It begins in 1891 when the Creative Act — or the Forest Reserve Act — is signed into law with an amendment attached allowing the president of the United States to set aside forest reserves from the land in public domain.
By 1907, special interests garner enough support in Congress to change the law. U.S. Sen. Charles W. Fulton, an Oregon Republican, leads the charge by attaching an amendment to the “Agriculture Appropriations Act of 1907” to revoke President Theodore Roosevelt’s authority to create new national forests.
The bill passes on Feb. 25, 1907 and is sent to Roosevelt for his signature. Roosevelt, having little choice but to sign the bill in order to keep the government funded, signs it into law on March 4, 1907. But before the bill is signed, Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, head of the U.S. Forest Service, spend a few days — working all hours of the night — to proclaim 21 new forest preserves and enlarge 11 existing preservers.
These forest preserves and national forests are referred to as the “midnight forests.”
This is one of the stories entwined in the Midnight Forest Bourbon Whiskey, released by Spotted Bear Spirits in Whitefish in partnership with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). Beyond being drinkable, mixable and enjoyable, this bourbon is about the sharing of stories.
“We live here in Montana and we can kind of take (public lands) for granted,” said Lauren Oscilowski, managing partner at Spotted Bear Spirits. “Our hope is that we can share some of those stories and, through that conversation, empower the next generation to step up and fight those battles to continue and maintain the public lands that we have.”
The story of Midnight Forest bourbon starts a year ago when Oscilowski was approached by Land Tawney, president and CEO at BHA. Oscilowski guided the tasting and the blending of bourbons from different locations and flavor profiles to create something singular.
But for Tawney, the story of the Midnight Forest starts though his lifelong friend and mentor, conservationist Jim Posewitz.
Tawney knew Posewitz, or “Poz,” since birth.
“He drove my mom to the hospital the day I was born,” Tawney said. “Not only did he tell me the story of the 21 forests that Roosevelt put into place, but then he told me about how important it was to capture the minds of all people when you’re thinking about a conservation issue.”
The tale of the midnight forests is summarized by Poz on the back of the bottle.
“Here’s a great opportunity to not only drink a whiskey that is approachable, but then to already have that conversation started with the message that’s on the back of the bottle,” Tawney said.
The whiskey is indeed approachable. Like a good story, it’s intriguing but not overwhelming. The blend weaves together a bourbon from three separate distilleries to masterfully mix a unique and singular flavor narrative.
“We wanted it to be intentional as far as a blend goes. That’s the art in it to me,” Oscilowski said. “By way of blending different flavor profiles to create something unique that you couldn’t just buy in bulk from another distillery, we’re putting our own twist on it.”
Rye gives it a hint of black tea and spiciness, almost like cinnamon. It starts smooth on the palate with initial touches of wheat and corn. There’s a smooth caramel vanilla from the barrel and a sweet corn caramel on the finish.
“Something that Jim said over and over to me again: Every voice counts but it doesn’t count if you don’t use it,” Tawney said. “So here’s this opportunity for all of us to use our voices and carry on that tradition that he helped — along with others — pave the path for.”
“And whiskey is just perfect,” Oscilowski said, “because, hey, anytime you’re telling good stories, you probably should have some good whiskey in your hands.”
• Two dollars of every bottle directly benefits Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the organization’s commitment to public lands and waters.
Where to find it: Because Spotted Bear Spirits blends three bourbons from other distilleries to create this unique recipe, it’s unable to sell the Midnight Forest at its Whitefish location. Bottles should be available through most liquor stores and some restaurants. Visit www.spottedbearspirits.com for additional inform.
For Roosevelt: Mint Julep:
The mint julep was Theodore Roosevelt’s cocktail of choice
• 8 mint leaves
• ¼ oz simple syrup
• 2 oz. bourbon
• Angostura bitters (optional)
• Garnish: mint sprig
– In a Julep cup or rocks glass, lightly muddle mint leaves and simple syrup.
– Add bourbon and pack the glass tightly with crushed ice.
– Stir until the cup is frosted on the outside.
– Top with more crushed ice to form an ice dome, and garnish with a mint sprig and bitters (optional).
For Jim Posewitz: The Poz
• Midnight Forest Bourbon Whiskey
– Add ice to glass. Pour bourbon over ice.