malt and a new release set for later this month.”

In celebration of this milestone, Headframe will release a new American Single Malt – the Copper King. Aged for 5 years, finished in Cognac barrels and crafted in honor of Modern Mavericks, the Copper King will be released during a special event at Headframe on Thursday, June 27th. The event will feature a tasting of their award-winning American Single Malt Whiskeys plus the first taste of Headframe’s new Copper King American Single Malt they are adding to their spirits profile. 

“Barrel finishes are always fun, they give us a playground to experiment with different flavors and create fun relationships with other people doing interesting work,” said Mueller. “It also helps keep the creativity and passion at the front and center of our efforts by giving us something unique we can share with the world.”

Headframe Spirits has quickly established itself as a leader in the American Single Malt category. In 2016, Headframe Spirits joined 8 other distilleries to found the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission to address the growing need for an elevated American-based product protected by federal category classification. 

An American Single Malt is classified as 100% malted barley, distilled entirely in one distillery and mashed, distilled and matured entirely in the US. Headframe noted their success lies in the unwavering commitment to using Montana-sourced products from start to finish. By partnering with Montana farmers and a neighboring malt facility, the distillery ensures that the grains used in their spirits are of the highest quality and sustainably grown. Every spirit Headframe creates not only supports the local agricultural community but also guarantees a unique and authentic flavor profile that is true to Montana.

The tough winters of Butte craft tough people. Parents and grandparents recount walking, “both ways uphill in the snow,” to children. A reality of the Richest Hill on Earth rather than an exaggeration.

It takes tough people to handle what, on the surface is considered, harsh weather conditions. But in Butte, we know and love this seasonal comfort.

We love it because of what the snow creates. Cozy evenings, crackling fires and warm memories for years to come made under the blanket of snow that holds our Community close.

During the heart of winter, a quiet transformation takes place overnight. A yearly renewal of our mining city.

Rooftops become sugar-coated dreams and the ground a blank, shimmering canvas of endless possibilities. Clashes of light, white flakes sleep on the hard, steel headframes dotting the landscape.

People drift through the streets with steaming beverages in hand during Butte’s annual Christmas Stroll. Neighborhoods acquire the faint smells of burning firewood as chimneys puff to life. Snowmen and women start to line the streets as new memories are hand-crafted with those we love.

Yet, the beauty of snow lies not in its physical form but in its short lifespan. It cannot be captured or contained; it must be savored in the moment.

At Headframe, we cannot capture snow in a bottle, but we can bottle the feeling that winter brings. Swirling, shimmering warmth found in our Montana snow is encapsulated in our Snowdrift Seasonal Sweet Cream Liqueur.

Much like the snow that melts in the spring, our Snowdrift Sweet Cream Liqueur is ephemeral.

I love the legislative process in Montana. For 90 days every other year, representatives of Montana—rural and urban, native and non-native, young and old, all genders, all backgrounds, all career histories—come together to write and revise laws for all Montanans. I don’t always love the outcomes of the work, but I do love the very democratic process.

Headframe has participated in the legislative process since 2011, before our distillery was open, because John was out of work and had time to lobby on behalf of the Montana distiller’s shared interests. At that time there were only a small handful of distillers in Montana and it was easy to build an agenda and go after it. Time has passed and that process has changed quite a bit. It’s gotten much harder in some sessions but this last session was fantastic. And while distilleries, and opinions, in Montana continue to evolve, we all share the ability to come together around shared goals. 

Some back story: when Headframe opened our Tasting Room in 2012, we believed we were beholden to the same operating hours as breweries which can serve until 8pm and allow people to consume what they’ve been served until 9pm. After a couple years in operation, we learned we were mistaken about the parity in hours. The distiller’s laws were written in a different section of the code and the associated rules were interpreted differently. All of a sudden, we needed to stop serving early enough to kick our customers out of the Tasting Room by 8pm. It wasn’t a feel-good experience, but laws and rules are written for a reason and I’m a big believer that (most) laws should be followed and if we don’t like them, we should work to change them.

SB 209, a bill introduced and passed this last session, gives distilleries the consumptive hour we thought we’d had all along. Now, customers are allowed to be served until 8pm and enjoy their cocktails in the Tasting Room until 9pm. And, as an added bonus, the bill also increased daily bottle sales from 2 bottles to 6 bottles (more specifically, from 1.75 liters to 4.5 liters per person per day). Senator Greg Hertz from Polson sponsored the bill and Governor Gianforte signed it last week. The Montana Distiller’s Guild and our lobbyist Jen Hensley were instrumental in getting this bill introduced and keeping it alive despite challenges. 

