When you think of Southern California you probably think of palm trees and beaches, not whiskey. That’s exactly why Robin Christenson thought it would be a good idea to put a distillery there when she co-Founded Blinking Owl Distillery.
BW: What was the moment you realized you wanted to open a distillery? What led you to that moment?
RC: My husband and my longstanding passion for “terroir” and its translation into good food and good wine evolved into the question: could this approach be taken in the production of spirits? My husband spotted the trend of regionality happening in the spirit world and realized that we had no local distilleries, thus he thought we should open one. My background as a seasoned business owner coupled with his advertising and design background led us to a 100-page ultra-detailed business plan that paved the roadmap for where we are today.
BW: As someone who worked in the wellness space before, what advice do you have for enthusiasts who want to balance their love of whiskey with their health and fitness goals?
RC: I do love the saying “Drink better, not more.” Excess alcohol can really rack up unwanted pounds (been there), especially when you are adding mixers such as sugars, vermouth, or the liqueurs. Exercise is not only helpful in burning the extra calories, but it is essential to aiding your liver health from those extra sugars that are hanging around in the body.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to start a distillery?
RC: Meticulously map your financial needs, then multiply by 10—or even 25. I decided to “fail my company” on paper to prepare me for my future endeavor. Distilling can quickly become an expensive “hobby” rather than your dream business.
Another misconception I often see with Women-owned start-ups is that somehow they can find loans/ grants for women or minorities. I check both boxes, as well as being a seasoned, successful 20-year business owner, and found anything targeted for women/ minorities are tiny amounts that could never launch a large-scale operation. The reality was I went to 38 banks and had over $1M through personal and private funding before I could secure our initial SBA loan.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Southern California.
RC: Other than my bias for a beautiful sunset on the patio of our distillery, I’m am completely at peace sitting anywhere amongst my beloved friends and family while raising a glass and “cheers”-ing the moment.
BW: What is your favorite whiskey cocktail?
RC: I am currently smitten with the “Black Manhattan”!
• 2 OZ. RYE WHISKEY
• 1 OZ. AVERNA
• 1 DASH ANGOSTURA BITTERS
• 1 DASH REGANS’ ORANGE BITTERS NO. 6
Photos Courtesy of Blinking Owl Distillery