Crafting A Mountain Lifestyle Distillery Brand With Ryan Thompson


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Mar 31, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast
Ryan Thompson

Ryan Thompson is the Founder and CEO of 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Co. Nestled in Vail, Colorado, Ryan opened 10th Mountain in 2013 to pay homage to the patriotic men of the 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry. He earned his bachelor’s of spirits and whiskey from Moonshine University and his bachelor’s in business administration and management from Southern Methodist University. 

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Ryan Thompson talks about crafting brandy out of wine — and how hard work and determination built his brand
  • How Ryan is giving back to the veteran community through whiskey 
  • What barriers are in place for an emerging alcohol beverage brand?
  • Ryan details his distribution model to connect consumers with his brand across the country
  • Ryan explains why he is an advocate for a strong advertising budget
  • Why distributor education is crucial for brand shelf placement 
  • Ryan shares what’s in his glass and talks about concocting homemade bitters

In this episode with Ryan Thompson

Are you an emerging brand and unsure how to navigate the direct-to-consumer marketing tier? How can you combine philanthropy and alcohol spirits to extend opportunities? 

Ryan Thompson is transforming the spirits space by cultivating a brand that empowers and supports veterans. He began his brand with just a few barrels, and through hard work and navigating the online marketing and distributing system, he scaled his brand to reach over 15 states. He now delivers to over 30 states using a direct-to-consumer platform. Today, Ryan is here to share his story of giving back and growing his brand. 

In this episode of Legends Behind the Craft, Drew Hendricks sits down with Ryan Thompson, Founder and CEO of 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Co., to discuss navigating the various alcohol distribution systems to successfully scale your brand. Ryan talks about how a cocktail with a brandy base scaled his brand, effectively using the distribution model to take your brand to the top, and why education is crucial for distributors to communicate the value of your brand.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit barrelsahead.com or email us at hello@barrelsahead.com to schedule a strategy call.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.

Drew Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks here and the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the mining craft beverage industry, from tech companies that enable wineries to run a optimum efficiency. Today’s guest Ryan Thompson, founder of 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits. past guests of Legends Behind the Craft include Yuan Ji of Erstwhile Mezcal, Josh Jacobs of Speakeasy Co., and Michael Houlihan, founder of Barefoot Wines. If you haven’t listened to those yet, be sure to check them out and subscribe. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead, at Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. One that highlights your authenticity tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to barrelsahead.com. today to learn more. I’m super excited to talk to Ryan Thompson, the founder of the 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits Co. Ryan founded 10th Mountain in 2013 in his hometown of Vail, Colorado, at the time, the craft brewery movement was going full tilt, and I figured it was only a matter of time until someone opened up a craft distillery. So we figured might as well be him almost 10 years later. His Central’s correct in 2021 10 Mountain was awarded the craft distillery the year. Today the whiskey is distributed in 15 states through the three tier system and is available for sale directly to the consumer to over 30 states through Speakeasy Co’s DTC platform. Welcome to the show, Ryan.

Ryan Thompson  1:50  

Thanks for appreciate having me on man. Excited to chat with you tonight.

Drew Hendricks  1:53  

Yeah, excited to have you on. Um, so tell me about so you had a hunch? craft distilleries? Vail, Colorado. What? How did you get from a hunch to your first bottle?

Ryan Thompson  2:04  

It’s a pretty straight story because when I moved to Vail in 1998, I bartended around town for four years. Started as before the whole mixology scene we’re making Jack and cokes and Baca tonics and, and that was about as most of people had called for at that point. And then the mixology scene started a little bit later in 2007 2008. But then I started a restaurant in Vail in 2002, called the Westside cafe, still partners with that granite at a arm’s length distance, because of all the Tax and Trade Bureau laws and whatnot. So, but still parts of that with the restaurant. So 20 years later now, but was watching what the craft movement was doing. homebrew quite a bit just as a hobbyist, having fun with different Bruun different beers at home. And then distilling is one step after that. And so I thought, why not? Let’s get into distilling a little bit and wanting to make an actual business out of it. So started getting real serious about it in 2012 or so went to Moonshine University in 2013. It’s a well known school at this point out of Louisville, Kentucky. Great group out there that work, has the moonlit John University has a full distilling licence and you can get go there and get a hands on distilling experience with her 250 gallons, still the 250 gallon system. And they cover everything from A to Z from chemistry from distilling the marketing, toning the whole thing. It’s a great group. And so I got my kind of dip my my big toe in the water there, came back and wrote a business plan and beg borrow and steal then here I am today 10 years later, so So

