Virginia Spirits: KO Distilling

By Rachel Marsh | September 8th, 2020

Featuring the Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey

KO Distilling whiskey

It’s Virginia Spirits Month, which means “It’s 5 o’clock for 30 days!” Need a distillery guide? We can help with that.

Interested in our state’s boozy history? We can help with that too.

Located in Manassas, Virginia, KO Distilling has been in the liquor business since 2015. It was started by two Marine Academy classmates, Bill Karlson and John O’Mara. After both retiring early – yet neither quite ready to officially “settle down” – they reconnected to share their passion of craft distilling with the community.

And so, KO was born.

The distillery has since created a line of enticing products: from fiery whiskeys and bourbons to passionate gins – navy strength, standard strength, and even barrel finished. “Our Battle Standard 142 Gin is named after the 142 USMMA cadet/midshipmen who perished at sea during WWII,” says Karlson. “The ship on the front label is a Liberty Ship, of which the U.S. built more than 2,700 from 1941-1945. Many of those 142 died on Liberty Ships.” 

And their tasting room is just as enticing, a welcoming spot to enjoy a cocktail, tasting, or tour.

Though the “K” and “O” are in reference to the owners’ last names, you may have thought it was an homage to boxing … because these products are, after all, pretty spirited knockouts. 

KO Distilling

Manassas, Virginia

Featured Product: Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Double distilled and sitting pretty at 90 proof, the first sip of Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey lives up to its name: crisp, delicious, and sharp. It quickly melts into that smooth, warm feeling … and then keeps you coming back for more.

Made with 70% corn, 20% wheat, and 10% malted barley, every batch of Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey is aged for at least two years (with the age guarantee hand written on the back of each bottle). The taste starts off sharp, but quickly and vulnerably melts to reveal its gentle, sweet, peanut-brittle-like soft side.

Recipe: Classic Mint Julep

  • 2oz of Bare Knuckle Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1⁄4 oz Simple Syrup
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 2-3 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Lightly muddle the mint and syrup, and then add bourbon and crushed ice. Stir, and top with crushed ice, bitters, and a mint sprig for garnish.

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