Entrepreneur Spotlight: Ryan Thompson and Christian Avignon of 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit
Ryan Thompson and Christian Avignon, the business partners behind 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Company, encourage and honor the mountain lifestyle. The company is a tribute to the 10th mountain soldiers who brought about this way of life, and works to bring together people who share these values over a quality spirit. Be sure to stop in for a tasting on your next trip to Vail! Denver Style Magazine: Can you describe the experience and atmosphere of 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company?
Ryan Thompson & Christian Avignon: “We’re not just another whiskey distillery. We’re a Mountain Lifestyle brand that revolves around whiskey. Whiskey is the hub of the company, but there are many spokes off the center hub. We support non-profits, sponsor athletes, our clothing line is important and special events are a big factor. We’re named in honor of the 10th Mountain and people that work hard and play just as hard! Mountain culture at its finest.”
DSM: What do you consider a standout quality of your business?
RT & CA: “As a distillery, we’re tempted to say our spirits are a standout quality, and we believe they are. But, that is too easy of an answer. We believe a standout quality that separates us from other distilleries is our story…Christian’s granddad is one of the original soldiers that trained at Camp Hale in the 1940s. Those soldiers wanted to share the mountain lifestyle upon their return from WWII and went on to start over 62 ski resorts, ski patrol or ski schools in the US. Additionally, some of the original soldiers when on to start outdoor lifestyle businesses of different kinds. They set the standard we’re trying to live up to.
From day one we’ve focused on giving back to certain organizations. The 10th Foundation, Vail Vets Program being the primary non-profits. The connections we’ve made with the 10th and the military in general has been something we’re very humbled by. The people that live the mountain lifestyle, enjoy our spirits and toast a great day on the hill is a standout quality that makes us smile.”
DSM: How does 10th Mountain complement the surroundings?
RT & CA: “We’re trying to provide a business in the Vail valley that brings character to the area and enhances the surroundings. We’re not just another corporate owned store in the Vail village. We’re privately owned and we strive to provide Vail guests’ an experience they will remember and talk about when they return home.
All tasting rooms offer samples of their spirits, but we focus on making a personal connection with our guests, educating them on the 10th Mountain Division, their influence on our lifestyle and on our spirits, while making sure they enjoy themselves and have a great time.”
DSM: Where or whom do you draw inspiration from?
RT & CA: “This is an easy question for us. Christian’s granddad, Fred Vetter, is a big influence. Fred, along with his military brothers and all the way through to today’s soldiers inspire us to do what we’re doing. They’re a group of people that don’t let a challenge stand in their way. They’re a group of people that welcome a hard day’s work and welcome a great time just as easily. Without the 10th Soldiers returning from WWII and starting the different businesses (ski mountains, clothing apparel, ski schools, outdoor clubs) then we wouldn’t be enjoying the mountain lifestyle we do today. It’s in their honor that we do what we do on a day-to-day basis.”
DSM: Where would you like your business to be in 5 years?
RT & CA: In 2020, we’d like to be doing what we’re doing today, just on a bigger scale. We want to share our products with more and more people, in more and more states and more and more countries. We want to be sharing and toasting the mountain lifestyle with people that enjoy it as much as we do, worldwide.
DSM: What is your favorite quote, and how does it apply to your business philosophy?
RT & CA: ‘“Great product and great service always prevails.’ - Bill Cruickshank, Original 10th Mountain Vet. This is our guiding inspiration that keeps us focused on what we’re doing day-to-day. Without a great product and great service companies just won’t last.”
DSM: What is your most memorable business experience?
RT & CA: “Selling that first bottle of whiskey will always stand out in our mind! It’s a pretty damn good feeling.”