Only in the last decade have black Americans, for the first time, even become distillery owners. These people include Fawn Weaver, who runs the first black woman-owned distillery. He named it after nearby Greene, an enslaved man who, in 2016, was finally accepted By the company that owns Jack Daniels that originally taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey.
Many people believe that our distilled industry is c “A lily-white affair,” is made up entirely of German and Scotch-Irish settlers, but this is far from the truth. Whiskey making in this country has deep roots in the southern slave trade. Black Americans not only made up the majority of the workforce, but were Integral to the creation of the industry. In fact, distiller-trained enslaved people were considered the most sought-after skills, which fetched auctioneers their highest premiums. African enslaved peoples had their own traditions of alcohol production, going back to the corn beer and fruit spirits of West Africa. Still others gained their expertise on Caribbean sugarcane plantations. He continued to make alcohol illegally even while living in American captivity.
Contributions from enslaved people were, of course, frequent unknown. America has a long, sad history Ignoring the dark inventions, and their contribution to the distilled industry is no different. Historical records on the industry were already sparse, but the few records that do exist from the 18th and 19th centuries generally do not credit the contributions of non-white men. Most records record only the manual labor of distilling, such as rolling barrels or collecting grain.
However, some researchers have gone beyond existing historical records to interview archives, artifacts, and even descendants, all in search of a complete picture. Part of this history is George Washington; His distillery was the most profitable part of his Mount Vernon plantation.
It turns out that Six enslaved people were critical to the operation George Washington’s Rye Whiskey Distillery, one of the largest on the East Coast. Historian Steve Bashore, who works for Mount Vernon, told a reporter taking a distillery tour for HuffPost. That those six people produced all the whiskey. Bashoor said that these persons were forced Work around the clock In full production to produce 30 to 40 gallons a day.
Mount Vernon’s ledgers actually list these men as distillers, but this is not common. Archaeologist Nicholas Laracuente, who has examined slavery-era distilleries, puts it bluntly. The New York Times: “Because we are not looking [enslaved distillers] It is in the archives that they were not entitled to recognition.”
Meanwhile, Elijah Craig, whom some have called “Father of Bourbon“Actually depended on 32 enslaved people who were distiller-trained and actually made his product. The first known sour mash recipe—the standard fermentation technique for American whiskey—was made by a woman. (Women have Also A Hidden history in this industry (Also, but that’s another story for another day.) Catherine Spears Fry Carpenter is credited with creating the recipe in 1818, and documents for her recipe were included. Joined the Kentucky Historical Society in 1995. However, it was recently discovered in his family’s property accounts that he Enslaved a distiller-trained man called “Little Bob”.
However, the biggest blow—dropped a few years earlier—that destroyed the entire distilling industry came from the Louisville-based Brown-Forman Corporation, which owns Jack Daniel’s. In 2016, the company finally enrolled in The New York Times that there was a slave named Nathan “Near” Greene who trained the famous Jack Daniel’s to make his famous whiskey. Green was captivated by a man named Dan Call, who described Green as “the best whiskey maker I know”.
Greene’s story was officially ignored by the distillery, although biographies decades ago recounted the story of Dan Call asking Greene to teach Daniel everything he knew about whiskey. was Not only did Greene teach Jack Daniels how to run a whiskey still, Daniels hired two of Greene’s sons when he opened his first distillery. Sadly, there are many other black Americans like Greene throughout the South whose names have been lost to history.
One thing that initially set Jack Daniel’s product apart from other whiskeys was the patented process it used. Sugar maple charcoal for filtration. The technique, invented by Greene, was revolutionary in how it removed organic compounds without affecting the flavor of the alcohol. Today, nearly every distillery making Tennessee whiskey uses maple charcoal filtering, although the actual process varies by company.
This is where Fawn Weaver comes in. inspired by New York Times’ Part of 2016, the real estate investor and author completed extensive archival research on Green, including archiving 10,000 documents and artifacts. Because of his research and advocacy, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s gave Green its name The first master distiller In 2017 — ahead of Jack Daniel’s.
However, Jack Daniel’s biographer, Peter Cross, said he was surprised the company didn’t promote Nearest Green more—not so much because it was the right thing to do, but because he saw it as a genius marketing strategy.
“I can see them taking it to the next level, to millennials, who explore social justice issues.”
