ABOUT US

Our Story


Our History


Lifelong friends Bill Karlson and John O’Mara are the “K” and the “O” in KO Distilling.  They met as classmates and cadet midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), and have been friends ever since.  After graduation Bill and John went their separate ways but followed similar paths.  Both initially sailed in the merchant marine, and served in the United States Navy Reserve.  Later both had successful careers in the defense contracting industry.

Upon retiring early, the question became, “what next?”  Neither one satisfied with sitting idle, in 2013 Bill and John set off on a journey to create craft spirits with local ingredients, high quality production methods, and to share their passion with their local community. 

Since incorporating KO Distilling in 2013 and breaking ground in 2015, Bill and John have turned KO Distilling into a state-of-the-art production facility and local tourist attraction in Manassas, VA.  After their initial offering of unaged whiskey and gins in 2015, Bill and John realized their goal of producing their first aged spirit, Bare Knuckle American Wheat Whiskey in November 2016.

KO is proud to be one of 1200 craft distilleries in the US and one of only 50 in Virginia. The distillery attracts visitors seeking locally crafted spirits, and offers tastings and tours of the distillery.






Meet Our Founders





Bill Karlson

Co-Founder & CEO

Originally from Bowie, MD, Bill graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY with degrees in both Marine Transportation and Marine Engineering.  He sailed briefly in the maritime industry then began a 26-year career with Stanley, Inc., a northern VA government contracting firm.  Bill served as a Stanley Senior Vice President and as a member of the publicly traded company’s Board of Directors.  He received his Masters degree from George Mason University in Software Systems Engineering.

Bill’s favorite spirit: Bourbon on the Rocks

 



John O’Mara

Co-Founder, President & Head Distiller

John grew up in Woodbridge, VA and has been a Manassas resident for 17 years. He has lived in Prince William County since 1967 and is a 1978 graduate of Gar-Field High School. John then attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, where he received his degree in Marine Engineering. Following graduation, he sailed on his U.S. Coast Guard Third Assistant Engineer merchant mariner’s license for 2 years. John worked in the defense contracting industry for 28 years. John is a 2013 graduate of the Moonshine University Distilling course in Louisville, KY.

John’s favorite spirit:  Battle Standard 142 Navy Strength Dirty Martini





Meet Our Distiller


Ryan Hendricks

Distiller

Joining KO Distilling in 2014, Ryan holds an M.S. in Chemical Engineering and a B.S. in Chemical Physics from Michigan State University.  During his graduate studies, he was a member of the Artisan Distilled Spirits program, assisting with both the manufacture of spirits and the teaching of classes and workshops.  Ryan worked as a Distillery Technician for Red Cedar Spirits in East Lansing, Michigan and also interned with Jim Beam in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is an experienced distiller who has assisted many small distilleries across the United States.  Ryan is a 2015 graduate of Moonshine U.

Ryan’s favorite spirit:  Rye Bourbon with a Splash of Bitters

 








Peter Mowery

Customer Experience Director

Joining KO Distilling in 2015, Peter is a long time resident of Northern Virginia; growing up in Chantilly and living in Manassas. Peter attended Virginia Tech where he honed his leadership skills as a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, and the Virginia Tech Management Society. After receiving his B.S. in Business Management, Peter spent 5 years working in retail management before bringing his leadership and customer service talents to KO.

Peter’s favorite spirit: Whiskey Sour

 



Scott Billups

Co-Owner & DC Marketing/Sales Lead

Born in Washington DC, Scott earned his BBA in Marketing from Howard University and an MBA in Finance from University of the District of Columbia. He has over 20 years of Sales Marketing experience working in the fields of professional sports and medical sales. Scott brings a dynamic vision and a passion for quality spirits to KO Distilling.

Scott’s favorite spirit: Two finger pour of Bourbon on the Rocks

 

 







Zakir Khattak

Senior Accountant

Joining KO Distilling in May 2017, Zakir holds an M.S. in Accounting from DeVry University and B.S. in Accounting from Strayer University.  Prior to KO, Zakir was the Cost Accounting Department Supervisor at REHAU INC in Leesburg, Virginia.  He brings to the team immense experience in costing, strategic production planning, streamlining complex internal financial, external financial, and management reporting.  Zakir is committed to help KO meet and exceed its goal of producing high quality aged spirits.

Zakir’s favorite spirit: Battle Standard 142 Navy Strength Gin & Tonic

 



Visit

10381 Central Park Drive
Suite 105
Manassas, VA 20110



Hours for Tastings, Tours, and Bottle Sales

Wednesday & Thursday: 12-6 pm
Friday & Saturday 12-7 pm
Sunday: 12-6 pm


Bottle Sales Only – No Tastings or Tours

Monday & Tuesday 10 am – Close


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Tel: (571) 292-1115


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