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.

You can save the world! Actually, we all can, together. Each of our small actions add up to a big impact. Earth Day is Saturday, April 22 and we’ve put together a list of attainable changes you can make for a positive impact.

1. Biking to work or walking around town

The beauty of our landscape is that there is so much to see. Yet, we often zoom by too fast to notice. Biking to work or parking and walking around town is not only energy efficient, but good for our physical and mental health. Why not park your car and walk around while you run your errands rather than driving shop to shop? Or enjoy an afternoon walk on a trail like these ones here in Butte. You might see something you’d have otherwise missed.


If you drive to work, stop for your errands on your way home instead of heading back out. Making fewer trips may require a bit more planning but in the long run it saves on fuel, reducing CO2 and saving a little extra in your piggy bank.


If you find yourself buying more than you eat, see what you can donate. We have local food pantries here in Butte that benefit from non perishables and the local food bank who accepts donations of all kinds. Americans throw away 133 billion pounds of food each year – that’s 40% of our food supply. 


Leftovers from a restaurant make awesome lunches or snacks. Have ’em boxed up, and ask for biodegradable packaging instead of plastic.


Did you know that at Headframe we give you a discount for bringing your own cocktail cup when you want a cocktail to go? In fact, many coffee shops and restaurants are happy to fill your personal mug or water bottle at less than normal price for doing your part to help the environment.


I know, I know you probably hear this one all the time but it’s true! Americans toss out 2.5 million plastic bottles EVERY HOUR! This can easily be avoided by being mindful of what and how much you are throwing away. Plus, not to boast, but Silver Bow County provides some of the best drinking water in Montana. 


When picking out things like apples, bananas or other fruits and vegetables, don’t worry about putting them into those little plastic bags. This just creates more work for you and more plastic waste. And if the bag is important, you can bring your own produce bags. Reuse the ones you get from the store or dedicate some of your own for produce.


Food that is produced locally means a shorter trip to the store generating less CO2 emissions compared to a long-distance truck, boat or plane. Many things like raspberries and strawberries grow great in Montana, so if you want you can even try growing them yourself and really reduce the CO2 emissions. And you can check out the good work of your local farmers’ market for a great source of locally sourced fruits, veggies and meats.


Fruits and vegetables hold really well in the freezer. In fact, they are good for up to a year and a half if you freeze your produce at the peak of freshness. And those brown bananas in the kitchen? Hello homemade banana bread!


Here in Montana, we know how to have each other’s backs. Why not borrow a tool from a neighbor before running out to buy a new one? Or check out one of our great thrift stores, yard sales or online used marketplaces. You’ll meet new people and be able to cherish those new relationships grown from old things. 

11. Ditch single use plastic

Eight states have banned single use plastic bags. They’re damaging to our environment, taking 1000 years to break down into chemicals which continue to create hazards. By keeping reusable bags in your car, you don’t have to worry about forgetting them when you head to the store. Headframe’s Reusable Bags can hold four half gallons of milk and are almost impossible to overfill. They pack away nice and small plus, they’re made from 100% post-consumer recycled content fabric.

Reusable bags or containers for lunches and snacks keep more plastic out of our landfills.

Try to set goals for yourself every week that you can stick to. Maybe keep that reusable bag in your car, or connect with your local farmers to learn about what produce they grow. There are so many ways you can help the Earth while helping, and supporting, your neighbors. We’ve only got one planet and we’ve all got to do our part. 

On Saturday December 10, 2022 I got to give the Commencement speech at Montana Tech. I put a lot of love and effort into speaking and this one meant a lot in many ways. I framed the talk around one of my favorite quotes, by Gary Snyder, “Find your place on the planet, dig in and take responsibility from there.” In many ways I’ve built my life—and we’ve built our business—around this quote.

For me, public speaking is always an opportunity to dig in and practice one of my core values: Courage. Not just to talk about what it means to be courageous, but to practice it, real time. And not just practice it by simply reciting words in front of a group, but by using a talk to be vulnerable. To be honest.

I grew up thinking that badass, amazing people must have been born that way—that they were lucky. I’ve learned instead that badasses are made by our actions and our words. It’s a choice and it takes effort to live our values. I want to always model courage which I think is one of the most badass skills we can bring to the world.

I also love to share the things I don’t think we hear enough of in our lives: that success means being more like ourselves, not more like everyone else. That money isn’t Purpose and that a life full of Purpose will be a life well lived. That we’re capable of more than we could possibly imagine in this moment. I meant these things as I shared them with the students and I mean them for you, right now, in this moment, too.

I’ve made mistakes, I’ve failed at things. That isn’t what defines me. My Values and my sense of Purpose are what defines me. The way I use those things to dig in, to take responsibility, to take action, that’s what defines me. That’s true for each of us, I believe.

I’m honored that Butte, America is my place. That Montana is my place.

I’m also honored that a kid who didn’t graduate high school got to be the Montana Tech commencement speaker. No joke, that was the first time in my life I ever put on a cap and gown.

I wish each of us a clear sense of purpose and the knowledge that we have the power to dig in and take responsibility, whatever that means to us.

To our Grads and to the rest of us, let’s all go forth and be our rad-ass best.

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. 


“We’re here to celebrate 10 years in operation and 10 years is a Big Damn Deal. But that success doesn’t belong just to Headframe or just to me and John, it belongs to Butte. It belongs to all of us.