Drew Hendricks  3:54  

that’s fantastic. So as far as it’s still really set you up for that, or that Moonshine University gives you like just the full playbook to

Ryan Thompson  4:02  

Yeah, it’s and they’ve only developed their their courses ever since they’ve been they’ve been great. We still lean on them on occasion, when we have a random something or other come up. And so we went on occasion still but one of the biggest values that I got from the course is the connections and the relationships that we have built. We sent our head distiller out of the out to the course. And we’ve sent have built a great connection with one of the instructors that are getting Pete Kaymer who has been in the distilling business for 4550 years at this point, so and so we still lean on them. On occasion we we developed we started distilling a brandy two years ago and we really didn’t know what we were doing. But we had an opportunity to get 3500 gallons of Pinot Noir from Monterey Valley family vineyards Monterey and so we’re friends with them and and so they reached out to us and asked if we wanted to distil 3500 gallons of Pinot Noir at a 40% ABV ABV at the time. And we’re like hell yet we’d love to. Yeah. But we don’t know what the hell we’re doing. So we call Pete we call Moonshine University. We call her buddy Jason up in Salem, Oregon, who runs a brandy distillery up there. And so we started putting the pieces together and distil the what, we’re very proud of it. But what people have told us is that it’s amazing brandy as well, so and so the the story continues with that. So it ties into maybe where you’re more your audience is more familiar, is on the wine side. But in moonshine University helped and but we made made brandy out of wine and are going from there. So

Drew Hendricks  5:52  

well, that’s fantastic. There’s a local distillery down where I live in Malahat spirits. They’re based here in San Diego and they just came out with a brandy. I’m kind of stoked that a lot of these whiskey whiskey houses are dipping their toe into in the wine Wine Spirits.

Ryan Thompson  6:07  

Yeah, exactly do I think, give it a couple more years, it’s a, it’s gonna be on mixologist as radar. Now, you’re gonna see start seeing more and more cocktails made out of made with brandy as their base spirit. So it’ll be fun to see where it goes. But we’re just we’re just having fun with ourselves. And we love it. We think it’s delicious and are having a great time.

Drew Hendricks  6:27  

So that’s fantastic. So we started out, you got your first bottle, I mean, the family location, what was what was some of the challenges that you’ve faced?

Ryan Thompson  6:38  

I don’t know if we have enough time in this podcast to talk about all the challenges. Certainly starting a distillery is high barrier to entry takes a lot of equipment. starting a brewery is you basically start a brewery and then develop the next steps after that with the still with the barrels behind me. I’m sitting right in front of 400 Barrels right now. So But certainly, I’m not a silver spoon. I worked my butt off and and make sure every penny counts. And so certainly, the investment that goes into it is a big challenge. Takes takes quite a bit of money Moonshine University, they said $2 million just to start a distillery. And at that point, I was like, no, they’re wrong. This was 10 years ago, or well, nine years ago. Now I’m like, yeah, they’re right. They nailed it. If you want to dip your toe into it and and have some fun, it’s at least $2 million to do it. Right. So that’s a big, big challenge how you do that? I got an SBA loan, a local bank loan, I put my house on the line for it. So all that entrepreneurs stuff. Sure. But overall, in a Moonshine University also said that you have to have a story behind the brand. Yes. And at that point, I thought we had a good story. And now I think we have a great story. So we’re named dinar, the 10th Mountain army division. They originated in our area in the 1940s. They’re very they were mountain warfare specific Armoured Division in World War Two. When they returned from the war, they started the sport of skiing. He shared that with their friends and family and started over 62 Different ski resorts around the country. Vail mountain being one of those ski resorts. Nike was actually founded by a 10th Mountain vet. Guy named Bill Bowerman was a Phil Knight’s business partner, Bill Barron was a flight track coach at University of Oregon. And so these guys and gals came back from the war and started the outdoor mountain lifestyle that we all love and enjoy today here in our hometown, certainly. And so when we were starting the distillery, we’re like, Well, what are we going to name it and like, well, what better name and then to honour the 10th Mountain guys, and they’re still one of the most deployed divisions today. They’re based in upstate New York, in Watertown and Fort Drum. And so we get a lot of support back from them. We get a lot of support from all military divisions. And in return, we do a lot of support a lot of nonprofit, a lot of philanthropic work for those guys as well. So, yeah,

