Story at a glance

  • Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. is planning on building a new $5.4 million whiskey distillery in Lexington, Ky.
  • Husband and wife Sean and Tia Edwards founded the company in 2017 as a “premier, African-American-owned Bourbon brand."

Kentucky is known for its bourbon, but what’s often forgotten is the long history of black distillers in the state. Husband and wife Sean and Tia Edwards plan to put black-owned distilleries back on the map. 

Growing up in Kentucky, Sean helped his uncle and grandfather bootleg alcohol by collecting and cleaning bottles on the weekends. He told the story at a gathering to announce the new distillery in remembrance of his uncle, who died a few months earlier. 

“I was always fascinated about the making of alcohol,” he said to the crowd. 

Sean registered Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. in 2017 as a premier, African-American-owned Bourbon brand. The company’s products are mashed, fermented, distilled, matured and later bottled entirely in Kentucky. For now, their recipes are being produced under a contract with Hartfield & Co. Distillery, in Paris, Ky. 

“For nearly three years, we have been diligently developing an authentic and unique Bourbon and spirits line. We chose not to buy Bourbon from someone else and just place our name on a bottle,” Sean Edwards said in a release. “We have been very intentional and deliberate in crafting our spirits – from the mash bills up – and also our Fresh Bourbon team, including in selecting our master distiller. We are excited to share with the world what we have created with the world.” 

The master distiller, whose name has not been announced, will reportedly be the first black master distiller in Kentucky after slavery. 

“Bourbon is a mainstay of Kentucky’s economy, and I am thrilled to see this step toward greater inclusivity in this iconic industry,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in the release. “Creating opportunities for all Kentuckians is essential, and our administration aims to pave the way for progress. I sincerely thank Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. for choosing to build its distillery in our state.”

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) approved a 10-year incentive agreement in December with Fresh Bourbon. In exchange for creating and maintaining 15 full-time jobs for Kentucky residents over 10 years with benefits and an hourly wage of $18, the company will receive up to $200,000 in tax incentives. 

Customers can taste the spirits from the distillery planned for Lexington's Distillery District in late 2020. 

Update: In December 2020, Changing America received an email from Victor Yarbrough, CEO of Louisville-based Brough Brothers Distillery. "Brough Brothers is the first and only black owned distillery in Kentucky," Yarbrough wrote. Brough Brothers' distillery opened to the public in June 2020, after this article was originally written. The company's distillery became registered federally in 2018 and in Kentucky in 2020. "Being registered by the TTB in 2018 gives us the distinction of being first," Yarbrough wrote. Fresh Bourbon LLC registered as a business in Kentucky in Dec. 2017. Brough Brothers began selling Bourbon in 2019 in the UK and in Feb. 2020 in the U.S. We have thus edited the headline and bullet points of this story.

Published on Feb 12, 2020