Henry’s Pick: Vail Mountain’s first avalanche rescue dog collaborates with 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits | VailDaily.com

Henry’s Pick: Vail Mountain’s first avalanche rescue dog collaborates with 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits

Henry’s Legacy Bourbon will be released this summer

Mike Kang, left, Chris “Mongo” Reeder and Henry, center, and Ryan Thompson pose for a photo after Henry picked the bourbon barrel at 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits Company’s distillery in Gypsum.
Amanda DeGrazia/Courtesy photo

In a world full of collaborations on social media between fashion labels, rock stars and athletes, it only makes sense that Henry, the “Dogfather” of the Avalanche Rescue Dog Program on Vail Mountain, should have his own collaboration.

Henry became the first K9 member of Vail Ski Patrol in 2008. He was just a young pup then, but he and his handler, Chris “Mongo” Reeder, helped lead the way for what would soon be a pack of helpful hounds who act as safety ambassadors that connect with the public on and off the slopes.

Henry, a golden retriever that Mongo and his family brought home to the Vail Valley from Port Huron, MI, is now 14 years old, soon to be 15 in July. To honor Henry’s legacy, Mongo and friend, Mike “Kanger” Kang, decided to team up with local brand 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits Company.

Henry has been a service dog his whole life and will be 15 years old in July.
Amanda DeGrazia/Courtesy photo

‘We’re not wine guys’

This isn’t Henry’s first venture in the alcohol business. Henry’s Legacy Wine was a red table wine that debuted at the 2017 Taste of Vail Lamb Cookoff and Apres Ski Tasting in Vail Village.

“We created Henry’s Legacy Wine in an effort to raise money for the Avalanche Rescue Dog Program at Vail Mountain and C-RAD – Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment program – whose mission is to train, inspire and produce dog teams for successful avalanche search and rescue,” Mongo said.

“We sold all of it and raised a bunch of money, but when it was time to put the chips back into the pot, Mikey asked me, ‘Do we want to do this again?’ and I said, ‘Mikey, we’re not wine guys.’”

Mongo realized that part of the wine experiment was successful, and part of it was also proof that maybe that social circle wasn’t close to home for them.

“We realized that we’re bourbon guys. So, Mickey and I decided to hold off on doing more wine and if the opportunity presented itself down the road to reinvent Henry’s Legacy as a bourbon, then we’d think about it,” Mongo said.

Mike Kang went to work, reaching out to different distilleries, forging relationships, exploring different business plans and various approaches on how to honor Henry with a nice bourbon they could share with family and friends while giving back to service dog programs.

Henry was the first dog to become a part of Vail Ski Patrol and the Avalanche Rescue Dog Program on Vail Mountain in 2008.
Amanda DeGrazia/Courtesy photo

“Bourbon is the most explosive growth segment in the spirits space and two years ago when I was setting up meetings and doing all the research and legwork, the distillers all said, ‘yup, come down to Kentucky and meet us,’ but it just wasn’t the time or the place for us,” Kang said.

“We put a lot of effort in to come full circle and find something right in our backyard with Ryan and 10th Mountain Whiskey and it seems like the perfect partnership,” Mongo said.

Ryan Thompson is the owner of 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits Company. Founded in 2014, the company pays homage to the 10th Mountain Division, the winter warfare unit that trained south of Vail at Camp Hale and fought pivotal battles during World War II. Once the soldiers returned, many of them developed ski areas like Vail and created the outdoor industry as we know it today. They have a tasting room on Bridge Street in Vail and a small-batch craft distillery in Gypsum.

“If you live in Vail or have been in Vail for more than five minutes, you know who Henry is,” Thompson said. “It was a no brainer, the second I heard about this opportunity, it was like, ‘yeah, how do we do this?’”

The wheels were set in motion, meetings were held, logos discussed, but the most important part of the equation had yet to be determined: Which 10th Mountain Whiskey would become Henry’s Legacy Bourbon?

Thompson suggested they do some tastings at the distillery.

“We had nine different samples that we tasted through. Mongo, Kanger and I narrowed it down to two barrels and then Henry picked one of those two,” Thompson said.

Mongo, Kanger and Thompson all sampled 9 different whiskeys before narrowing it down to two. Henry picked between those two samples and that became Henry’s Legacy Bourbon.
Amanda DeGrazia/Courtesy photo

Henry’s Pick

Notes were taken, discussions were held, some samples were tasted again and finally the three narrowed the selection down to two barrels. Now, it was Henry’s turn to select the winner.

Two small barrels were placed in front of Henry, and two small dishes of the corresponding whiskey were placed in front of each barrel. Whichever barrel Henry went to first would be the barrel that would be used for the first batch of Henry’s Legacy Bourbon.

Mongo explained the “game” to Henry, as he had done all of Henry’s life. Being an avalanche dog isn’t all belly rubs and photo sessions. Henry has worked hard to learn the skills to find those in need and to save lives. To make things fair, Mongo did the best picks out of three, so Henry was sure what he was selecting.

The decision was made. There were hoots, hollers, applause and, of course, treats for Henry. Then a paw print was made of Henry’s left paw to stamp the barrel he picked. This paw print will be a part of the labeling on the new bourbon bottles. The actual logo itself will be similar to the logo that was on the wine bottles of Henry’s Legacy Wine.

Henry’s Legacy Bourbon will be sold at both the 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits Company Tasting Room on Bridge Street in Vail and at the distillery in Gypsum as well. They are also talking about other avenues to sell it to the public.
Amanda DeGrazia/Courtesy photo

Thompson said they hope to have Henry’s Legacy Bourbon ready for public consumption in July.

Giving back

This collaboration didn’t come about just because of the love of whiskey. Both organizations have a philanthropic side. Henry’s Legacy Wines supported service dogs since Henry has been a service dog all his life. One of the nonprofits Henry’s Legacy Bourbon plans to give back to is K9s for Warriors.

The 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits Company supports many nonprofits including those who help veterans as a nod to its 10th Mountain Division heritage and also programs that support service dogs and veterans.

“In a lot of ways, Henry’s Legacy Bourbon and 10th Mountain Whiskey parallel and complement each other,” Mongo said.

“We both have common causes. We both have common fundamental ideas about serving the community and serving the military and service dog organizations and so it seems like a really good partnership and that’s why we’re here going down this road,” Thompson said.

To learn more about Henry’s Legacy Bourbon, go to HenrysLegacy.com. To learn more about 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits Company visit 10thWhiskey.com.

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