10th Mountain Whiskey donates barrel to Vail Veterans Program (video) | VailDaily.com

10th Mountain Whiskey donates barrel to Vail Veterans Program (video)

By Tricia Swenson | Vail Today

Community, creativity and craftsmanship came together in the form of a 53-gallon barrel of whiskey when the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Company decided to give back to the Vail Veterans Program.

Both are local and both have ties to the military. Based in Eagle County, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits is named after the famed 10th Mountain Division, the "ski troopers" who fought in the Italian Alps during World War II and trained just south of Vail at Camp Hale. The Vail Veterans Program brings catastrophically wounded vets and their families to the mountains near Vail for therapeutic recreational programs at no charge.

"We always knew we wanted to do something with the Vail Veterans Program," said Christian Avignon, who, along with Ryan Thompson, founded the spirits company. Avignon's grandfather was part of the 10th Mountain Division.

"That generation was brave, strong, they worked hard and they played hard, too. Many members of the 10th really shaped the outdoor industry as we know it today. We wanted to honor those veterans as well as people who currently serve our country," said Avignon.

That affiliation got a bit more intimate when they were invited to a Vail Veterans Program dinner at the West Vail Fire Station this past March. It was there that the idea to do something more than "just write a check" to the non-profit gained momentum.

They brought a barrel and a marker, and throughout the evening the program participants, veterans and active military members in attendance signed their names on the barrel that would eventually be given to the Vail Veterans Program. That barrel would produce about 250 bottles of whiskey and have a retail value of nearly $12,000.

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Cheryl Jensen, executive director and founder of the Vail Veterans Program recently got a tour of the distillery and got to watch their batch of whiskey being made. "To be given an entire barrel that was homemade, made with passion, to give to our veterans, it's going to be an incredibly special gift for them," said Jensen.

Once the whiskey has been aged in American oak barrels, the bottles will be given to those who signed the barrel at the Firehouse dinner in March and the remaining bottles will be used by the Vail Veterans Program for fundraising efforts. Their programs are provided at no cost to the wounded veterans and their families.

"We always want to work with people who are doing the right thing and trying to move forward," said Avignon. "The 10th always said "Semper Avanti", which meant "Always Forward" and our motto is "Mountain Strong" so we keep that in the back of our mind when thinking of who to team up with."

"I love the passion of local businesses and how creative they can be in giving back to our organization," said Jensen. "To me, it's another reason to shop local. We need to support our community and the people who put their heart and soul into these businesses and in turn, give back."

To learn more about 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Company, go to http://www.10thwhiskey.com. To learn more about the Vail Veterans Program, go to http://www.vailveteransprogram.org.