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. We source as much grain as possible from California farms.
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 source as much grain as possible from certified organic 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 / Distiller
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 while overseeing all distilling operations.
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 purpose in the Blinking Owl’s mission to work with organic grains exclusively from California farmers. With her skill 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.
Massimiliano Stecca, Head Distiller
Massamiliano Stecca aka Max joined the Blinking Owl team in 2018. Max spent many years in the brewing industry before joining the Blinking Owl team. Max has spent the last several years learning all aspects of distilling under Founder Brian Christenson and the tutelage of former Blinking Owl Head Distiller, Ryan Friesen. Max is passionate about making quality spirits thoughtfully from “soil to the glass” as well and his passion for researching and developing new products.
Kirsten Vangsness, Creative Muse Wizard Owl
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 has earned her fame 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. Kirsten is our guiding “star” with an unwavering commitment sustainability, inclusion, and philanthropy.
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.
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