Bigfork distillery part of trade mission to Japan

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Daily Inter Lake

Whistling Andy Distilling in Bigfork is among seven Montana producers of spirits and beer who are headed to Japan this week to help expand their distribution opportunities.

The producers are part of a Montana-branded pavilion at Wine and Gourmet Japan, a trade show in Tokyo that begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday. They will be meeting with distributors and trade representatives to get their products in Japanese restaurants and on store shelves.

The Office of Trade and International Relations at the Montana Department of Commerce is organizing the trip, and through a federal trade assistance program is covering trade show booth expenses and providing a travel stipend to participants.

“Montana’s distilling industry has successfully self-organized and advanced to where it is ready to expand distribution outside of Montana and even the United States,” International Marketing Officer Aaron Pratt said in a press release.

Pratt said Japan is an ideal market for Montana producers to expand their distribution because of the country’s existing relationships with Montana, a growing demand for spirits, and an affinity for the American West. Montana and Kumamoto, Japan have a sister-state relationship that this year celebrates its 35th anniversary.

Whistling Andy Distilling was the third micro-distillery in Montana when it opened Dec. 31, 2010, in Bigfork. Since then business partners Brian Anderson and Mike Marchetti have greatly expanded the business. Whistling Andy products, which have won Spirits International Prestige awards, can be found in several states and countries.

Other producers participating in the trade show are Lewis and Clark Brewing Company and Gulch Distillers in Helena; Headframe Spirits in Butte; Bozeman Spirits, Montana Malting and Wildrye Distilling, all in Bozeman.

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