From Discrimination to Distillation: Eboni Major’s Journey to Building Her Own Bourbon Company

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Eboni Major, a trailblazer in the whiskey industry as the first Black female whiskey blender, has recently released her own bourbon and is building her own company. Major parted ways with Bulleit Bourbon shortly after the release of her award-winning Blenders’ Select expression and filed a lawsuit against parent company Diageo for racial discrimination. The suit is currently in arbitration and the company denies the accusations.

Major has not let this experience dampen her passion for whiskey making. She has joined forces with Dread River Distilling Co., a Birmingham, Alabama-based distillery that produces its own spirits, including rum, vodka, gin, and a flagship bourbon. As a food science expert and experienced whiskey maker, Major brings a wealth of knowledge to the new operation.

The new Dread River Master Series is a blend of sourced Kentucky bourbon distilled in October 2017 and January 2019, bottled at 100 proof. Major met the previous Dread River master distiller at a judging competition last spring and decided to work with the brand. “Dread River is located two blocks from where my grandmother lived her entire life,” she said. “Besides that, I’d known this building my entire childhood—passing it every time I visited her. So it felt like it was meant to be…”

This extremely limited release is available now to pre-order for $115 from the Dread River website. Based on Major’s reputation in the whiskey world, it is expected to sell out quickly. The good news is that this is just the first of many future whiskeys from this talented force in the industry.

Major’s experiences have led her to build her own company, Major Spirits. Her mission is to make change in the whiskey industry and to amplify inclusion and equity. She has been approached by Black women students from her alma mater seeking advice on how to break into the whiskey industry. “[I remember] what it’s like to be in their shoes and to want to enter something but not know how,” Major said. “Making sure that I bring those women along my journey to build Major Spirits is probably the most important part of this for me.”

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This content has been brought to you by SoulPhoodie in partnership with TheHub.News. SoulPhoodie shares timely, fun, and interesting content about all facets of Black foodways. The accomplishments of Black folks excelling in food and beverage are often overlooked in mainstream outlets, so we created a space exclusively for us.

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