12 years ago, it was enough for some scrappy distillers to show up and work on behalf of bills we wanted but time has passed and the landscape changed. Now, showing up with some savvy and some expertise is beneficial. It’s great to have a lobbyist who understands our business and our interests and knows how the process works well enough to navigate the politics on our behalf. It’s also great to have a woman represent our industry in a way that speaks to our shared industry values of job creation, value-added agriculture and economic impact.

Being able to serve until 8pm is wonderful. Being able to sell 6 bottles will be great for tourists and for special release products. And these rules aren’t beneficial only for Headframe but for all distilleries, their customers and communities.

So here’s to a success at the 2023 Montana Legislature. While we may not love all of the change that’s come out of this session, it’s pretty great to celebrate this bipartisan win and the people who came together to get us here.

In 2023, Headframe will save over 1.4 million gallons of water and we’ll do it without sacrificing product quality. To put that into perspective, that’s over 2 olympic size pools, 5,600 hot tubs or 18,000 bath tubs.

Every day, Headframe looks for innovative ways to increase our sustainability and we’re proud to say we’ve found a big one, thanks to our T85 Production Team Manager, Greg Barnett.

But wait, there’s more!

Less water means less energy required to heat the water.

We get our water from the fresh Montana snowmelt and are proud to use it to make our award winning spirits – and we never want to take more than we need.

The water is not ours, it belongs to all the inhabitants of our ecosystem. Headframe is one small part of a giant ecosystem dependent on Earth’s most precious resource. 

We work intentionally to be good stewards of our Community with a commitment to always be evolving in alignment with the United Nation’s Sustainable Water Goals.

Thank you for supporting our work.

A Limited Release Exclusively for Town Pump Liquor Stores

Headframe is excited to announce the Kelley Distiller’s Select American Single Malt Whiskey.  This product is a 6 barrel, single barrel release of some of Headframe’s favorite expressions of Kelley and can only be found only at Town Pump’s package stores across Montana. 

What does Six Barrel, Single Barrel mean?  

Traditionally, when whiskey producers, including Headframe, package whiskey, we’re selecting a number of barrels, blending them together, proofing them down to packaging proof – usually something between 80-90 proof – then bottling them. 

In a Single Barrel program, each barrel selected is proofed and bottled individually. This allows the characteristics of each barrel to come through directly into each glass of whiskey. It’s an exciting way to share the range of a product, highlighting the unique characteristics each barrel can impart. The six barrels in this Distiller’s Select offering showcase the range of sensory experiences possible inside a single product.

Town Pump has been doing a great job bringing unique single barrel expressions of nationwide whiskey brands to their customers and Headframe is proud to be the first Montana distillery to participate.  

“Two of Headframe’s core values are Community and Giving Back,” said Co-owner and Co-founder of Headframe, Courtney McKee. “We’re proud to work with Town Pump, another great Montana company that exemplifies these values.”

The Kelley Distiller’s Select is crafted from 100% Montana malted barley and, depending on the barrel, is aged in either new oak barrels or used Neversweat Straight Bourbon Whiskey barrels. 

“The Kelley American Single Malt Whiskey is the whiskey we built Headframe to produce,” explained McKee. “This was an exciting project, selecting six standout barrels of Kelley to share individually. The character varies so interestingly from barrel to barrel and we’re excited to share these with Montana’s whiskey connoisseurs.”

Each barrel was tasted, hand selected, proofed and bottled by our head distiller. 

“Starting at 8.30 in the morning with 44 barrels in front of you can feel daunting. By early afternoon, though, you’re feeling a lot better about the task, that’s for sure,” Headframe head distiller, Blake Mueller noted. “Sampling can surprise you. The expectation that barrels will taste like they smell isn’t always true. I wanted to showcase how different the barrels can be and the different flavors you can get. We always think whiskey is whiskey but in truth, the barrel has such an impact and I was excited to share the variety of flavors that come from individual barrels.”

These whiskies are as unique as the barrels they matured in. We are excited to highlight the individual characteristics of each barrel, knowing that once they are gone, those flavors will never be reproduced again. 


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