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Black Owned Spirits Company

Oakland’s First Black Owned Spirits Company to Launch Bourbon This Fall

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A new Black owned spirits company in Oakland doesn’t just want to make smooth bourbon and vodka. Its founders want to empower African Americans nationwide to launch their own boozy businesses.

“If you go to bars across the country, how many African American-owned spirit companies do you see at those venues? Hardly any,” said Stygian Corporation founder and CEO JD Stewart. “How do we make sure spirits there are representative of minorities?”

Black Owned Spirits Company
JD, Phil & Shawn – Founders

Stewart hopes to launch Stygian’s Black Bourbon this November, and he believes it will be the first of its kind in the U.S. “There are no African American companies in the country producing bourbon,” he said. “We’d be the first. There are whiskies, wine, but there’s no bourbon.”

Nielsen data projects African American buying power at $1.2 trillion, and another Nielsen report states 40 percent of African Americans’ alcoholic purchases are spirits. So, launching a spirits company seemed logical to Stewart, and his plans for Stygian include making vodka, gin, and rum next. But he started with bourbon because of its history, and how African Americans have largely been erased from it. Historians know slaves helped make bourbon in the early days, but it’s unclear to what extent. Meanwhile, old bourbon labels often included racist imagery. “There’s a deep history there,” Stewart said.

Black Owned Spirits Company

Stygian’s bourbon will be made in Kentucky at a still-unnamed distillery co-owned by one of Stygian’s board members. (“I’m a bourbon purist, so it has to come out of Kentucky,” Stewart said.) Stygian will also have an unusual proprietary distilling process that speeds up the aging. According to Stewart, the company can take a two-year bourbon and distill it further so it tastes like a five-year bourbon within two days — but it wouldn’t be as expensive.

Soon after launching the bourbon, Stygian will also unveil the People’s Bourbon and Juice, a bottled cocktail flavored with pineapple juice. Stygian sold out of the drink at Oakland’s Art & Soul Festival in August — the first and only time Stygian has poured for the public thus far. By the end of the year, Stewart expects that locals will be able to find Stygian at East Bay bars including Beer Baron, Cafe Van Kleef, and Playt.

Black Owned Spirits Company

Next year, the goal is to bring Stygian’s bourbon to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Detroit, Miami, and Washington, D.C. Part of Stygian’s profits will go toward helping African Americans start their own spirits businesses elsewhere in the country. That will be coupled with a technology arm of the company known as the Edge Platform, an “end-to-end roadmap” to help businesses get their spirits to market quickly; Stewart declined to elaborate until closer to launch.

“We’re excited to be the first African American majority-owned company that’s trying to disrupt an industry that’s a legacy industry,” he said. “We want to open up the door for other African Americans to come behind us.”


Source: SF Eater



  1. I will of course sample it because I enjoy supporting black owned businesses however, to appeal to the masses, including black folks, they need to hire a graphic designer (few hundred dollars – not much) to design their bottles. It looks basic and cheap which unfortunately would make a consumer assume the actual product is the same.

    • I can hardly wait to try Stygian’s Black Bourbon. It’s important to me to support black brothers/sisters and keep the money circulating within our communities as long as possible. It’s a tough and it requires the consumer to research, but ultimately worth the investment.

      RE AJ: Support black graphic designers at fair prices – you get what yo pay for. A computer and desktop publishing software alone, does not a graphic designer make. It’s all love, but it strikes a nerve (as an art director/graphic designer) to convey that you can get scalable branding solutions for a product on the cheap. The exchange has to be mutually beneficial.

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