Drew Hendricks  9:22  

so philanthropy is one of your it’s one of your guiding principles at 10th Mountain. Yeah, it absolutely is true about some of the some of your philanthropic chores. Okay. I need a whiskey flow just

Ryan Thompson  9:37  

just last week. It’s our one of our most important events of the year is we get to attend the Vale veterans program last their their dinner at the last night of the week, and they take wounded vets from around the country. They have suffered a single empty WFP triple amputee Sometime invisible you wounds as well. And they take them into our hometown and teach them how to ski, how to snowboard how to mountain bike in the summertime play golf, given whatever kind of physical challenge they have sustained in the war. And so it’s something near and dear to our heart that it means a tonne to us, we donate a barrel of whiskey a year to him. Always work with him. Throughout the year, the vets are invited down to our distillery to do a distillation run with us to do a bombing run with us. And so that’s just one of the ways that we love to support different military nonprofits. A couple years. Well, last year, year and a half ago, we did a event with the Fourth Infantry. And they dedicated a monument at Fort Benning, Georgia, in Columbus. And it was just meant meant so much to us and meant a lot to those guys and gals. I could go on and on about the different military divisions that we support warriors in whiskey. If anyone’s listening, look up and you’re a veteran look up warriors and whiskey. It’s a great whiskey club. That does a lot of good work with different vets. So we just did a barrel pick with them last week. And we’re doing another barrel pick tomorrow on Saturday with BaseCamp 40. So we do, I could go on and on about it. But it’s really important to us. So

Drew Hendricks  11:24  

such great work we’re doing. But you have to have sales in order to have philanthropy

Ryan Thompson  11:30  

through. You’re exactly right. You’re exactly right. So that’s a big part of it. We just want to do more and more. But at the same time, cash flow supply demand balance is all very important. And we’re growing, we need to add another barrel warehouse outside of our distillery here. Besides the barrels, all the barrels you see behind me are going to be in a barrel warehouse soon. So yeah, it’s still a business. We’re still we’re 15 employees, we’re trying our our butt off.

Drew Hendricks  12:00  

But that’s some growth over 10 years is you bootstrapped the distillery that’s something I always have to ask. There’s, I mean, you’re dealing with an age spirit. How do you sustain that time from? We’ve opened up our doors, we’ve distilled our first barrel that start ready to go to market.

Ryan Thompson  12:16  

Yeah, a couple things going on there group. Um, first and foremost, we were legal in 2014. to distill okay. You can read between the lines on that, right. And so maybe we’re assuming a little bit before we’re actually fully licensed. But also, whiskey and age spirits will mature quicker in smaller cast, and a five gallon, 10 gallon, a 30 gallon cast. And so early on, we were aging and the smaller cast now behind me, you see a bunch of 53 gallon cast. And so that’s where raising and now because it’s more cost effective, it’s there’s a lot of reasons for it. They’re easy to remove, etc, etc. But early on, we were at five and 10 and 30 gallon cask, cuz there’s more open to the actual whiskey ratio. And so that’s a way around it. And early on. We were proud of our spirit, but it was young, it was really young. And now we’re getting a little more mature spirits that we’re presenting in the bottle. But early on, it was young. And then we had we had vodka and we had a an age whiskey, which is our color clear mountain moonshine. Yeah, and we do a lot of different creative cocktails with those at our tasting rooms with different infusions, barely cocktails and whatnot. And so early on, those helped us get to where we’re at today. And we still have some bottles or some barrels lying down right now that are older than what we’re releasing. Mm hmm. You got to come here to enjoy. Yeah. But that’s it’s it’s, it’s a tricky part about and what I alluded to earlier, was the just the barriers of entry. You can buy your whiskey early on and create the brand. You can make it and wait. And we made it and started out with just a young whiskey at that point.

Drew Hendricks  14:10  

So yeah, I’ve actually developed quite a palate for the age old fashion.

Ryan Thompson  14:16  

Yeah, Drew you and I think a lot of other people out there actually. People are starting to get more and more educated on a nun aged distill it and are starting to appreciate a moonshine, if you will, and are starting to appreciate some on h spirits straight off still. And I think maybe that’s a category that’s gonna grow in the next 10 years. We’ll see.

