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Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild reflects on its legacy

Posted at 6:52 AM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 04:42:46-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild (KBBG) is paving the way for minority growth in the bourbon industry in Kentucky.

The guild was established in 2018 with the goal of inspiring the next generation of bourbon icons and connoisseurs as well as re-writing the stories that disappeared.

"Basically that entire history was all wiped out, you know, with Jim Crow," said KBBG co-founder Gaythen Borden. "Nobody has--nobody really knows what happened back then, you know. So now you're starting to see--historians will tell you, it's like you go into the archives, you're starting to uncover all these things."

Those stories include Freddie Johnson's.

"The homegrown story is really Freddie Johnson. He has really been the crutch of a lot of the African American bourbon history here with a Kentucky because he is a third generation distillery worker. Both his father and his grandfather worked at Buffalo Trace and were very influential in helping products move along at Buffalo Trace."

Beyond the stories, the guild's focus is on inspiring the next generation to enjoy and take part in the bourbon industry.

"As African Americans, like, we consume spirits just like any other culture. Right?" said Borden. "So a lot of times what we really want people do is like why do you consume what you consume, right? So in Kentucky, 95% of all bourbon is made here in Kentucky and so we know that we consume it but now if you actually look at the advertising that goes on to these brands and who they actually market to, you see very few advertisements here to marketing collateral, that's focused on minority cultures."

To Borden, the addition of distilleries like Fresh Bourbon Distilling Company opening in Lexington in 2020 is very exciting.

"There's an African American owned bourbon distribution company based out of Kentucky as well that is now starting to to do to do work in the industry as well. So, a lot more African Americans are starting to see the opportunity that's here. And so for us, I think it's just really exciting to see that now we're starting to come to the table we're starting to get involved and we're starting to get projects build that actually tell a bourbon story but also help tell the African American story within the spirits industry."

If it were not for the past, the guild likely would not exist.

"Due the Jim Crow and slavery and all that and that's is what it is, you know. So now we're just trying to help recreate it."