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Monday, June 1, 2020 15 mins read
Monday, June 1, 2020 15 mins read
Supporting Black-Owned Businesses
The craft movement is made of a diverse community of creators, all lovingly pursuing a common goal. Excellence.
The most beautiful, endearing quality of the craft movement is that it
marginalizes no one. The call to create does not discriminate. Its only requisite is passion.
Look beyond any bottle in our collection, and you will find a different story. Each one wholly unique, save for that single throughline of passion.
That is what makes our craft community so vibrant. And why being part of it is so fulfilling.
Because among our community, diversity is every bit as essential as the clean water, fresh grains, and ripe fruit it takes to shape the craft vodkas and small batch cocktail bitters we can’t get enough of.
As we continue to dismantle stereotypes across the country and around the world, it becomes increasingly important to recognize and raise up the many unique voices that make up the backbone of the craft movements and our community of creators.
Today we shine a light on our black-owned distillery and brand partners. To share the stories behind the bottles and introduce the personalities that bring them to life.
Dieuveny “DJ” Louis was only ten years old when his family migrated to West Palm Beach, Florida from Haiti.
From a young age, his involvement with music led to success in the local nightlife and live performance scene.
By age 21, DJ had relocated to Miami where he found huge success starting his own event/concert management company.
“As a black male entrepreneur, I find it important to do your best and work hard,” explains DJ.
“I know that my journey can possibly be more difficult, so I set my mind to always outperform my previous success.”
Already an established entrepreneur and restaurateur, DJ set his sights on the world of craft spirits and independent distilleries as his next big business venture.
“I came up with the Toast slogan, ‘To Life, to Love, to Us,’ as a constant reminder of what life is all about,” DJ tells us.
“The brand name itself is an homage to life.”
It took DJ and his team at Toast Vodka four years to create what they call, “the world’s best and tastiest vodka”.
They use coconut water as a part of their process. And their vodka is distilled six times in total to deliver a super smooth craft spirit that Toast Vodka assures us can be, “Enjoyed neat, chilled, in basic cocktails or craft cocktails.”
Rising Sun Distillery is just one of two certified organic distilleries in the state of Colorado. It was the brainchild of Sol Richardson and his wife Dawn, who set up shop in Denver back in 2013.
A software developer by Trade, Sol was born with distilling in blood.
He’s the great grandson of bootleggers that ran stills in the Midwest during prohibition. His family made liquor from pears. So in the early days of Rising Sun Distillery, it was Sol who took on the responsibilities of head distiller.
Their philosophy has always been to make a high quality product, support their local community, and to have fun.
Homespun recipes use ingredients like peaches, lavender, chile and grains that come from nearby farms.
Rising Sun Distillery uses methods that have existed for thousands of years, letting their craft spirits ferment naturally to create bottles brimming with taste, tradition and plenty of TLC.
In a previous life, before co-founding Painted Stave Distilling, Ron Gomes was a popular assistant professor of orthopedics at Penn State University.
It took nearly two years for Ron to explore potential investors and firm up a business plan, but in 2011, he and his business partner were finally able to make Painted Stave Distillery a reality.
Ron and Painted Stave Distilling have been community focused from the very beginning.
In fact, the building that this independent distillery now calls home was originally a single screen, first run movie house and local landmark called the Old Smyrna Theater.
The movie house was an attraction in town for close to 27 years before it was sold to a family-run plumbing supply business that occupied the space from 1985 to 2005.
After sitting empty for seven years, Ron, and his partner Mike Rasmussen, pumped new life into the historic location, completely renovating the space to include a barrel house for aging whiskey and a cocktail garden where customers can enjoy sipping craft spirits and creative cocktails during the summer months.
Anteel Tequila is a story of perseverance and glass shattering.
Nayana Ferguson is a survivor of both pancreatic and breast cancer. And when she started to pursue her passion for tequila, she had no previous experience in the spirits industry.
But none of that stopped her from co-founding Anteel Tequila in 2017, becoming the only black woman in the world to own and operate a tequila brand.
Along with her husband Don, Nayana sampled countless tequilas before they partnered with a distillery in Mexico. They chose their partner because they use a unique blend of Highland and Lowland Agave to make their tequila. This distinct combination creates complex flavors with rich, sweet agave tones.
Being the only black woman to own a tequila brand is not the only glass ceiling Nayana shattered. She also helped create a world’s first: Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila.
Anteel’s singular offering has been highly-regarded by fans and industry professionals alike. The esteemed tequila blends fresh, creamy coconut flavor with a long, lingering lime zest.
Not only are Nayana and Anteel Tequila persevering, they’re trailblazing.
Jason Ridgel was always a serial entrepreneur.
Long before the day he founded his whiskey brand, Guidance Whiskey, Jason made a promise to his family that he would always pursue greatness. He’s more than made good on that promise.
