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Three glasses of Straight Bourbon Whiskey with ice on a black background.

Support Small Black Businesses- Starting With Where You Buy Your Liquor

 THOUGHTS about Kreyòl Spirits, an MBE Certified, Black-Owned Bourbon focused Liquor Brand.

Some Bourbon Whiskey History

Bourbon whiskey, the official American “Native Spirit,” has played more prominent of a role in American history than you may have thought. Bourbon Whiskey’s American roots run deep, with the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, whiskey’s role in treating wounds during the civil war, the shutting down of bourbon companies during the prohibition (but with government approved exceptions for medicinal whiskey production), and, of course, the designation of the entire month of September by the U.S. Senate as National Bourbon Heritage Month, to “celebrate the significant historical, economic, and industrial role that the bourbon industry has played in the country’s history.”

Bourbon- Not Just a Drink

We Americans have gone wild with our national spirit, making bourbon chicken, bourbon sauce, brown sugar bourbon recipes, and bourbon flavored desserts. But when it comes down to it, it’s a straight, smooth bourbon that is driving American bourbon culture. Bourbon like Kreyòl Spirits’ THOUGHTS Straight Bourbon Whiskey, classic but unique; deep, smooth, and pure.

Samara Davis, author of “Finding Black History in Bourbon History” and founder of the Black Bourbon Society. Photo credits to Mark Pagani Photography

Some Black Bourbon Background

Black Americans often struggle to see themselves in parts of American history for many reasons, including lack of slavery-era record keeping, a historical lack of a voice and accurate representation, and a failure of the education system in America to appropriately and adequately teach Black history, along with other instances of both purposeful and accidental systemic racism. Samara Davis, in Finding Black History in Bourbon History,” explores the little that is known about Black Americans and their hand in bourbon production throughout the years.

Early Black Influence on Bourbon Whiskey Production: Nearest Green

The earliest documented instance of Black Americans’ influence on the Bourbon Whiskey industry was Mr. Nearest Green, the first Black distiller on record. Green was a rented slave who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey in the late 1700s, and is thought to have invented the Lincoln Country Process, a unique part of the Tennessee Whiskey-making process. Davis writes that Nearest Green is pretty much the only example of a specific documented Black contribution to Bourbon history in America during the slavery era, because of how bad record keeping on enslaved African Americans was.

However, undocumented does not mean nonexistent, and “by assumption, we know that there are hundreds that played just a significant role.” “With the many aspects of bourbon whiskey production, from “cultivating the cornfields, to constructing the barrels, to distilling, to the bottling line and packaging, it is a conservative assumption to claim that in the early years, free slave labor helped the industry save on production costs that contributed to the success of the industry.” Nearest Green’s descendants worked in Jack Daniels’s distillery for generations after emancipation, and Freddie Johnson is another Black American impacting the Bourbon Industry; he is a third generation Buffalo Trace distillery employee and present in the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.

On many different levels, from creation to invention to different levels of manual labor throughout time, Black Americans have an important role in the journey of the “National Spirit” across time, a role only discovered and highlighted in more recent years. As Professor and Activist Dr. Erin Wiggins Gillium says in an interview with Forbes, “When you see the bourbon industry, you often don’t see a reflection of African-American people, but we helped build the foundations of the bourbon industry, so it is an African-American industry too.” Fortunately, Black Americans have stayed involved in the bourbon world, with communities like Samara Davis’s Black Bourbon Society and small Black-Owned Bourbon Brands such as Kreyol Spirits ensuring that Black Americans remain an equal and active part of a vibrant American Bourbon culture, on both the consumer and producer sides.

Hardy Hyppolite, founder of Kreyol Spirits Liquor. Image from VoyageDenver.com

The Beginnings of Kreyol Spirits: Small Black-Owned Bourbon Brand

Hardy Hyppolite, graphic designer since 1991 and founder of his small Black-owned business, Kreyòl Spirits Liquor Brand, started his small liquor business by taking the experience he gained in his years designing for companies like Godiva, Canon, and Kraft, and combining it with his passion for bourbon whiskey and his entrepreneurial spirit. Like many of us, he had had the idea for a while. Unlike many of us, he actually did something about it. Hyppolite says he discovered that it’s not actually so hard to come out with a brand once the idea exists, it’s then a matter of capital. He adds that the next step is finding a way to actually make the product, meaning finding the right distillery and place for it. In reference to starting the Kreyol Spirits Liquor brand, Hardy said, “If I can do it, anyone can do it, I had no idea how to start a liquor brand.” May that give hope and inspiration to all of you potential liquor brand starters.

Black Bourbon: More Than Just a Drink

Hardy doesn’t think of Kreyòl Spirits as just another alcohol brand, but rather an expression of pride in his Haitian roots and the continuity of culture after the Haitian diaspora. The theme running throughout the Kreyòl Spirits branding is that it’s not just a drink, it’s representative of and encompassing rich and vibrant Caribbean culture and history, merging the classic American spirit with his Haitian culture and background.

Their baby is a proudly Black-Owned American liquor brand inspired by Haitian culture and late-night design in New York.

The Thoughts Behind THOUGHTS

The name of the bourbon, THOUGHTS, as well as the name of Kreyòl Spirits’ premium Manhattan cocktail, Concrete Thoughts, is thought provoking to say the least. THOUGHTS comes from a place of personal creativity and has an almost poetic and spiritual feel to its description:

“Whenever an artist, a designer, a writer, or some type of creative person is in the creative process, they are fully immersed at the moment. The original idea or the thought is there, but it’s only the beginning. At that moment, when you free your mind from repetitive, compulsive judgments made up of past situations — you create the space needed for true creativity to arise” -Kreyòl Spirits

Hardy Hyppolite’s best design work is done “at a drunken 1:30 AM,” and he feels, if he’s going to be drinking as a way to dis-inhibit his mind and boost his creativity, why not do it with his own drink? Hardy didn’t create THOUGHTS Straight Bourbon Whiskey for himself, however. He created THOUGHTS for everyone else, all the regular people who need a quality bottle to get them through some late-night work, or even some daytime stuck-at-home-because-Covid-never-ends work.

Thoughts and Flow

The idea for the name THOUGHTS comes from an element of bourbon and liquor drinking that often goes unsung- the way being lost in one’s thoughts and having a good bottle of bourbon whiskey can enhance the creative process and the natural creative flow that comes from absorption, something psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the secret to happiness. Kreyól Spirits, in addition to making their mark as a relatively new, Black owned small business, aims to use their brand to enhance the THOUGHTS and creative flow of people across America. It’s a great bourbon, but it’s more than that.

Try both Kreyol Spirits — THOUGHTS Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Kreyol Spirits — CONCRETE THOUGHTS — Premium Manhattan Cocktail at Tipxy.com (free shipping over $99) from almost anywhere in the U.S. and you’ll see what we mean.

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