Drew Hendricks  14:42  

Yeah, but I would like to see it grow. So as far as growing your brand, so you’re growing both through the three tier system and directly to consumers. Talk to me a little bit about the difference between that and did you do DTC first, then three tier or vice versa?

Ryan Thompson  14:57  

Kind of One in the same at the same time. So I’ve got a little bit of background in internet marketing. A lot of my close friends are big internet marketers in the health space. And I’ve done very well. And so I will start at a story. And they’re like, how are you going to sell direct to consumer and so, early on, we were selling direct to consumer from our distillery. Although FedEx hated it. They didn’t like it. They sent us a bunch of letters. Finally, they cut us off. And so I apologize to FedEx, but I, I begged them to re enlist our account. We said we won’t do it again, unless we have a liquor license in the shipment. So that’s what we’re doing now. But I always saw an opportunity to sell direct consumer, what the wine business has done since 2004. I think 2006 Somewhere in there here, right? Yeah. And so there’s a big opportunity there for spirits but we can’t ship direct to consumer because of the tax regulations. And because high proof spirits are more tax than lower proof spirits as a wine I whatever the tax cut, tax percentage cut off is 22%. Yeah, 90%

Drew Hendricks  16:13  

Exact down. But yeah, it jumps dramatically as you go, right?

Ryan Thompson  16:17  

Yeah. So we got slapped by FedEx. And then we started working with the DTC company out of Washington DC for a little bit, and then they closed while they sold. And then we started working with Speakeasy Co. out of San Diego, and Josh and Michael. Yeah, they’ve been they’ve been great. We’ve been growing together. They’ve been taking guard advice, we’ve been taking their advice. And so our direct consumer business right now is about 10% of our overall sales, which is it’s great. And we just want to continue to grow that. And as Michael and Josh and speakeasy co continued to grow themselves. They’re about to maybe open up a warehouse on the East Coast, hopefully. And they’re just getting bigger and bigger and understanding the space a lot more, and they got blessing.

Drew Hendricks  17:05  

Oh, yeah, they’ve got a they were on our podcast. I know, Josh a little bit. And they’ve got some great business model to tell for the people that aren’t familiar, Speakeasy Co. are the Micro Distillery that might be considering going directly consumer what sets them apart?

Ryan Thompson  17:22  

Very important question Drew, what they add value for us as a supplier. They provide the consumers information. For one, they give us a dashboard of our whole inventory of what they have on board. At that point. They provide the opportunity, like if you want to attend whiskey.com right now and buy a bottle of our bourbon. It’s all branded with 10 10th Mountain whiskey. And but Speakeasy fulfills on the back end. So there are back in Fulfiller. Oh, no one knows. It’s not a secret. But it does. It’s not important either. Yeah. The fact that Speakeasy fulfils all of our, our online orders. And so they ship our spirits on our behalf. And it they give us the opportunity to build a relationship with our consumers. And they don’t take a whole lot of percentage to do so they take a little bit because they have to run a business as well. But overall, they’re the best fulfillment company out there as far as a distillery goes. And so it’s been a great partnership, and we’re just growing with themselves.

Drew Hendricks  18:35  

And that allows you to sell directly into 30 states.

Ryan Thompson  18:39  

Exactly, yeah, exactly as sales to 30 states, and they’re growing that number. Hopefully, soon, only 35 states. But so our three tier distribution, we’re in 15 states right now. And then, but we can reach consumers. We’re in a town where a lot of visitors come a lot of vacationers come to come and ski and come and hike and have fun mountain bike or whatever. And so they they build a relationship with us. They’ve learned our brand, they learn about our brand, but then they go home back to Texas, or Florida or California or wherever and want to get our spirits but maybe their local liquor store down the block doesn’t have us, but they can go online and will be delivered to the door via speakeasy in a couple of days. So

Drew Hendricks  19:22  

that’s fantastic. Now, I looked at this, but it didn’t but do you have a subscription? Clever serve a whiskey club?

Ryan Thompson  19:29  

We don’t yet it has been very high on our list just this week. Actually. Now we are with Shopify via Speakeasy. And now we are able to start doing that. And that’s going to be something we’re going to implement here this summer. So

Drew Hendricks  19:46  

sounds fantastic. I need to get to eliminate barrel releases and stuff like Exactly, yeah.

Ryan Thompson  19:53  

And along those lines. Drew are used to now here with NF T’s yet or no?

Drew Hendricks  19:57  

Yes, well, I’m familiar I wouldn’t call myself an expert I don’t know.

