black-owned whiskey brand sean holland shadow ridge

Black-Owned Whiskey Brands to Fall in Love With

Black-owned whiskey brands are trending for the same reason independent distilleries are exploding in the whiskey belt: recently relaxed spirits laws opened up the whiskey business. Entrepreneurs who love bourbon, whiskey, and rye (and all kinds of other spirits) know a good thing when they see it and some of those entrepreneurs are black business owners, they are killing it, and the media is finally—finally—taking note, which is proper.

Because whiskey is a black American craft

The history of American is the history of whiskey and the history of whiskey is rooted in slavery. Every one of those white guys posing heroically in the origin story of a lauded label is obscuring your view of the enslaved master distiller who develop the whiskey and did all the work. Recently. the most successful whisky on earth, Jack Fucking Daniels, publicly acknowledged this in their origin story which now includes the slave who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey: Nathan Green, also known as Uncle Nearest.

Name any historic American whiskey and it was most likely made by slaves.

George Washington’s whiskey? Made by slaves. Washington was encouraged by James Anderson, a Scot, who helped a reluctant Washington see the potential. It was an ambitious distillery and Anderson was in charge. But they staffed it with slaves.

Elijah Craig? Owned 32 people. Brown-Forman acknowledges the role of slavery in the origins of their distillation site in Kentucky where the Pepper Family made whiskey and owned slaves. Catherine Spears Frye, whose recipes for sweet mash and sour mash whiskey are the oldest known, made a good living selling her spirits, undoubtedly assisted by her slave, “Little Bob,” who was valued in the tax records at $350.

Black-Owned Whiskey Brands are helping fuel the whiskey boom

This is why I’ve written this article. Our editorial policy is blunt: we don’t tag distillers for age, gender, ethnicity, sexual proclivities, favorite football teams, how you take your whiskey or race.  We feel that inclusion starts with disregarding the personal aspects for which someone may be excluded. We don’t have a section called women in whiskey and we weren’t going to write this article until we looked at the details of our SEO and discovered people were finding our site because they were searching for “black-owned distilleries”. Which is weird, because this is the first time we’ve written those words in an article.

But our data tells a story and that story is: people are looking for black-owned whiskey brands

I’m thinking about 40% of those searches are from white writers trying to keep up, but the rest are from mobile phones and tablets. In other words, they are from a person walking around in a store looking to buy some whiskey from a black-owned whiskey brand.

Which kind of means our editorial policy is only half-right

Writing about whiskey culture to whiskey culture means writing to people interested in black-owned whiskey brands. Not doing so means we’re not serving a trending section of our market. That would be a massive fuck-up we’d rather avoid. We want to be both on the right side of editorial inclusion and people’s general happiness in drinking whiskey. We’re here to help.

So here is our comprehensive list of Black-Owned Whiskey Brands.

As of October 2021. We’ll revisit this article every six months or so to add, subtract, expand, and generally curate this list so stay tuned, stick around, share like crazy, and let us know what you think about the All American Whiskey list of Black-Owned Whiskey Brands.

Possibly the Most Deserved Black-Owned Whiskey Brand: Uncle Nearest

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is named after Nathan Green, the slave who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey and arguably developed the flavor profile and mashbill and method which became the world’s greatest selling whiskey. They may be kind of new, but their recent awards tell the story of a rising brand:

  • 2020 Brand of the Year—Wine Enthusiast
  • 2020 Double Gold—San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2020 Gold Medal—San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2020 World’s Best—World Whiskies Award, Whisky Magazine
  • 2020 Bourbon Trophy, International Wine & Spirits Competition

Want to hear more? Watch Emmy Award winning actor Jeffrey Wright’s got your back. Watch him tell the story of Uncle Nearest in this outstanding video.

Shadow Ridge Spirits

The owner, Sean Hallman is a Navy Veteran Surface Warfare Officer and currently works for the Federal Government as a civilian navy employee. His wife, Lisa Ireland is a school teacher. The distillery is a part-time venture for them but their spirits at Shadow Ridge are full-on good. Hallman also works as a consultant for other brands, like Skewball Whiskey, where he played an essential role in the launch of their brand. (That’s Sean in his distillery in the feature image for this story).

Fresh Bourbon

Recognized by the State of Kentucky as the first African Americans to make whiskey in that state since slavery. Tia and Sean Edwards are globe-trotting bourbon lovers who decided to put out a bourbon specifically for people who love bourbon in a cocktail.

Rising Sun Distillery

Painted Stave Distillery

Greenwood Whiskey

Majesty Bourbon

Wild Creek Distillery

Brough Brothers Distillery

Saint Cloud Kentucky Bourbon

18th Street Distillery

Du Nord Craft Spirits

Birdie Brown Plain Hooch

Rex Whiskey

Cylk Blended Tenneseee Whiskey

Guidance Whiskey

Whiskey Wright

Duke & Dame

Hella Cocktail Company

Saint Liberty

Abisola Whiskey

HH Bespoke Spirits

Courage & Stone

Exclave Bourbon

Brown Sugar

Deception Honey Flavored

Den of Thieves

Diggs Boys

DuBlase Whiskey

The Original Irving Whiskey

Red Hazel

Virginia Black Whiskey

Ziyad Rye

Black-Owned Whiskey Brands F.A.Q.

How can I find black-owned whiskey brands?

Although Google is an ok source, it might be a better idea to reach out to some professionals. We recommend you join the Black Bourbon Society, which may be dedicated to bourbon but remain a fantastic source for the info you seek.

Isn’t Whiskey Kind of Rooted in Slavery?

Yes. Yes, it is. Do you like whiskey? The method for distilling spirits comes from Africa and came to Europe and the rest of the western world through trade with Africa or, in the case of America, by slaves.

Is it racist to look for black-owned whiskey brands?

No, it is not. Black-owned businesses deserve every ounce of support they get. Please drill down through our list and buy some bourbon.

Aren’t you part of the media that’s so late to this party?

Yes. Yes, we are.

Thanks to Laura Fields founder and promoter of the American Whiskey Convention for clarifying the history of early American distillation.

Author: Bull Garlington
Bull Garlington is an author and columnist in Chicago who writes about the madness of travel, analog tools, food, wine, and whiskey. Garlington lives with [his attorney], smokes black cavendish, hikes the easy trails, and makes a mean gumbo yaya.