INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) It’s not the only distillery in Indianapolis, but The Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery is one of a kind.
It opened Monday as the first artisan distillery in the country, owned by a disabled veteran.
“We want to capture Indianapolis, we want to be an Indianapolis distillery, we want to be known as an Indiana product,” said founder Travis Barnes.
The distillery was over two years in the making.
“It was a long winding road,” Barnes said.
It’s a road that took him from college, to the battlefield, to law school, to Virginia Avenue. It started in 2001.
“My first semester of college was in 2001. September 11 happened my first month of school. I dropped out about a week later, enlisted as an infantryman in the United State Marine Corps,” Barnes said
After suffering several traumatic brain injuries and leaving the Marines he grew an interest in distillation.
“Serendipity and luck, I think I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world,” Barnes said.
Now he and his four business partners are looking to pay it forward to other veterans. They’ve committed 21 jobs to Indiana over the next five years.
“Of those 21 jobs I want to make as many of them disabled veterans as possible. I think they deserve it and I think they should be first,” Barnes said
He and his business partners were able to obtain a distillers license from a now-expired state law, allowing them to sell spirits from their stills directly to consumers.
“We wanted to build something that we’d be proud of,” said co-founder Brian Willsey. “Not only for ourselves but to share with the public and I think we’re well on our way.”
Right now they are only making rum and vodka at the site in Fletcher Place. And because of the aging process the whiskey is not ready.
As for the name Hotel Tango: it’s a reference to the founders’ names and the military phonetic alphabet. “H” in the military alphabet is “Hotel.” Barnes’ wife is named Hilary.
And the “T” is for Travis, which is “Tango” in the military alphabet.
The names of their drinks also go along with that formula.