WHITEFISH – Danette and Tom Sefcak arrived in the Flathead Valley 13 years ago for vacation and, like a lot of people, they fell in love.
Danette said they were so sure of their love on that first vacation that they spent most of the time looking for a home here and soon after they traded their California address for one near Whitefish.
Now more than a decade later, the Sefcaks are turning their passion for fine food, spectacular spirits and choice cigars into one of the town’s newest businesses, Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits. Located on Wisconsin Avenue just north of downtown, the new distillery had a soft opening last month and has been serving up food and mocktails for the last few weeks. Once they get the final approval from state regulators, they plan on selling spirits, too, hopefully before March.
The Sefcaks worked as mortgage brokers for a number years before the economic collapse. After that, they headed to the Bakken in North Dakota and saved their pennies. While there, the idea for Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits was born.
Making craft liquor is actually in Tom’s family history. According to legend, his grandfather used to make moonshine and sell it on the road in Texas. Danette said the story goes that the bootlegger would travel the state serving up spirits and playing guitar.
A few years ago, Danette moved back to Whitefish full-time to start putting together the distillery. Topping their wish list was an atmosphere that made guests feel like they were at home, and it’s clear they succeeded while sitting in some of the plush chairs next to the fireplace.
“We want people to feel like they’re at home relaxing with friends,” Danette said. “We believe that with good drink and good food you instantly have good times.”
Heading up the creation of that “good food” is Executive Chef Jeffrey Hobart, who before coming to the Flathead worked in Hawaii, Sun Valley and Seattle. He said the kitchen works tirelessly to showcase the very best ingredients that Northwest Montana and the Pacific Northwest have to offer. The distillery’s tapas menu’s highlights include duck tacos, beef tenderloin fritters and a winter vegetable curry.
“Northwest cuisine is all about celebrating what we have here, the bounty of this region,” he said.
Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits will also be offering a fine selection of cigars that Danette said cannot be found anywhere else in Montana.
But the highlight of Whitefish’s newest establishment will be its spirits. Once the final permits are in hand, the distillery plans on producing a selection of whiskeys, gins and rums. Serving up those drinks will be mixologist Cory Ceballos, who previously worked in Vail, Colorado.
Distiller Adam Tunnell said it’s an exciting time to be opening a distillery in the Flathead Valley; just a few weeks ago Spotted Bear Spirits opened up in downtown Whitefish.
“The craft movement is just so huge right now, with craft beer, craft spirits and even craft cheese,” he said. “We’re really getting in on the ground floor right now.”
Danette said they’re looking forward to becoming a gathering place for the community, especially in summer, when their spacious patio opens up.
“I just can’t wait to see people having fun and enjoying themselves here,” she said.
Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits is located at 204 Wisconsin Ave. in Whitefish. For more information and current hours, visit www.whitefishspirits.com.