- Distillery Du Nord Social Spirits is a part of Delta’s initiative to double spending among Black businesses in 2025.
- In 2020, Black founders led just a handful of the 2,220 craft distilleries in the U.S.
- As the number of Black distilleries grows, it’s become a contested fact of which was first established
Starting this month Delta flyers can choose Du Nord Social Spirits for seasonal drinks, part of Delta’s initiative to double spending among Black-owned wines and spirits companies by 2025. Delta will carry Du Nord products on international flights by 2022.
In 2020, there were 2,220 craft distilleries, an increase from 200 in 2010, but only a handful are Black-owned. There are rising Black women-owned distilleries, which have increased along with the number of craft distilleries overall.
“When I walked into my first distillery convention in 2015 I looked around, I was the only Black person there and there were over a thousand people in there,” Chris Montana, founder of Du Nord Social Spirits, told The Plug. “When Delta decides to be intentional about it and says, ‘we’re going to diversify our supply chain’, that’s the only way it’s going to happen.”
Du Nord is a growing nine-person team led by five women. Montana plans to grow with the Delta partnership. Other Black-owned distilleries are providing funding and resources to increase diversity and advocacy of Black leaders in the industry.
Fawn Weaver, the founder of Uncle Nearest, named her distillery in honor of Nearest Green, the distiller and slave who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey. Weaver went on to debut the Uncle Nearest Venture fund of $50 million to invest in dozens of minority and female-founded spirits brands. Under the fund, several Black-led spirits brands have released their own resources and tools to help, inspired by the Uncle Nearest fund.
Jackie Summers, the founder of a company that makes Sorel, was one of the recipients of Weaver’s fund. Summers spent many years looking for investors, but Uncle Nearest’s investment and partnership with ReserveBar’s Spirited Change Initiative has helped him increase production.
Distill Ventures, the independent craft investment wing of Diageo, launched its Pre-Accelerator program. The organization plans to invest $5 million in underrepresented founders over the next year. Distill Ventures was also motivated to start the program, since 2015, 2.4 percent of venture capital has been invested in Black founders, according to the 2020 Crunchbase Diversity Spotlight report.
Karen Hoskin, founder and owner of Montanya Distillers, has been encouraging more gender diversity in company storytelling and other things the company is doing. Hoskins has spoken out about the struggles women face in the industry. She also became the first woman to speak at the American Distilling Institute, an organization dedicated to craft distilling.
Many distilleries claim to be the first Black-owned distillery, but the confusion comes from branding, location and the type of alcohol being made.
“A big part of our company is about transparency,” Montana said. “It’s very expensive and tough to start up a distillery, but It’s very easy to start a brand and do what most people do.”
The Highway Distillery was thought to be the first Black-owned distillery in Houston, Texas to make hemp-infused vodka, according to The Black Spirit Business report. The report explains how Black Momma vodka founder, Vanessa Braxton, was the first African American woman owner and operator of a nationally distributed vodka in the U.S.
Collaborations like Delta and Du Nord could answer issues in growing Black-owned distilleries and awareness and present opportunities future generations can aspire to.