A Q&A with our founders, Jim and Max Bendis on how they stumbled upon the happiest accident: our cranberry blood orange naturally-infused sparkling beverage with CBD.
What led you to the CBD industry?
Max: For me, it was a passion for cannabis and the industry itself. The excitement of it in Oregon at the time was palpable.
Oregon has always been ahead of the curve in terms of cannabis — and now with CBD as well. It was cool to see my friends starting dispensaries and forming a kind of community. I couldn’t wait to get involved.
Jim: I had a vision for the future that cannabis would be enjoyed socially and become so mainstream that no one felt the need to hide if they smoked or consumed edibles.
I saw CBD as a crucial stepping stone to that future because it’s a dominant reason cannabis can benefit our overall wellness.
CBD aligns with the core values we always envisioned for Ablis.
What inspired you to make this a family business?
Max: Back in 2016 I had been trying to make some other beverage products. I had a couple of runs making kombucha and started a business with that. But, it kind of fizzled out.
Then, the cannabis industry began to blossom. Cannabis has always been a passion I share with my dad, so it was natural for us to be curious. It started out as just a father-son project that soon became a business.
Jim: I knew I couldn’t do it by myself. Creating a brand new product in a young industry takes dedication and a lot of hard work.
I knew Max had the drive, compassion, and dedication to make this work. Plus, having a family business feels good and keeps us close.
Related: Our Origin Story
How did the cranberry blood orange flavor come about?
Max: The first flavor for the CBD line was actually a chai tea, which has been discontinued for a few years now. The lemon ginger formula was made around that time too, and it has managed to stay popular. But our most popular flavor, cranberry blood orange, that formulation just happened by accident.
We were making small batches of special flavors for a couple of local accounts that sold them in kegs.
We had toyed with the idea of doing a festive, seasonal flavor. I was trying to make a cranberry lime flavor for the holidays, and in small batches, it tasted super good. I made it in the lab and thought I had something perfect for that season’s keg special.
But, then we went to blow it up to the production-sized batch (250 gallons / about 45 kegs) it tasted like tart water. It was just not good. Our growler partners were expecting this flavor ASAP, so I decided to think on my feet and get to work saving the batch.
I went through some of the leftover ingredients around the distillery and added some fruit concentrates and fruit extracts that were leftover from other projects. I think that’s where the blood orange made its way into the batch, which really started getting the flavor profile going.
I think the original batch even had some apple and mixed fruit juice concentrate, but honestly, I can’t remember all the things I threw in there to save the batch. It was a total concoction! I didn’t even keep track of what we were adding. Just eyeballing it and doing everything we could to make it taste good.
Well, it was a hit! When it was gone, everyone wanted more. But, we didn’t write anything down and had no idea what was in the final product. We didn’t even have a name for it, people just kept asking for the cranberry one and when it was going to be back in stock.
So, we had to recreate it. Luckily, Cody helped me a lot. We spent maybe a week in the lab trying out different flavors and juice combinations based on my memories of mixing that day.
We made it as close as we could to the original, but I will admit, it’s not an exact match to that seasonal keg batch. It’s really just a tribute. Instead of using a mix of fruit concentrates, we used an all-natural cranberry juice concentrate and infused it with blood orange extract. It was still pretty tart, so we played with the sugar until it was a perfect balance.
Nobody really knows what the original recipe was. It was just a happy accident, and it turned out to be a pretty popular one.
Jim: Bendistillery, our flagship brand, has always done a lot of experimentation with all-natural flavors and real fruit infusions, whether for Crater Lake Spirits or for private labels clients.
We like to have fun and create tasty products, plus we had the ability to distribute in kegs and let our original retailers and customers sample.
We had great success with the lemon ginger flavor and didn’t have any other flavors in mind.
After Max’s mixture of juices we already had in stock, we put it on the market as a special blend and let people sample. They loved it, of course, and wanted more, but whoops we had not written a formula down.
Thanks to Max and a small group of tasters, we were able to recreate.
We wrote down the recipe this time!
Where do you see Ablis in the future?
Max: I’d like to see the whole CBD industry become massively accepted as an ingredient for food and beverages.
In five years, all these grocery stores will have a whole section of CBD drinks and I’d like to see Ablis right there on top.
Jim: I see Ablis mainstream and nationwide, right on the shelves of your local grocery store, the “green” section, created for those who want an alternative to soda or alcohol.
I see the essentials loved by all who like a more targeted method of CBD usage.
Related: Jim Bendis: My CBD Journey
What does Ablis mean to you?
Max: It means a lot. It’s still a father-son project to me.
It’s still this thing that we created together and a fun project for me. It doesn’t even feel like work half the time.
Like the cranberry blood orange story, everything about Ablis has been like that; fun little projects that have turned into big things.
Now, it’s just about growing our brand, getting CBD beverages out there, and changing the whole industry.
Jim: Ablis was born from the words cannabis and bliss. Ablis means finding bliss from the brands we create.