Ryan Thompson  20:03  

It’s been a space I’ve been in for a while now. We’re working. We had a major league baseball pitcher reached out to us. He’s been in major leagues for 15 years. Ross Detwiler and his buddy, Chris kosher. The three of us are developing an NF T tasting club. And we’re going to drop that in about two months from now. So really what platform will the NF tbs? Well, it’s gonna be what’s Big league taste is the name of it. And it’s more than likely and beyond open sea and on Aetherium.

Drew Hendricks  20:37  

Okay, oh, it’s gonna be fantastic. What’s gonna give us a preview of what the NFP is going to be it’s a image

Ryan Thompson  20:43  

where you’re going with that drew it’s a special barrel pics, when it comes down to knowing not only from artists, so we’re gonna kick it off. But other friends within the business here in Colorado, around the country, and special barrel pigs, so it’s gonna you’re gonna have a unique NFT and then also be privy to different barrel picks around the country. So it’s gonna be fun program.

Drew Hendricks  21:07  

Oh, that’s fantastic. So you’re actually selling a barrel through the,

Ryan Thompson  21:11  

exactly at we are, we’re that’s part of it, we’re also going to do our own specific mashbill recipe, if you will. So what we’re going to see where the consumers palette goes, where our members palette, go, and then develop a mash, go after that and see what happens. So we have 10,000 tokens that we’re gonna sell. And it’s, it’s gonna be a fun, really fun program.

Drew Hendricks  21:35  

So I can’t wait to see how that rolls out that the whole space is fascinating. And that’s it is really, it’s exciting to see the beverage industry move into that space and to see the different angles that people take. Because right now, it’s really just, it’s an open. I mean, every idea can be the next biggest viable one. There’s no real like set way of doing it.

Ryan Thompson  21:58  

Yeah, exactly. Right. We started this about a year ago, and been working on it ever since. But then money, I think Mondavi did a wine that was an NFT project, just recently a scotch brand off the top of mine, I don’t remember it, but a scotch brand at an NFT project. And so you’re starting to see it more and more just to add some value to specific barrel pics specific bottles. And so we’re gonna try to innovate in that space a little bit, have some fun. So see,

Drew Hendricks  22:29  

that’s sounds great. So there’ll be a physical asset combined with a digital asset, and then the class.

Ryan Thompson  22:35  

And that’s important to myself. There’s a lot of NF T’s out there that are just the digital asset.

Drew Hendricks  22:40  

Yeah, pixelated crypto,

Ryan Thompson  22:43  

right? Yay or Nay whatever your your flavor is, to me, it’s important to add some, some physical asset behind it, some physical value. And so you’re going to be able to drink our NF T’s when it comes down to

Drew Hendricks  22:55  

super, super innovative. And one of the ways that you’re going to trap you know, target directly to directly to consumers expand your reach. What other tactics you’re looking at, like working say, Well, I guess the question is, what advice would you give the distillery working with Speakeasy? If the treasurer talked about a playbook you might have,

Ryan Thompson  23:16  

you’re going to get some organic sales no matter what, if you’re in Vail, if you’re in Houston, Texas, if you’re in Bozeman, Montana, wherever you’re at, you’re going to get some organic sales via your website. However, those organic sales are not going to pay for Speakeasy’s fees, they have a business that you have to pay them a little bit understandable. And so in order to make it worth it, you have to have an advertising budget. To to, to give to Google to get to Facebook, get instagram Mehta, wherever you want to call it. Any other third party platform out there. So I think it’s important to if you’re going to sell direct to consumer that you have a certain amount of money allocated to an online advertising campaign. So well, you got the bare minimum, it’s five grand,

Drew Hendricks  24:07  

five grand. Oh, so rather than a percentage of revenue, just like make sure that you’ve got I think it’s both

Ryan Thompson  24:14  

I think it’s both at the bare minimum, it’s five grand and and after that it’s and sales drive a percentage of advertising in my book, and vice versa. So as long as you have your numbers in line, I think it’s important. You have to monitor it on a daily basis. But it’s a it’s a five grand minimum a month. per month. Yeah, per month. Yep. Right. That’s

Drew Hendricks  24:40  

something that I think few people realize we I was on a Tony Haber was on our podcast last week. Well you haven’t heard it yet but he he’s does QVivo spirits in Miami, right with he’s really grown quite a bit and he’s doing this unique Latin American it kind of Latin American myths. drinks can, in his his philosophy on marketing, it was quite shocking. He’s ploughing back 60% of his revenue into into marketing, which was a number a little higher than I have seen.