You likely already know what we do, but in case you don’t, in the last 10 years, Headframe has opened and operated a distillery where we make our own spirits, run a Tasting Room, where we welcome the public and the community to share what we do and connect with one another. We also built a Manufacturing division where we build stills, which we sell to clients all over the world. Many of our clients are small businesses like us, looking to add value to their own communities and we are proud to serve them. We also do contract distilling work, which enabled us to open the largest Single Malt Whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi, utilizing 18,000 pounds of Montana grain daily. 

When we started Headframe, we never imagined what it would be today. 

John was raised here and we love living here. In 2010, John lost his job building biodiesel refineries–essentially big biodiesel distilleries–around the midwest. We were living here, raising our kids here and John was traveling a lot for work. When he lost his job, we had to either leave to chase biodiesel jobs or stay and find something new for John to do. John knew distillation.  He loved a good cocktail. And we both loved Butte. So we stayed and used what he knew to create Butte’s first ever legal distillery. (I say legal because we all know there’s been plenty of booze made without a license in Butte’s past–and probably also her present).

Butte’s always been great at telling the stories of her past. I realized in 2010 as we were getting started, that Butte was in fact so good at telling the stories of her past that we weren’t telling the stories of our present or our future. We were so focused on what we had been, we forgot to keep writing the stories of what we would become as a community.

We built Headframe with respect for the past and an eye to the future.

Part of that means putting our community, and the people in it, first.

And we’ve seen our community step up for the last 10 years – helping us write a story of Butte’s present that we are proud of. Even now, we are seeing places on every side of Headframe like Paper Cranes, the Dykman, Sláinte and the Colonial Apartment building be reinspired. Not by us, but by members of this community who believe in this neighborhood.

Great new uptown businesses like 5518, Pita Pit and Taco Del Sol, Sláinte, 51 Below, the Miner’s Hotel, Butte Brewing and North 46 have opened, each staking a claim, believing in Uptown Butte. Believing in their community to support them, believing that Butte’s future can and should be built on respect for Butte’s past.

NorthWestern Energy recommitted to Butte, building a beautiful new building in Uptown. The Finlen Hotel is under new ownership, still by people who live in and love this community and the Elks Club is thriving under great leadership. 

WET–Water and Environmental Technology– continues to grow and lend its environmental restoration and remediation expertise to our community and many others across the country.

Other new buildings like the Emma Park Community center and the Uptown parking garage add to the beautiful Uptown landscape.

Almost every one of these projects, and certainly Headframe’s revitalization, couldn’t have happened without great support from Butte’s local government, the State of Montana and you.

Thank you for believing in your community. Believing in Uptown Butte, believing in Headframe and believing in me and in us.

What made this community bounce wasn’t someone from the outside making change, it was us–all of us. The dreamers and the doers and the shoppers and cheerleaders. We’ve done it together and there’s still more to come!

Earlier this year, Butte incorporated the Uptown Master Plan into the city’s comprehensive plan for the future. The Uptown Plan is full of vision, and concrete plans, for the Uptown and I’m proud of the work that’s been done and excited for the work that’s yet to come.

I believe in Butte. And you’ve been very gracious to read to my long winded love letter to you and to this place.

I’m excited to share our rebrand with you. New website, new labels and new merchandise which our team has worked incredibly hard to bring to life for the last year. We did this because 10 years is a great time to reexamine the landscape and ask how we could do better.

Lastly, 10 years ago we named ourselves Headframe Spirits, after the legacy of this incredible place. When we started building stills, we called that Headframe Spirits Manufacturing. You have called us many things: Headframe, The Headframe’s, Headframe’s Distillery. We’ve joked you should call us whatever you want, just don’t stop calling us. Now we’ve made our name shorter and easier to remember: Headframe. One word to refer to everything we do.

Thank you for 10 years of making your dollar vote for Headframe and for the other small businesses in our community. We’re grateful for 10 years of love and support and look forward to many more years together.”

heartfelt moment between husband and wife


Cheers, John and Courtney McKee

Certified Benefit Corporations (B Corp) are businesses that use a their company as a force for Good. By prioritizing people and our planet over profit, we are one of a growing list of businesses in Montana that proudly wears this certification.

Here at Headframe, we understand the responsibility that comes with being a steward of the Community. That’s why we make sure we consider every impact our actions will have on the members within it.

In 2016, we received our B Corp status, using every decision as an opportunity to put our workers and our Community first.

Owner Courtney McKee says, “Our B Corp status reflects our values. Headframe consistently prioritizes our shareholder’s values over shareholder value. Doing what’s right isn’t always easy in the short term but in the long run, there’s no other way to work with integrity and we know integrity matters.”

During a discussion about B Corps in April 2022, she addressed the fact that smaller producers in the spirit industry often face challenges overlooked by larger companies.

“There’s no real (environmental) guidance for smaller spirits brands and distilleries; and there’s a good, long way to go (to figure that out),” she stated, according to an article in Sustainable Brands.

A message that was agreed with during a 90-minute virtual roundtable recorded by Distill Ventures.

“(We don’t know) what some of those lower expense-higher impact opportunities look like and what it looks like to plan for a future making more sustainable, more positive investments in what we do,” Courtney said.

Even still, Headframe continues to create a road map to sustainability. Looking for innovative ways where we can make a difference starting right here, in our community.

Click here to read Headframe’s Impact Report.

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