Yes, it’s too bad; But at least the contributions of enslaved people are being acknowledged by industry, though not always for the right reasons. The sad fact is that the distilled spirits industry has a long history of racism in marketing, linked to the mythology of the Tennessee and Kentucky “Whiskey Trails.” For centuries, distilled spirits marketers pandered to white frontiersmen and down-to-earth moonshiners. While black Americans were regularly used in distilled advertisements, especially in the 19th century, they were never cast in a positive light. Indeed, American whiskey has been popular Infamous racist.
In the 19th century, marketing depicted blacks as characters in minstrel shows that mocked their culture and speech. From Prohibition until the mid-20th century, black people were portrayed in advertisements as slaves to white people. There was a particularly inaccurate marketing transition from the 1960s to the early 1980s, where black men were shown “On the prowl,” using whiskey to sexually engage black women. These ads had no problem objectifying black women even though they painted black men as predators.
Modern advertising has come a long way, especially in terms of variety, as seen in this recent ad for Jack Daniels. One of the closest Greene descendants is also featured in this ad. Yet, circling back to the point of the cross, the ad makes absolutely no mention of who Greene is descended from. Notice the man with the cane at the 18 and :48 mark; His name is Cloud Eddy. He has worked at Jack Daniel’s Distillery all his life and is now retired.
It would have been nice if that rich history was mentioned at least once.
Lack of consumer marketing geared toward people of color A black whiskey aficionado, Samantha Davis, a. Certified Executive Bourbon Stewardto make Black Bourbon Society (BBS). This group has been very successful Increasing industry awareness The emerging trend of color professionals who enjoy premium spirits. He has worked with most major brands to create programs, documentaries, and high-end events – all to promote appreciation in underserved communities for products that would not have been possible without Black American contributions. His group also worked with Maker’s Mark to create a whiskey that was Awarded double gold In a world spirit contest.
BBS work has not been all fun. Davis made news when he published one open letter Bourbon and the American whiskey industry, after the George Floyd protests, called out whiskey brands for not speaking out against racism in public. BBB also launched a non-profit consulting firm called Diversity distilled To encourage more diversity and inclusion in the industry.
Despite the growth of this emerging market, First licensed black-owned distillery was only established in the United States in 2013 — not even 10 years ago. Chris Montana founded Du Nord Social Spirits in South Minneapolis, opening the distillery’s cocktail room in the same neighborhood where he lived as a homeless teenager in high school. The Montana distillery also makes vodka, gin, and whiskey, as well as apple and coffee liqueurs. Fifty percent of Du Nord’s staff are people of color.
Montana There are many stories Being the only person of color at distilling conventions. He would show up to bars with his product, and the owners always assumed he was the delivery guy, not the distiller and founder of the company. His facility in Minneapolis burned down in 2020 during the unrest following the killing of George Floyd, but Montana rebuilt from scratch, opening a food bank next door that has evolved into a foundation to support his community. . Du Nord’s business has since exploded, and it recently struck a deal to serve Delta flights.
Back to Weaver, who is not only an inventor and advocate for the near-green — she’s also gotten into the whiskey business. He bought a 300-acre farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee, where nearby Greene taught Jack Daniel’s to make whiskey.
Although he had no background in distilling, he said he felt a calling Build a distillery Uncle to make a near premium whiskey.
“White men represent 30% of this country, and 100% of the whiskey, Uncle Close.”
To say his venture has been successful would be an understatement: it currently is The most award-winning American whiskeyAnd has become Fastest growing whiskey brand in US history.
Weaver was already a successful businesswoman when she started Uncle Nearst, and she had enough capital. However, breaking into the whiskey industry is very difficult; Aging the product in charred oak barrels requires long years, and initial costs can run high As high as $3 million.
That’s an especially difficult proposition for many black Americans, who are less likely to pass down generational wealth and more likely to have a harder time accessing credit. Montana lamented that she had to rely on a $60K loan from a nonprofit, while white candidates anywhere near her qualifications were able to secure millions in bank loans and venture capital.
Their loss. Nielsen research in 2019 found that black Americans are The demographic group most likely to prefer spirits like whiskey or cognac More than beer or wine. Consider that this is happening without any outreach — outside of dedicated people like Samantha Davis and her Black Bourbon Society. It makes no sense that this demographic is being ignored by big brands that are worth over a billion dollars. Just imagine what the market would be like if they tried to convince black Americans to enjoy their products.
Until they figure it out — and they probably never will — black-owned distilleries will have the market to themselves … and people like Weaver and Montana aren’t complaining.