Ryan Thompson  25:12  

Yeah, same same group. That’s, that’s one of the benefits of what the industry that we’re all in is that it takes $1 to make it, but then that takes $10 and sell it. Right. So there’s so that’s good and bad. But it certainly the marketing aspect of it is a huge part. And to to have 60% of your overall bottle price. That doesn’t surprise me necessarily, but we’re not there. But it’s, we allocate part of our budget, a big part of our advertising budget to online advertising. And yes, it went to work with Speakeasy otherwise, if, if we didn’t have an ad budget, then we would not be with speakeasy. So if you’re gonna go with speaking, needs some budget behind it, we’re not

Drew Hendricks  26:00  

going to handle the marketing for the cans. Right, exactly. Maybe I’ll get one sale. That’s Yes. So true, unlike the three tier system, that you kind of have this assumption that you go into the distributor, and they’re going to help you a little bit with placements. Well, that’s

Ryan Thompson  26:13  

the biggest assumption out there. As a new distiller I talk to new distillers, a couple times a month, probably once a week at this point, a distributor takes it from point A to point B, their job is not to market it. Your job is to market it, make the sale, pass it on to the distributor to move it from point A to point B, or warehouse to the bar restaurant liquor store. And then to get to the end consumer to actually purchase it off. They’ve been buying maker’s mark for 20 years. And all of a sudden they see 10 pound whiskey and right next to Maker’s Mark. And why do I want to pick up about 10 pounds if I’m been drinking makers for 20 years. And that comes down to educating them about our our story and what we’re all about. And so the distributor is in charge of taking it from A to B and then it’s the suppliers responsibility to market it and sell it. So

Drew Hendricks  27:15  

yeah, I think that’s the big misconception that you just uncovered that people think that they get into the system. Unless you’re, you know, huge high end may not here but a large production like Maker’s Mark, they do have reps to help them with the technicians. With the positioning above is the makers, a small craft distillery, it’s gonna be very hard to get this shelf placements. What you

Ryan Thompson  27:37  

need feet on the streets. Have you know, we were in Colorado Springs Today we’re in Atlanta today. We’re talking to bartenders. We’re, we’re face to face tasting our spirits with them. So it’s an everyday deal. So that’s a huge part of

Drew Hendricks  27:54  

And he said the two overlap, or is it really two different marketing tactics between D2C and

Ryan Thompson  28:01  

there’s an overlap on on a certain level, for sure. Oftentimes, when we’re talking to bartender, a liquor store rep, that a consumers coming in and buying the product, and we get a chance to buy an old fashion with our spirits at the bar, we get a chance to hand sell at the liquor store. So there’s certainly some overlap. Yeah, absolutely.

Drew Hendricks  28:24  

So definitely feel boots on the ground, is really what’s going to sell three. And that’s what Michael Houlihan did when he started barefoot wines back in the day just pounding pounding the pavement.

Ryan Thompson  28:35  

Yeah, you have to absolutely.

Drew Hendricks  28:39  

Speak about D2C and your 30 states, what’s your vision for 10th Mountain over the next

Ryan Thompson  28:48  

period of 510 years, whatever, we want to be a national. We’re in 15 states now at this point. Here in Colorado is our backyard and we get a lot of sales here. But yeah, we want to be a national brand. Through discuss their program, we’re looking to get international this year, maybe in in Australia, UK, Canada, we’ll see. But yeah, overall, we have we have a big vision out there. And so we’re, we’re working hard to get to it. So

Drew Hendricks  29:20  

as you as you scale other than like property, plant and equipment, larger stills, bigger warehouse space, what is the other inflection points that

Ryan Thompson  29:31  

out for? Yeah, what we alluded to earlier is a feed on the street. Right? And so I think that’s going to be very important. I’ve got some people that have reached out to us 10th Mountain vets in particular, that want to wrap us around the country. And I think that’s gonna be very important to helping us grow. So right now we have two salespeople on the road. I think that’s going to be for gonna be six out of the eight and 10 here soon enough. And so developing those relationships across the country is very important to us. We’re going to add another still at our distillery, I could turn the camera around right now on our stills right behind us here.

Drew Hendricks  30:11  

Still the hub. I’d love to see.

