By Max Bendis
Ablis is a father-son venture that started with a dream. Literally.
The idea for the first-ever CBD beverage came to my dad, Jim Bendis in his sleep one night during the summer of 2014. As a triathlete, Jim was very health conscious and would often think of ways to optimize training sessions or recover from a race. This particular night Jim had a clear lucid dream of a future filled with beneficial cannabis beverages. The name Ablis itself came from blending the words cannabis and bliss.
Jim might have started Ablis in 2014 but he has been an innovator in the craft beverage space for decades. That summer night, something just clicked. Jim knew CBD could be a business opportunity, but he also saw it as a real way to help people like himself stay active or level up their outdoor activities.
Soon after, I came on board and got to work on Ablis’ very first CBD infusions, experimenting with different flavors and techniques until he found a few clear winners. We still produce many of my first flavor profiles, but there is so much more to our story.
Building On Past Success
The early days of Ablis were all about experimentation, and we have to admit: sometimes it was a little bit more art than science.
Some of the most popular Ablis flavors, like blood orange and lemon ginger, were what we like to call “happy accidents.” Landing the perfect flavor combination, however, was just the beginning.
Luckily, we had the right expertise at our disposal.
Most of the Ablis team actually comes from Bendistillery, a craft-beverage facility in Central Oregon that Jim started over 25 years ago. It’s there, surrounded by the natural beauty of the Cascade Mountains and the sweet smell of fresh air, that we’ve been crafting and packaging an award-winning line of all-natural liquors called Crater Lake Spirits since 1996.
As you can imagine, Bendistillery was the perfect place to launch Ablis.
Cody Cloyd was working at Bendistillery back during Ablis’ experimentation phase, and he was quick to lend a hand by helping Max reverse-engineer flavor profiles and create bigger batches, so more people could try the product.
Still, there were many unknowns. This was before most people knew about CBD and long before the industry began growing at the rapid pace that we’re seeing today. So, at the time, we didn’t know how strong the demand for CBD was, though that quickly changed.
Many of the local customers who love Bendistillery for its small-batch, all-natural spirits were more than willing to be part of our little experiment. Max started delivering small orders of Ablis in his pickup truck, and it didn’t take long before the product took off locally. Like us, people enjoyed Ablis as part of their active and outdoor lifestyle, whether it was going for a daily nature walk or training hard for an ultra marathon. Plus, they loved the taste and mouthfeel. This functional beverage, the CBD infusion, just made sense for our customers.
With more orders coming in every day, we had to get serious about scaling production. That meant quickly mastering new techniques like emulsification and carbonation and toggling with CBD dosages. It was also a matter of building out our infrastructure, finding new distribution partners and, of course, getting the right team in place.
Eventually, Cody became Ablis’ Acting CEO, and we brought in Parker Moessner, who had also worked at Bendistillery, to help spread our message far and wide. Max still loves to play around with CBD infusions, but he’s more focused on building relationships with distributors these days. And Jim continues to inspire us every day with his vision!
To The Future!
In many ways, Ablis is an extension of the expertise and care that led to the success of Crater Lake Spirits. Our company is truly a family, and we only use ingredients that we’re willing to consume ourselves. (We’re always first in line for a taste-test!) As we continue growing and competing in new markets, we plan on staying true to our roots.
Today, Ablis’ six all-natural flavors are sold in fourteen states, and demand keeps growing.
We’ve found new ways to help our customers stay active through new CBD products, like our must-try muscle rub. We also opened the country’s only CBD beverage lounge, Ablis Experience, in Pine Street Market, Portland’s biggest food hall. It’s a place where people can relax, get social, and enjoy Ablis on-tap. They can also test out a CBD cocktail and even create what we like to call “functails,” non-alcoholic drinks like coffee or tea infused with functional additions like CBD, MCT oil, and bee pollen. It’s been a great way to expand brand awareness and get to know our customers on an even deeper level.
As demand for CBD keeps soaring, we’ll continue leading with a focus on customers who value staying active. Here are just a few of the things we have in store in the coming years:
- Continue expanding our team, including building out sales teams in new regions of the United States and doubling down in high-growth markets.
- Establishing a nationwide presence with Ablis sold in all 50 states.
- Offering subscription plans for people who use Ablis as an essential part of their daily wellness routines.
- Bringing more Ablis flavors and new functional CBD products to market.
- Continuing to grow a family-friendly workplace culture that revolves around enjoying the outdoors.
We’re so proud of how Ablis has grown over the years. What started as an experimental whim evolved into a leading CBD brand. As we look to the future, we’re planning to move fast, while still maintaining the same philosophy and commitment to quality that got us to where we are today.