Growing Black-Owned Whiskey Brand Makes Splash Into Market
By Andre Ash, Michigan Chronicle
A Black-owned whiskey business is taking shape and growth across the country. Duke & Dame is the name of the newly minted company where its vision early-on was to change the way people consumed their experience of drinking whiskey. It aimed to succeed in its goal by creating a premium flavored whiskey that would “stimulate the senses at each stage of the drinking process, with incredible aroma, remarkable taste, and an extremely smooth finish.”
In an interview with Michigan Chronicle, one of Duke & Dame’s co-founders talked about how out of the company’s early vision birthed its salted caramel flavored whiskey and how its business is standing to differentiate itself from other whiskey brands.
“We really wanted to create something that redefined the whiskey drinking experience,” said Amani Macaulay, co-founder, Duke & Dame. “For consumers, they thought a lot of our competitors were overly syrupy, overly sweet, some had an artificial element to the after taste. So we thought, why can’t one have a quality flavored whiskey?”
The thinking was why would one have to give up quality just because one wants some flavor in their drink.
The attitude about finding this solution was knowing the drink must be a whiskey first, 100% natural, with no artificial additives, and just the right about amount of sweetness.
This approach to finding the perfect flavored balance has already been award-winning for Duke & Dame.
“Right before we launched in 2018, we really wanted to get on the shelves having a medal,” said Macaulay. “It gives you validation. When you’re this new brand that nobody knows, you buy it on the shelf, people think of the award and think, maybe it’s good.”
A “good” taste is probably an understatement as result of the award accolades this Black-owned whiskey brand has collected in just a short time. Duke & Dame submitted its whiskey to four of the largest international spirit competitions. After hoping to place in just one of the competitions, their product placed in all four – with notable wins from each as their whiskey entered the market.
Not bad for someone like Macaulay who made a huge career jump from working on Wall St. to pursuing an entrepreneurship journey and his passion in the whiskey industry.
Macaulay’s business partner Chima Burey, co-founder of Duke & Dame, years before he mentioned this idea to Macaulay, attended with friends and asked him about what flavor of whiskey he would create he had the opportunity.
Years later after Macaulay would retire from his career in finance, he and Burey were hanging out on a night in Miami. A conversation on what Macaulay would do next in his career sparked a discussion on potentially being business partners in the whiskey industry, reuniting an idea Burey had with friends some years earlier.
“He said we should go make a whiskey that taste like caramel, …we share a love for spirits and at the time I was still figuring things out so I was interested in exploring this idea.”
Two friends out for a night of drinks, lead to an idea and in short-time they began researching, visited a distillery, and learning the process. After a while, they figured this idea may not be as impossible as they would have first imagined.
Macauley returned to New York and began prototyping flavors, Burey would do the same in Florida. The responses from their taste-testing with friends were top-notch.
“When we set out to create the whiskey, we really wanted to create something for everyone. We wanted to bring in your hardcore whiskey enthusiast and then folks who might say whey hate whiskey and have them know, they’re going to love this!”
Duke & Dame, the salted caramel whiskey offers only 1g of sugar per serving, the least amount amongst its competitors. It’s currently offered in select bars, restaurants and retailers throughout New York, Florida, and Michigan, including at Meijer Rivertown Market on Jefferson in Detroit.
Duke & Dame is also perfect for the fall season such as caramel pumpkin pie, caramel apple mules, or coconut cream espresso martinis.
The entrepreneurial spirit in Macauley and Burey is setting an example as one of the few independent Black-owned and operated liquor brands as Duke & Dame begins to stand out, achieving over 150% growth in cases sold this year.
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