LET’S GET SPIRITUAL!
The Blinking Owl is the very first craft distillery in Orange County. We also are one of the first distilleries in the state of California to hold the Type 74 Craft Distillers License allowing us to operate our tasting room and sell a few bottles. We make Vodka, Gin, several types of Whiskey, and the Scandinavian spirit, Aquavit.
SPIRIT behind the Owl…
We are locavores, grain nerds, and control freaks so we decided to actually make our booze the long way: from grain rather than pre-made spirit. We mill it, mash it, ferment it, distill it, and, in the case of whiskey, barrel age it (which means we will not have a 9 year old Bourbon to sell until 9 years from now).
Founding GREAT Grandfather:
The Founder, Brian Christenson, had a bootlegging great-grandfather, Fred P. Armbrust. Fred had a still on his dairy farm hidden in the basement behind secret passageways. He would covertly provide his local farmers with his “good spirits”. Brian’s dream is to carry on Fred’s passion by providing “good spirits” to our very own neighborhood, legally, of course!
Our ingredients are beautiful. Most are certified organic grains, fruits and botanicals, but we also purchase items from great local folks who are using sustainable farming practices (such as the oranges we source from Heritage Museum of Orange County in Santa Ana and Nisson Ranch in Tustin.)
We have ACCOMPLISHED the neurotic goal of becoming a 100% California product by working with the local grain community. As of FEBRUARY 2018, all grain used is certified organic and from California farms.
The BLINKING OWL REBIRTH
Brian and Robin Christenson, longtime Santa Ana residents, had heard stories of the midcentury “Blinking Owl Bar” on the corner of Birch and Third Streets, known for an iconic owl sign that would “blink”. Inspired by the craft cocktail movement, the farm-to-table food movement, and current thriving craft distilleries, the husband and wife team saw an opportunity to bring a local distillery to the neighborhood, paying homage to the history of Santa Ana.
Brian Christenson, Chief Executive Owl
Intrigued by stories of his great grandfather’s bootlegging adventures, Brian Christenson has always had a passion for whiskey. Throughout his decade of experience in marketing, branding, and advertising he moonlighted in making beer and wine. Over the years he also extensively studied wine and spirit making, which eventually led to him taking the leap from advertising to opening the Blinking Owl, Orange County’s very first distillery since prohibition. As the creative visionary with a knack for launching and marketing new products, Brian spearheads the Blinking Owl Distillery as the CEO.
Robin Christenson, Chief Financial Owl
An accomplished entrepreneur, Robin’s former niche therapy company, Womanology, Inc., was acquired by Hoag Hospital in October 2014. During her time in the medical industry, she also studied wine and spirits alongside Brian for several years. With a passion for health and sustainability, Robin found passion in the Blinking Owl’s mission to work with organic grains exclusively from California farmers.With her passion for business development, space planning, and interior design in combination with her obsession with quality food and beverages, she contributes her business expertise to the distillery as the CFO for the Blinking Owl.
Ryan Friesen, Owl Spiritual Leader-Head Distiller
Ryan Friesen joined the Blinking Owl team in October 2014 and was an integral part of the start up process. After years of perfecting his home beer brewing, Ryan began his distilling career at Journeyman Distillery in Michigan. To enhance his knowledge of the industry, Ryan did an internship at Black Swan Cooperage to learn about the nuances in barrel making. He also had the very rare opportunity to do an internship with the famed Japanese whiskey maker, Ichiro Akuto, at the Chichibu Distillery. Mr. Akuto has made many award winning whiskies and has been touted as one of the best whiskey makers in the world. Ryan is passionate about making quality spirits thoughtfully from the “soil to the glass”.
Kirsten Vangsness, Creative Muse Wizard Owl
Kirsten’s creativity, quirkiness and love for whiskey make her a lovely business partner and friend. While the founders still remember the days of her improv group and one-woman shows at Cal State Fullerton’s Grand Central Arts Theater, Kirsten is currently enjoying her 13th season as agent Penelope Garcia on the CBS hit crime show, Criminal Minds. You may spot her giving an occasional tour or in the tasting room at the Blinking Owl.
Tom Zeigler, Wise Ass Owl
Thomas Zeigler, Esq. is a Shareholder in the law firm Alvarado Smith and is the Chair of the Corporate Department. He is passionate about helping small businesses and has been an advisory board member of Blinking Owl Distillery since it’s inception in 2013. He has over 20 years of experience in representing a variety of businesses and has multiple clients in the alcohol industry. His expertise surrounding the spirit industry has helped the Blinking Owl to successfully navigate the very strict state and federal regulations for production of alcohol. Tom is also passionate about legislation that will enable craft distillers to thrive in California. Another cool thing about Tom is that he is the Blinking Owl Distillery’s landscape designer and gardener extraordinaire.
Kate Palmer, Hearts + Tails Beverage Co.
Director of Sales and Strategy
Hearts + Tails Beverage Co. is owned and operated by Kate Palmer, a beverage industry veteran of nearly 20 years. After a brief stint as a graphic designer working on local rock band’s CDs and posters, she became part of the team at the B-Side Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts that helped bring craft cocktails back to the greater Boston area. Kate ran traditional sales routes for multiple distributors in the region before joining The Cooper Spirits Company and launching the now ubiquitous St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur. She would later join Horizon Beverage Group as the Vice President of Craft Spirits, overseeing all new craft brands entering the company while running Origin Beverage Co.
Rachel Keeney, Head MixOWLogist
Rachel’s love for the hospitality industry began at an early age. She would sit in front of the tv for hours watching Anthony Bourdain talk about food and beverage for hours at a time, she knew this would turn in to her passion. It’s no surprise she ended up falling in love with making delicious drinks. Almost immediately into her adult life, she found a love of craft beer and cocktails and dove deep into learning the ins and outs of what made it taste so delicious. After graduating from CSU Long Beach, Rachel knew she wanted to stay in the food and beverage industry and took on roles in helping open new restaurants like Ballast Point Long Beach and the new Blind Pig in Yorba Linda. Rachel has found her home at Blinking Owl and loves working directly with these yummy spirits, drawing inspiration from their organic, California roots and showcasing them through her stylish cocktails.
We have ACCOMPLISHED the neurotic goal of becoming a 100% California product by working with the local grain community. As of FEBRUARY 2018, all grain used is certified organic and from California farms.Blinking Owl Distillery