Sean and Tia Edwards - founders of Fresh Bourbon - have been recognized as the first Black-owned distillery in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. "The story sells the first bottle, but what's in it will sell the second bottle ... and the one after that", they add. Their first finished product starting releasing in late 2020 followed by distributions to five states in early 2021. Let's learn a little more about this fresh take on America's native spirit.
A Fresh Approach
As Sean and Tia traveled extensively, conversations with strangers quickly centered on core Kentucky pillars - fried chicken, horses, and bourbon. Immersing themselves in the bourbon industry, they uncovered a business opportunity. The name Fresh Bourbon Distilling was registered in 2017. After receiving tax incentives, grants, and financing, the Edwards are building their dream distillery in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. For now, Fresh Bourbon is contract distilled at Hartfield & Co. in nearby Paris, Kentucky.
Fresh Bourbon isn't the only black-owned distillery in Kentucky. Nearby, Louisville is home to Bough Brothers, founded by three brothers in the Spring of 2020. While black-owned distillers are arriving on the booming bourbon scene, African-Americans are not new to the manufacture of bourbon.
Slavery and the early production of bourbon were inseparable. Dr. Erin Gilliam, history professor at Kentucky State University has shared, "When we talk about the bourbon industry and it being an agricultural stronghold in this country, we know that enslaved Africans worked the fields. They weren't just [grinding] the wheat and the corn, but they were actually mixing and helping with recipes."
The first release of Fresh Bourbon was made in late 2020, with the remaining pre-sold bottles coming to maturity during Spring 2021. Sean and Tia selected a unique four-grain mash bill for their crafted product - 60% corn, 20% honey malt, 10% malted wheat, and 10% malted rye.
The distillation process follows a pre-prohibition style that focuses on a non-chill filtration process, similar to several other brands, that allow a glimpse into what bourbon tasted like over 100 years ago. In addition to the unique grains utilized, the founders selected a mix of barrel sizes, including small 6.3 gallon barrels to help the finished product mature faster.
Fresh Bourbon is bottled at 95 proof and was available via a pre-purchase release for $42. The bottle does not carry an age statement.
Color: Golden copper with a few drippy legs in the Glencairn glass.
Nose: Grains front and center, with warm corn pudding and hot breakfast cereal. Lighter summer fruits are present, including peach and floral notes.
Palate: Vanilla and caramelized brown sugar lead followed by oak and apple pie spice.
Finish: Medium-long with honey-drenched grains ending with a dry, oaky and spicy finish.
Overall: Sean and Tia have put together the start of a solid, fresh expression - albeit very young. The use of four unique grains and the mix of barrel sizes have produced a young bourbon that has layers of experiences for the nose and palate. I'd love to see this continue to age and see how a longer-aged product fairs. I look forward to continuing to support this upstart distillery, with their unique founders, and true, crafted whiskey.