Malibu natives Scott and Kurtis Major are brothers and the proud business owners of Birdview Distillery. The flagship product is called El Castor, the original California cactus brandy, which takes native prickly pear cactus and turns it into a brandy. The two use their knowledge and love of Malibu, as well as brotherly love for each other, to fuel the success of their company.
The brothers were born and raised on Point Dume, where their family has lived since the late ‘50s. Kurtis described Malibu as “an experience that is simply indescribable.”
The Majors cultivated their interest in plants on their grandparents’ estate on Birdview Ave., the inspiration for their distillery’s name.
“They always had a bunch of fruit trees and vegetable gardens,” Scott shared. “We would run around there and make exotic potions, put them in bottles and stash them away. I guess that’s kind of how we got started. We had no idea about this distillation thing.”
Scott has a degree in business management and is responsible for crafting and perfecting the recipe. Kurtis has a degree in traditional lithography printmaking and is responsible for the creative development side.
“The most beneficial quality that I have found [working together as brothers] is the underlay support and love we have for each other. No matter the situation, we will always have [each other’s] back until the end of time, which creates a business with deeper support and respect,” Kurtis explained.
Their grandfather was their biggest influence. He showed them the ropes and how to make wine. The Majors began experimenting with different fruits they found on the property. Going forward, it was only natural to use the prickly pear, as it grows wild in Southern California.
“We harvested our first wild prickly pears along PCH,” Kurtis said. “We wanted to make a spirit from a plant that is part of the very framework of where we grew up. The prickly pear is native and was in abundance, it was the obvious choice for a Malibu region.”starting point in representing the
They use the fruit from a drought-tolerant native crop, California Beavertail Cactus, a type of prickly pear cactus that requires very little water and no pesticides. All of their fruit byproduct goes to a neighboring worm compost farm called Organic Solutions. The brothers attempt to reduce the environmental footprint of their product whenever possible.
Their process is called “Fruit to Glass,” a form of vertical integration that helps them maintain the quality of their product, distilled in Camarillo, by overseeing every aspect of the process, which, from harvest to a finished product, is about six months.
It starts when the prickly pear fruit arrives in 500-pound bins, which they empty by hand and put into a chute that leads to a processing line that Scott designed and built. The processing line de-spines and crushes the fruit into an oatmeal-like consistency that is then placed in bins that hold one ton of fruit. After fermentation (when the yeast converts the natural fruit sugars into alcohol), all of the pulp is removed, leaving only wine. The remaining wine then travels into their hand-made copper still for a double distillation process. One batch will produce roughly 40-50 gallons of finished product.
Birdview Distillery is not only about crafting a world-class spirit. It’s truly a Malibu product.
“It is also our responsibility to bring people together [and] provide a facilitator for good times and moments that will become cherished memories,” Kurtis said.
Recently, the brothers won a gold medal for their brandy at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“We were really surprised and excited. It was pretty solid validation for us, “ Scott said.
If you want to try El Castor, the brothers recommend tasting it neat. You can find El Castor locally at V’s, Casa Escobar, Kristy’s and coming soon to Vintage Grocers. Watch out for their new cocktail, Malibu Mule.
To learn more about the product, or schedule a tour and tasting go to birdviewdistillery.com.