In 2018, he started bottling greatness at Guidance Whiskey.
As he explains it, the name ‘Guidance’ represents a journey.
It’s an homage to all of those who paved the way for Jason, both in his family and those in the craft spirits industry.
But it’s also a nod towards the future. Because in his pursuit of greatness, Jason wasn’t satiated with only having a robust whiskey under his belt.
As a successful black-owned business, Jason is now in the position to help give a little guidance. He meets with aspiring brands, coaching them along through the process, and helping them get the resources needed to be a success in the spirits industry.
Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green’s story has largely been forgotten. To put it succinctly, Nearest is the first known African American master distiller. Without him, the storied history of Tennessee whiskey would be completely different.
There might not even be Jack.
Nearest is credited with teaching Jack Daniels the Lincoln County Process, a unique filtration method using sugar-maple charcoal that was brought to Tennessee by slaves.
Now, Nearest legacy is being continued by his fifth-generation descendant, Master Blender, Victoria Eady Butler.
Uncle Nearest hand-selects and sources the very best whiskeys and bourbons Tennessee has to offer. Deftly blended, Uncle Nearest 1865 and 1884 are more than whiskey.
They’re an unforgettable chapter of American history.
Born and raised in Chicago, Uduimoh Umolu is the son of African immigrants, his father from Nigeria and mother from Ghana.
On the road towards Jon Basíl Tequila, Uduimoh set out with a lofty goal. He wanted to be one of the youngest voices in the premium liquor market.
Driven by his ambition, and inspired by the strength of his parents, Uduimoh launched his Chicago-based tequila brand in 2018 with friend and co-founder Balell Taher, the son of Palestinian immigrants.
A glass filled with Jon Basíl Tequila serves as a reminder.
It’s a reminder to always pursue your ambitions. To strive for greatness. To celebrate wins, and learn from the losses.
Mission accomplished, Uduimoh. Your voice is coming across clear as day.
Marc Farrell has been a devout student of rum his entire life. Born and raised in the Caribbean, his life-long education instilled in him a deep-rooted appreciation for rum’s decorated heritage.
But Marc’s passion for rum led him to a realization. For too long, rum has been unable to escape its stereotyped, caricturisic associations with swashbuckling pirates.
And those images aren’t the rum that Marc grew to know and love.
So he set out to share his passion for the Caribbean-culture staple with the world. And in 2018, he founded his small batch rum brand, Ten To One Rum.
By blending together a variety of Caribbean rums, Marc and Ten To One Rum were able to create contemporary rums with roots in authentic Caribbean tradition and heritage.
Pot-still and column-still rums from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic are blended seamlessly at Ten To One Rum. Let the masterful blends introduce you to true Caribbean culture.
Hella Cocktail Co. | Long Island City, New York
Raised in an underserved community in New York, Jomaree Pinkard always knew he needed a special drive and relentless determination to achieve success.
After joining co-founders Tobin Ludwig and Eddie Simeon, Jomaree helped build Hella Cocktail Co. into the beverage giant they are today. Taking them from an apartment kitchen hobby to a national brand.
Quickly, the New York-based company’s bitters and mixers became the favorites of cocktail lounge mixologists and home-bar aficionados alike.
Jomaree found that special drive and determination. And now he’s helping share his knowledge and insight with those that face the same socioeconomic challenges he did.
Hella Cocktail Co. and Jomaree started a social campaign shining a light on issues of racial equality within the food and beverage industry. The conversations are aimed at bolstering fellow Black-owned businesses across the industry.
American singer and songwriter Levi John was born on the tropical Caribbean island of Grenada, and first discovered while singing on television.
From Broadway engagements to producing records that sell millions of copies, this one-of-a-kind, song-and-dance man has enjoyed a decades-long career as a successful entertainer.
Despite the hectic schedule this kind of career demands, Levi never stopped devoting time to performing at charitable functions that supported families and children in need.
While his travels have taken him from the bright lights of Las Vegas to record labels in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Levi’s heart has always stayed Island true.
That’s why in 2015, Levi decided to tackle a new type of challenge, trading in his signature guitar for the distillery still when he and his entrepreneur son, Kevin John, decided to open IslandJon Vodka in New Port Richey, Florida.
According to the father and son duo, “Life is about being seized by an unforgettable moment, engulfed by the senses and remaining forever unabashed in our unique self expression.”
They go on to say, “A smooth glass of IslandJon Vodka raised high is a symbol of celebration. A symbol of a rare moment in life where harmony is found and happiness is shared.”
The motto at IslandJon Vodka is simple, but profound.
“A drink for the islander, the dreamer, the explorer, the doer and believer in all us.”
All of us.
That is the part we need to remember most. And the notion we hold up most when supporting independent, black-owned distilleries and brands.
The craft movement belongs to all of us.