Ryan Thompson  30:14  

You only do a little turn around here. Turn around.

Drew Hendricks  30:17  

I want to see this. Ah, take a mobile. Oh, yeah. So that’s a what would you call that? System? potstill? Three, one column. I can’t see it.

Ryan Thompson  30:33  

There you go. Yeah, so that’s a it’s a 500 gallon. Combination pot calm still. From Windham from Louisville, Kentucky. They made that. And so yeah, it’s a 500 gallon combination pack calm, still hybrid still, if you will. But to expand and continue. I think we’re going to need a second still to continue the production at a rate that we’re growing. So that’s that’s our radar. It’s an something we’re budgeting for here now. So we’ll see.

Drew Hendricks  31:09  

And how would you so as far as you’re preserving that house style? Give me a What would you describe 10th Mountain Whiskey is your house style.

Ryan Thompson  31:18  

So we’re very well known for our bourbon, which is 92 proof and our riser most awarded spirited 86 proof. Our bourbon is super easy drinking. Most of our team enjoys it on a rock as a nightly sipper. Our bourbon or I’m sorry, Ri is a little spicier 86 proof, a little more full body Ri has won a lot of different awards recognitions, was just won Best in Class whiskies of the world last year. Some proud of that aspect. So it depends. People ask me, what’s my favorite whiskey to drink? What’s my favorite spirit? It always depends on who I’m with the environment I’m in. It could be if I’m going to sit down at a business meeting, business dinner, I’m going to have an old fashioned non rival fashion. Or if I got a buddy in town, I’m going to pour it to non bourbon on the rocks, and cave with until 1am the morning and solve the world’s problems, right? So it all just depends. But we’re very proud of what we make. They’re all extremely delicious. And we’re gonna keep on making as long as people keep on drinking it. So

Drew Hendricks  32:29  

that sounds good. So as they’re kind of wrapping down here, what Um, tell me a new favorite cocktail.

Ryan Thompson  32:36  

You know, and I’m partial to aside from present company, if you will. I’m partial what the Peerless guys are doing out in Louisville. Oh, yeah. I love their I love their bourbon makes a great old fashion. So if I’m out and about not drinking our spirits, and now I’ll give a nod to the Peerless guys and what Carson and Corky are doing out there. So sounds good. What kind of bitters are you using

Drew Hendricks  33:02  

in your old fashions?

Ryan Thompson  33:04  

Well, funny you asked this Drew. We are currently making our own bitters. And I could walk 20 yards that way. And our bartender behind the bar is making our own bitters right now. Really? So will we have we got a couple we got a chocolate, we got an orange. We got a traditional, bitter so we’ll see what what we come up with here. But some we’re working on right now, actually. So

Drew Hendricks  33:30  

I really think the bitters, the bitters part of this, this SIP category is still very untapped. There’s a lot of these little micro biters, but really, there’s so many ways you can go with that.

Ryan Thompson  33:41  

Yeah, I agree, Drew. Exactly. And, and so Connor started working with us just about six weeks ago. And he has an amazing background, mixology wise. And so we have started working on a bitters just about four weeks ago. And so it’s something I get to go taste and play with after we’re done with the call the podcast here today. So well,

Drew Hendricks  34:03  

that sounds fantastic. Well, those be available with the goal of being retail.

Ryan Thompson  34:07  

They’re going to be available at our tasting rooms. Okay.

Drew Hendricks  34:09  

That’s a that’s a perfect little takeaway for some of you may not want to bring a full bottle home or

Ryan Thompson  34:15  

That’s exactly right. You can pack it on on your carry on if you want so. Absolutely.

Drew Hendricks  34:21  

That’s fantastic. Well, Ryan, where can people find more about you and 10th Mountain?

Ryan Thompson  34:25  

Well, 10thwhiskey.com is our website. So 10thwhiskey.com Whiskey with an E. Our social handles our 10th one zero th MTN whiskey. So 10th Mountain Whiskey across all social handles, we’re even on TikTok these days. So you can find us there. We’re not doing a whole lot of dancing, but we’re doing a whole lot of distillation. So come up on us online and then come support us and hang out with us at our two tastings here in the Vail Valley.

Drew Hendricks  34:54  

Sounds fantastic. I gotta stop by. Thank you so much, Ryan.

Ryan Thompson  34:58  

Thanks for appreciating me. Talk to you soon. Thank you

Outro  35:08  

Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.