KO’s founders, Bill Karlson and John O’Mara, are the “K” and the “O” in KO Distilling. These lifelong friends were classmates and cadet midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, NY. They both followed similar paths after graduation — sailing in the merchant marine, serving as officers in the US Navy Reserve, and having successful careers in the defense contracting industry. Upon early retirements, neither one was satisfied with sitting idle. So, in 2013, Bill and John set off on a journey to create craft spirits with local ingredients and high-quality production methods. In May of 2013, Bill and John formed their startup small business. In mid-2014, they signed a lease for a warehouse in historic Manassas, VA. After a substantial buildout, by early 2015 KO Distilling was creating its first spirits. We opened our doors to the public on September 12th, 2015. We are proud to be the 19th operating distillery in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of over 2,300 (and growing) craft distilleries in the United States. KO partners with local small businesses, including local farms, to be able to operate our distillery and produce locally made spirits.
KO Distilling makes, bottles, stores, sells and ships “clear” unaged spirits, including three Battle Standard 142 Gins and a Virginia Moon White Whiskey. We also make, barrels and ages small batch “brown” spirits, all with brand name Bare Knuckle, as a play on KO for ‘knockout”. KO released is Bare Knuckle American Wheat Whiskey in November 2016, followed by its Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey in June 2017. In November 2017, we released our Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which has been aged on-site for at least 2 years. KO sources the wheat, corn, rye and malted barley to make small batch whiskeys from local farms. In so doing, we support a “grain-to-glass” concept for alcoholic beverage products, similar to the “farm-to-table” food model for restaurants. This helps small businesses in the area work together to support the local economy. KO spirits are certified as Virginia’s Finest products and as Craft Distilled Spirits by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and the American Distilling Institute, respectively.
KO Distilling is both a local manufacturing plant and a travel/tourism destination. In our 12,000 sf facility, the distilling plant features a 550-gallon Vendome copper pot/hybrid still, a similar sized mash tun, fermentation tanks, grain handling system and bottling area. KO also has a barrel-storage area that is 4,000 sf and can hold up to 1,000 53-gallon whiskey barrels. As a destination, we have a beautifully decorated 2,500 sq ft visitors center used for tastings, guided tours and special events, including private functions. In late 2017, we expanded our distilling plant with a 12-inch diameter, 30-foot Vendome continuous column still and hence has tripled our production capacity and use of local grains. In 2018, KO leased a nearby warehouse to store an additional 3,000 barrels.
Come by and visit our facility. The distillery has a top-notch visitors center for guided tours, tastings, distilled spirit and merchandise sales, and special events, including private functions. We are also available to host special events, such as dinners with spirits pairings. Come see how we make our spirits, be part of the local community, perhaps learn something you didn’t know about distilling, and of course have fun.
Battle Standard 142 Gin Navy Strength
Battle Standard 142 Gin Standard Strength
Battle Standard 142 Gin Barrel Finished
Virginia Moon White Whiskey
Bare Knuckle American Wheat Whiskey
Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey
Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey
10381 Central Park Drive, Suite 105, Manassas, VA 20110
HOURS: Monday - Tuesday: Closed, Wednesday - Thursday: 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM, Friday - Saturday: 12:00 PM - 7:00 PM, Sunday: 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM